“Johnny Got His Gun” is a wonderful little anti-war polemic by Dalton Trumbo. It’s a fast read, mostly depressing. Mr. Trumbo was one of the Hollywood notaries blacklisted in the McCarthy era for being a Communist, or a Socialist, or insufficiently warlike, or whatever was really on the minds of those House Un-American Activities Committee sons-of-sea-cooks.
The unfortunate protagonist in “Johnny Got His Gun” is a GI from WWI for whom Dr. Nobel’s invention of TNT was a mixed blessing. Make that an unambiguous curse. Dr. Nobel’s genius greatly enhanced the effectiveness of all explosive weapons, such as bombs and artillery shells, and by extension all projectile weapons, such as rifle and machine gun bullets. WWI was the first great flowering of Dr. Nobel’s art. The exponential increase in fire power deprived Johnny of his arms, his legs, his face, and his vocal cords. If memory serves, he finishes out the book tapping Morse Code with his head, nursery rhymes or something, he’s quite insane by then.
My life is a flippant, self-serving, totally inapt analogy to Johnny. I also have been separated from most of my accoutrement. He was deprived of the continued use of actual limbs, while I must suffer to live what passes for my daily life deprived of:
1. 99% of my recorded musical recourses, which even a fool could have seen were very important to me;
2. I am reduced to about twenty books, half of which I own only to enable myself to communicate such ideas as “please fix my printer;”
3. I possess ten or fifteen color Xerox copies of covers of some of the magazines that I actually possess in their entirety in another time zone, thousands of magazines representing six decades of American culture that I can read whenever I feel like it if I happen to be there, which I am not;
4. I have to “hand” one semi-acceptable flat-top, acoustic guitar, Takamine made in Indonesia, and no electric guitars, and no bass guitars at all, and no amplifiers, while in the other time zone I have a half-dozen of great guitars (well, four and a couple of mediocrities) and four amplifiers, two of which are surpassingly excellent;
5. I am deprived of 99% of my recorded video recourses, most of what I have on hand is material that I am only half interested in and in languages that I do not understand at that;
6. I am forced to go forth every day dressed like a beggar, because almost all of my decent clothes are in the other time zone, many days I just hold my breath and pretend that I am on my way to a rock fight or a mud-wrestling contest; and
7. I am deprived the enjoyment of my car, which is a classic, luxury hot-rod of the first order, in like-new condition, a rocket on Pirelli P-2000’s, a transcendent joy to drive.
I am generally healthy, and as such, of course, I have no right to complain. I will sleep soundly tonight in my own bed, the mattress of which had a price tag the equivalent of three or four decent months salaries in this country. I have a new Hitachi refrigerator full of food and all of my clothes, such as they are, are properly laundered (by me) and properly stowed (Navy style). Things could be much worse. But, please note, everything is relative.