Transcript

96:

Pinned by History
Transcript

Originally aired 03.13.1998

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Full audio: http://tal.fm/96

Prologue.

Ira Glass

102557. The number had been on his left arm since the war, since the concentration camps, his three years in Auschwitz. And one day, a couple of years ago, living in New York City, it occurred to him, 102557, the number given to him by the Nazis, he could play the lottery with it.

Jan Tomare

Well, yeah, when it came to lottery, I sometimes played the number, but I gave it up, because it came to my mind, I said I shouldn't do this.

Ira Glass

Did you ever win?

Jan Tomare

No.

Ira Glass

No. Never won any money on that number?

Jan Tomare

No.

Ira Glass

But you decided you shouldn't do it.

Jan Tomare

No.

Ira Glass

How come?

Jan Tomare

Because I think that I should not remind myself of this whole thing.

Ira Glass

When something terrible happens to you, in the moment of crisis, it's rare that you can meditate over what it means. When Jan Tomare was in the concentration camps, when he was sent to work in the German coal mines, when he was selected for experimental surgery by the Germans, he didn't have bad dreams then, he says.

Jan Tomare

No. You were just looking to get food and stuff like that. You're just looking at how it's going to be, what happened in the morning. And as I am getting older, I'm more and more haunted by my past and the fate of my family, crying almost every night. I mean, I can't do anything about it anymore. So I try to be busy. I try to read book. I try to make anything, to do anything, to forget. I read papers. I read books. I read everything.

Ira Glass

About the present, not about the past, you mean.

Jan Tomare

Yeah.

Ira Glass

What memories come back? Sometimes, Jan says, he'll remember a holiday meal, some small happy memory of his family, who died in the gas chambers. But that's rare. Mostly it's the bad moments which come back. And among those, the one he returns to more than any other moment, is the day in May of 1942, when his family was rounded up by the Germans and arrested.

Jan Tomare

The whole thing was, back then, we were all taken to this place, [UNINTELLIGIBLE PHRASE]. And this came, and they took my family, my little brother. He was a little genius. And my sister. And they put them in those big commercial wagons, where they used to ship cows and then everything.

Ira Glass

It was the last time he saw his sister, his little brother, his mother, his stepfather, a moment that, no matter how many times you look at it, never makes sense. One minute, your life is one thing, small, private, the next it's something else, thrown about by forces so much bigger. You're seized from your normal and pinned in the beam of history.

From WBEZ Chicago and Public Radio International, it's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Today on our program, Pinned in History, stories of people who were lifted out of everyday life, thrown into much bigger events, and how that made sense of what they did years after the fact.

Act One, Book of Job, a man who betrayed his friends, and then betrayed the people who he betrayed his friends for. Act Two, God of War, how a guy with one year of psychology graduate school got put in a position to decide who would stay at the front lines in Vietnam and who could go home, and what he did with that power, a power he never wanted, and what he makes of all of it now. Stay with us.

Act One. Book Of Job.

Ira Glass

Act One. So it's one thing if your life is thrown about by forces beyond your control. It's another if you go out of your way to insert yourself into history, and hurt people, and ruin other people's lives as part of that. How do you make sense of events for which you only have yourself to blame? Scott Carrier has this first story.

Scott Carrier

February 17, 1957 was the worst day of Harvey Matusow's life. At 2:30 in the morning, his mother called to say that his father had died. At 8:30, his boss called to tell him not to come into work, that he was fired. At 11:30, his wife called from California, saying she was close to Mexico and that she wanted a divorce. Then at 2:30 in the afternoon, Harvey's lawyer called to say that the Circuit Court of Appeals in New York had turned down his appeal, and that he'd be going to a federal penitentiary for five years.

You know what Harvey did?

Harvey

I laughed. I couldn't stop laughing. People were coming to my mother's house to pay respects, to get ready for the funeral, and there I was laughing. And a friend of mine said, read the book of Job. And I read the book of Job that night and I continued to laugh. And I took on the name Job that day. And I've identified with him ever since.

Scott Carrier

Job Matusow, born a Jew in the Bronx. Job Matusow, ready to die a Mormon in Glenwood, Utah. Job Matusow, liberator of Europe. Job Matusow, Communist. Job Matusow, who turned and became a paid informant against the Communists during the McCarthy era. Job Matusow, who turned again and said he'd lied and made it up, and that the Justice Department knew he was lying and, in fact, encouraged it. Job Matusow, the most hated man in America. Job Matusow, Cockyboo the clown. Job Matusow, who's been married 10 times to nine different women and is still one of the loneliest old men you'd ever want to meet. Job Matusow, manager, program director, and creator of SCAT-TV, the first and only public access station in central Utah. Job Matusow, con man who tells you upfront that he's a con man and then cons you. Job Matusow, coyote of all coyotes.

Harvey

I represented the most anarchistic of anarchists. I turned on the Communists and then I turned on the extreme right, and put a plague on both their houses.

Scott Carrier

The trick with a coyote is to not take sides. The trick is to see all things as being equal. This means accepting whatever the coyote says as being true, but it also means you accept the exact opposite of whatever the coyote says as being true as well.

Harvey

Yeah, we have a song in our Magic Mouse Children's Theatre, which goes like, [SINGING] when I spend the whole day cooking and it burns when I'm not looking, I just smile and shrug my shoulders, that's the way it is. That's the way it is, by golly. That's the way it is, by golly. That's the way it is, by golly. That's the way it is. [END SINGING]. And that's the way it is.

Scott Carrier

This is the way Job tells the story. This is the way he explains the events that led up to the worst day of his life and his decision to call himself Job, like from the Bible. First he was a kid on the streets in the Bronx, running bets for Phil the bookie, and delivering bribes to policemen. Then his brother went off to the Second World War and got shot down over Germany. Then Job enlisted, and managed through a miracle to find his brother's unmarked grave in Nuremberg. Then he helped liberate Europe by digging bodies from out of the rubble and hanging out in coffee shops with French intellectuals.

Harvey

When I joined the Communist Party, it was as a result of the experiences with Communists in Europe in World War II. I found the Communists were the only substantial group of people who effectively stood up to Hitler and fought him effectively in occupied Europe. And wherever I went and liberated Europe, and I was part of the infantry that liberated Europe, I found Communists who were romantic to me, who were real. In the Ernest Hemingway sense, the romance of Communism. And you hear songs like, [SINGING "VIVA LA QUINTA BRIGADE"]. Viva the 15th brigade. They stood up to Franco. [SINGING "VIVA LA QUINTA BRIGADE"].

So it wasn't difficult for me to become a Communist.

Scott Carrier

Job joined the party in New York City in 1946. By 1947, he was a full-time employee, operating the switchboard and screening calls at the national headquarters during the day, and organizing youth meetings at night. He says he had the honor to raise the first ever Chinese Communist flag flown in the United States. He says he carried Paul Robeson, Jr., under a blanket in the back seat of his car into the riots of Peekskill. He was, he says, deeply involved in these struggles.

In the late '40s, it was a radical thing to be a Communist. It was the beginning of the Cold War, the beginning of the Evil Empire. Lots of people, in fact most people, believed that a war with the Soviet Union was inevitable. Then, in 1950, we did go to war with Communists in Korea. And at that point, it was not radical to be a Communist, it was impossible to be a Communist. Being a Communist meant losing your job and being publicly vilified, maybe even going to jail.

Job, being more coyote than Communist, saw that things were getting kind of hot. He says when things get hot, he finds another place to play, at least that's how he tells the story sometimes. Other times, he tells it like this.

Harvey

The Communist Party to me became very phony, phony as a $3 bill. I found it hypocritical and dishonest, and maybe because I was too romantic when I entered into it. And I figured the Cold War was getting crazier, the prosecutions, the persecutions were getting crazier, so I called the FBI. I dialed [UNINTELLIGIBLE] 23500. And I said, hi, my name is Harvey Matusow, I'm a member of the Communist Party, I want to talk to you. And that was the extent of the conversation, and we made a time to meet.

So the government wanted me to be a witness. And I met at a rendezvous point on the East River Drive, real clandestine. And this limousine pulls up. This guy gets out, introduces himself as Roy Cohn. I get in the back of the limo, and we take off. And we talk in the car.

And he's interviewing me. And this is a guy who grew up in my neighborhood in the Bronx. We have a lot in common. We're the same age. We were born a few months apart. And we hit it off real well. And while we were getting ready to prepare me for my testimony in the case, I used to go out and party with Roy Cohn.

Scott Carrier

What would you do when you partied?

Harvey

We'd go to the Stork Club. We'd go to 21. We'd party. You know, how the young guys in their mid-20s go out and party.

Scott Carrier

Job became a paid political informer, which was also a radical thing to be. At that time in the early '50s, the exploits of FBI informers were celebrated in motion pictures, in television serials, in books, and in magazine articles. They were portrayed as brave heroes who risked their lives as Communists, only to emerge as true patriots, indispensable, as J. Edgar Hoover once said, to the American way of life. And it was a lucrative profession. The most charismatic informers supplemented their incomes with generous lecture fees, royalties from bestselling books, as well as radio, television, and film rights to their harrowing exposes of the red menace.

Though only 26 years old, Job met with immediate success. In his first appearance on the witness stand in 1951, at a hearing of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, he was billed as an authority on the Communist conspiracy to penetrate the youth of America. Overnight, his name was in the headlines. "Witness Bears Plot to Infiltrate the Boy Scouts." "Secret FBI Man Reveals 3,500 Students Recruited Here for Red Fifth Column." "Communists Use Sex to Lure Members." Job was a hit, a rising star.

Harvey

I play-acted. I made up a game. I made up a story. I did something nobody else did. All these other witnesses were old men and old women. And here I come on, a war veteran from two wars that he enlisted in in his 20s, and is talking about Communism and youth. And all these other guys were in the 50s and 60s. I was a breath of fresh air for them.

Scott Carrier

Job testified in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, the Government Operations Committee, the Subversive Activities Control Board hearings, and in two criminal prosecutions for the Justice Department, one of which was the famous First Amendment case against union organizer, Clinton Jencks. Job named hundreds of people as Communists or Communist sympathizers, many of whom had been his friends.

When he ran out of people to name, he started making up stories, anything that would make a good performance, anything that would make it in the papers. For instance, on one of his lecture tours, he told a group of high school students in Pocatello, Idaho that he'd been sent by a Czechoslovakian delegation to New Mexico, where he set up a system of espionage at Los Alamos. He also said that the Soviet Union has scheduled 1961 as the year it would take over the United States. The press loved him, and he loved the press.

Harvey

Here I was meeting with people, editors of the Hearst newspapers, making up stories with them. I mean, I was going out and having dinner every night with the columnist Walter Winchell, and he fell in love with me. So I'd go out at his old Cadillac convertible, and he had a police radio-- and he was the best known journalist in the country at the time-- and we'd go chase police calls. He'd listen to the police calls and he'd show up, and he wore a gun. The guy was a madman, and I'd hang out with him.

And I'd hang out every night. I'd go to Toot Shor's bar and hang out with all the celebrities from Hollywood and big shot, big [BLEEP], you know. It was a whole different dance, a whole different ballgame. Where I fabricated stories is like, I said-- because I belonged to the American Newspaper Guild and was involved in organizing the union-- that the Sunday New York Times I said had 126 Communists working for it, when they only had either 78 or 96 employees. At this point, I forget which figure. And nobody, not even the New York Times, ever questioned that.

Scott Carrier

Did you know that it was going to be on the news that night?

Harvey

Oh, yeah, every night for weeks. And I'd turn on the box and we'd watch the news, and there I was, day after day, freaking out Americans.

Scott Carrier

And you knew you were doing it?

Harvey

Oh, I was very conscious of it, yeah. I knew I had the whole nation. I was in everybody's living room. It's a very strong feeling.

Scott Carrier

In 1952, after Job was already a hotshot paid political informer, he walked into Senator Joseph McCarthy's office in Washington and offered his services in McCarthy's reelection campaign. He became, he says, close friends with McCarthy. He says he even delivered 70% of McCarthy's campaign speeches when the senator was in the hospital for alcohol-related illnesses. Through McCarthy, Job met the heiress, Arvilla Bentley, one of McCarthy's biggest financial supporters. She became Job's second wife.

Harvey

It was unreal, married a woman who had millions of dollars and she was a party giver and lived on fancy Foxhall Road. The house is now the German ambassador's residence. And here I came from the streets of the Bronx running bets for Phil the bookie, and I'm throwing dinner parties in Washington.

My next door neighbor is Governor Averell Harriman, or ambassador Harriman at that time. And when he moved out to go back to New York to become governor, Secretary of Treasury Humphrey moved in next door. He'd be working the garden, and I'd be out talking to the secretary of treasury because he was my neighbor. It wasn't a real world. It was so surreal, it was like a Salvador Dali painting. The only thing it missed were the melting clocks rolling off the rocks and the furniture.

Scott Carrier

We're in Job's car, driving down the highway in central Utah. His car's a 1970 Cadillac Brougham DeVille, of a color I've studied but am unable to discern, tarnished gold or tarnished silver, or both. He got the car, he says, by getting down on his knees and praying. He asked God to give him a car, and God gave him this one.

Harvey

I've lived in London, in Paris, in New York, Melbourne, and Sydney, in Berlin, in San Francisco, in Boston, and you name it and I've lived there. But none of it beats what I got here.

Scott Carrier

Two years ago, Job came to the small farming community of Glenwood, Utah, in an old school bus loaded with consumer-grade video production equipment. And in short order, he started Six Counties Access Television, a public access station that shows high school band practice, the local church choir doing "The Messiah," drill team competitions, and also the Magic Mouse Magazine, Job's nonviolent kid show.

He has more than 100 hours of Magic Mouse Magazine on tape. Each show is hosted by Job playing Cockyboo the clown. Right now, we're in the car, driving around, changing the Magic Mouse tapes at various cable downlink stations scattered around the countryside. On the seat between us are two little dogs, tiny dogs, each so small I can close my thumb and index finger around their necks. And one dog is on top and humping the other dog, and she's looking up at me with big, woeful eyes, all the woe of [UNINTELLIGIBLE] conception.

Job is driving the car, but he has some back trouble and he can't really sit up high enough to see over the dashboard or the long hood of the car. And then he has the car in cruise control, so his feet are way back from the pedals, nowhere near the pedals, and it's like he's just acting like he's driving, like the car is floating down the road on a cloud. Job tells me he was responsible for the creation of the Freedom of Information Act. He tells me he was the person who started the myth about getting high off smoking banana peels. He tells me he was the developer of the stringless Yo-Yo, which, he says, in 1957, was the second-best selling children's toy in America, right behind the hula hoop.

He tells me that there's more creative talent in these small Utah towns than anywhere else he's been in the world.

Harvey

There's more creative talent in this valley, per capita, than any place I have ever been on the planet Earth, anywhere. And it's got an innocence about it, which makes it beautiful for me. It's not jaundiced, as Hollywood and New York is jaundiced.

Scott Carrier

We stop by a mailbox in front of a small white house. The mailbox says "Mike," just Mike. Mike comes out of the house and gets in the backseat, wearing a balaclava ski mask pulled down over his face, like we're going to rob a bank or something. We stay in the car for about an hour, and Mike doesn't take the mask off. Mike is the television station's technical engineer, and Job's best friend. He's also the opposite of Job in every way.

Job likes to talk, and he likes to talk about himself and how he fits into the bigger picture of things. Mike almost never talks, and when he does, he talks about flywheels and edit functions and videocassette recorders. Job likes to be seen and known. Mike hides behind his balaclava. Job has dogs, but he's actually much more like a cat himself. Mike has a cat, but he's actually much more like a dog himself. And so on.

Harvey

The best way I can describe Mike to somebody is that he couldn't tell a lie if he wanted to. And I don't meet many people of that pure a spirit much in my life, very rare. And when I meet somebody with that pure a spirit, I want to nurture it and enjoy it and be around it, because it'll never sell you short. It'll never be dishonest with you.

Scott Carrier

So at one time, you were associating and hanging out with some of the most important people of the century. And now you live in Glenwood, Utah, and you hang out with Mike.

Harvey

Hang out with my friend, Mike. And he's very special.

Scott Carrier

By 1954, the whole witch hunt of Communists was beginning to fall apart. Edward R. Murrow broadcast his famous expose on Joe McCarthy, and then McCarthy himself was investigated in the Army-McCarthy hearings. McCarthy responded in part by turning up the heat on Job, asking him to supply names of writers and journalists who were Commies or sympathizers. But by this time, Job was having second thoughts. Being a paid informer had been like being a Communist, in that it had been fun for a while, but then it got scary. He decided it was maybe time to come clean.

This is when job recognized Jesus Christ as his personal saviour, and was baptized into the Mormon church.

Harvey

I took to it like a duck to water. Are you kidding? The Mormon church? Wow. Everything I wanted in my life in this gospel, in this lifestyle, and in the way the people were, in the caring for each other. And then my conscience really got to bum me out. Here I was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and I was living with all these misdeeds. And I finally said I gotta stop the bull [BLEEP], and it's not blacklisting was my business. But I was a false witness upfront, all the way. Let it go.

Scott Carrier

According to a friend of mine who is a wise man, and also a good Mormon, there are three things you need to do in order to repent, in order to achieve forgiveness. The first is, you have to try not to do the bad thing again. The second is, you have to try to compensate your victims. The third is, you have to find some kind of peace with yourself. Of these three, the third is by far the most difficult to achieve.

Job started with the first two things by visiting and apologizing to some of the people he'd named in front of the committees, people whose lives he'd ruined. He told them that he wanted to try to pay them back by writing a book about how he lied and made things up, a book that would hopefully bring down the McCarthy era once and for all. Then he asked each of them if they might want to put up some money to help get the book published.

Harvey

It felt real good to go to people and ask forgiveness.

Scott Carrier

Were any of them upset?

Harvey

When I go to somebody and say, hey look, I was an asshole, I was this, I was that, and I'm sorry, and I shouldn't have done it, and please forgive me, and if you don't, I'm still asking your forgiveness, and that's a good clean feeling. It's a rich feeling. It balances the body out, man. It really does.

Scott Carrier

None of the men that Job visited wanted to publish his book, however. And he decided that it was time to leave his old life behind, and go to Utah and marry a Mormon girl. He set off by walking and hitchhiking across Texas, wearing German desert army fatigues, black boots, a black beret, a black beard, and a backpack full of Old Testament puppets. At night, he'd stop in hospitals and small towns and ask if he could perform his puppet show for the kids in exchange for a bed and something to eat.

He traveled like this across Texas and into New Mexico. And in New Mexico, he got a message from his mother. A publisher in New York wanted him to write his book. Even though Job was very close to a nice, quiet life in Utah, he decided he had an obligation to set the record straight. So he went back to New York City.

Ira Glass

Coming up, trying to set the record straight, and because of it, ending up in prison the most hated man in America. That's in a minute, from Public Radio International, when our program continues.

It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Each week on our program, of course, we choose a theme, and bring you a variety of different kinds of stories on that theme. Today's program, people whose lives were pinned in history, caught up in huge historical events, and what they made of their actions years after the fact, when it was quiet enough to make sense of anything. Scott Carrier's story about Harvey Matusow, Job Matusow, continues. Job has moved back to New York, invited to write a book, hoping to set the record straight.

Scott Carrier

The publishers set him up with an apartment in Manhattan, and a stenographer. And in four months, Job dictated False Witness, his book describing in detail how he'd lied and fabricated stories, and how the government prosecutors had known he was lying and even participated in the process. In particular, he named Roy Cohn, his old friend and government prosecutor in the trial of the communist leaders in New York, and also in the Jencks trial.

In his book, and also under oath, in an affidavit, Job said that Cohn had known that he was lying in the trials, and had even encouraged him to do it. Cohn denied everything. Even before the book was published, Job was called in front of some of the same committees he'd appeared before as an expert witness, only now he was the accused.

Harvey

am not an expert on this subject of Communism. I was not a leader in the Communist Party. I was a Communist flunky in a club on the lower east side of New York. And through a few lies, I built myself up into an expert on Communism. And you expect me to start sounding off about what the Communist Party thinks and does, about what orders come from Moscow, if any?

Harvey

I was finally letting it out and kicking all the shackles off this play-acting. I wasn't play-acting when I was testifying. I knew they were going to put me in jail, so what could they do?

Harvey

Are you afraid of the truth, sir?

Man

Sir?

Harvey

Are you afraid of the truth, sir?

Man

I am not afraid of any truth that you can give, because I don't think there's any truth in your body.

Harvey

They were freaking out. Like Sourwine, the chief council of the committee, says, haven't you called yourself leader of the Communist youth movement? And I responded, I lied. And everybody laughed.

Julian Sourwine

Haven't you found yourself leader of the Communist youth movement in this country?

Harvey

I lied.

You're the one who's responsible for my role as a witness, not I. You're responsible by creating the fear and hysteria in this country, where people can't talk to one another, where neighbor can't talk to neighbor without fear of being called a Communist. You're responsible for the hysteria.

Julian Sourwine

We forced you?

Harvey

Yes, sir, by creating a fear and hysteria in this country which this country's never seen before, where people can't turn around and talk to their neighbors without fear of being called a Communist. Honest, decent people. You're the one who's responsible for my role as a witness, not I.

Harvey

I knew that when I wrote the book, I was going to go to jail. There was no question in my mind.

Scott Carrier

From the beginning, when you were writing the book?

Harvey

Oh yeah. When that became part of my consciousness, I knew, as sure as God made little apples, I was either going to be assassinated or go to jail, or both. And I was perfectly prepared for it. In fact, part of me wanted to be assassinated. It would've been a great release, finally. I wrote the book, I did the recantation, I straightened the record out, and if somebody wants to blow me away and let me go home to God, I'll be home with my father. What a blessing.

Scott Carrier

This brings us up to the worst day of Job's life, the day he decided to call himself Job, like from the Bible, only if you'll remember, the Job in the Bible was an innocent man, a virtuous man, who suffered only because of a bet God made with the Devil, whereas Job from Glenwood, Utah is a man who, through his own selfish desires, brought pain and suffering to a lot of people.

In his book False Witness, published in 1955, Job confesses his sins and writes about how he was a bad man who's trying to repent. But when he tells the same story now, in 1998, he sometimes describes the events as if he were a victim of circumstance, or at least that things were never black and white, and that he was simply doing the best he could all along.

Harvey

80% of the people who I named before the committee were Communists, and they were sure of it. There wasn't a question of my lying about it. What was wrong was that I was naming them at all. But at the same time, I started to have a fantasy, and based on the experiences I had in Europe at the end of World War II.

There were many French Communists who would tell me stories of how they, repugnant as it was, went to work for the SS and the Gestapo and the German authorities that occupied France. And they did so so they could spy on the Germans. And I used to fantasize-- and it was strictly a fantasy, and I don't want to give it any more credence than that-- that I went to the FBI and did to the FBI what these people had done to the Gestapo.

Scott Carrier

In the end, Job was sent to jail for perjury. When he got out after four years in 1961, he found work publishing avant-garde art books and helping to edit the East Village Other, which, according to Job, was the first underground newspaper in America. In the '60s and early '70s, he traveled to England, France, and Australia. But everywhere he went, his past was right behind him.

Harvey

So I realized at that point that, regardless of what I did, whatever accomplishment I may have, it's going to be attacked and its foundations are going to be chipped away at by the past and people's view and their perception of me in the McCarthy period. And at that point, I realized that I really am not going to care about what they think anymore.

Scott Carrier

Job came back to the States in 1973 and began to commit his life to serving others and doing the Lord's work, as a sort of penance. He set up homeless shelters and soup kitchens in New York and Massachusetts, and collected used clothes and food that he drove out to South Dakota and delivered to the Sioux Indians. He moved around a lot, from one city to another, from one wife to another.

He was like Chuck Connors in the TV show, The Rifleman, an officer in the US Calvary who had somehow blacked out in battle and deserted his men, and was court martialed. They broke the rifleman's saber, and he was branded, scorned as the man who ran. Every week, the rifleman tried to redeem himself by saving lives and helping people out of trouble, and by getting rid of the bad guys in town. But he could never shake his past. He could never even remember what had happened.

In 1977, Job moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he fell in with a troupe of street musicians and performers that he managed and organized into the Magic Mouse Theater, a nonviolent kids TV show on the local public access TV station. Job, of course, was the host of the program, Job playing Cockyboo the clown. Cockyboo is an old clown, dressed in rags that were once the clothes of a rich man, top hat and tuxedo coat. He's more scary than funny, and he's always trying to tell you something that you feel like you should be able to understand, but you can't.

Harvey

It all started a long, long time ago. It was in a faraway place, close to the hearts of those knowing love. And there was a village called Angelville. Now, if you're going too fast or happened to sneeze, you wouldn't see it. And the only way one could get to Angelville was to find the secret path which led to the center of everything.

Scott Carrier

Job lives in a small adobe house he calls the Gandhi Peace Center, a shelter for homeless men. But the only homeless men here tonight seems to be Job Matusow. His bedroom is also the production room for the TV station, and it's crammed with blinking VCRs and scattered videocassettes and various dust-covered memorabilia from the past. It's dinner time, and Job is sitting on a sunken bed, feeding his five little dogs.

Harvey

This is Mabel Muldoon. And this is Mopsy Muldoon. And this one is Buster Brown the Coolest Dog in Doggy Town. And they're my family. I like hanging out with dogs and people with disabilities.

Scott Carrier

In order to achieve forgiveness, you must do three things. Of these three, the third, finding peace with yourself, is by far the most difficult. If you're able to do this, if you can find redemption, then when bad thing you did comes up again in memory or in conversation, it doesn't matter anymore, whether you were a victim a fate, or whether you caused it all to happen by your own conscious actions, whether you were just doing the best you could under the circumstances, or whether you were evil. When you have truly been forgiven, the bad thing doesn't have an effect on you anymore. It just goes right through you.

Harvey

Look, in the other room, I've got a big picture of Ray Cohn. It's a three-foot by five-foot photograph of Roy Cohn, big. Morton Downey, Jr., gave it to me one day in New York. And I put that picture up of Roy Cohn, that same picture, when he died on July 1, 1988. And I start to say a kaddish for him.

And I don't let his spirit go, and he's the man I should be hating the most in the world. He sent me to jail for five years, and he was a miserable human being to a lot of people and did a lot of harm, much more than I ever did. And I still pray for the man. And his big picture's up in my studio, because I don't want to forget that I can forgive.

The most enjoyable time I have in life right now is when I sometimes have to get in my car at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning here in central Utah and drive the 175 miles to Salt Lake City. And it's still dark, and I get in the car, and it's high in the mountains. And when I get in the car, I have a prayer, and then I start to conjure up the spirit of every human being I have ever known who has gone to spirit, starting with my parents, and my brother, and my aunts, and my uncles, and my grandparents, and then all the people I've ever known, including Senator Joseph McCarthy-- 44 uncles and aunts, including Roy Cohn, my countless cousins, and then all the friends and people I've known in my life who have gone to spirit.

Scott Carrier

Job told me this story in his house. He told me the same story in his car.

Harvey

And I take a quiet moment and I say to each one, good morning, I love you, and you're not forgotten. I've never told this story to anybody before. Scott, this is amazing that I've shared this with you. It's a very private thing. But I want to state that, when I think of all the people, that means all the people I ever knew, the saints and the sinners, and sometimes especially the sinners.

Ira Glass

Reporter Scott Carrier lives in Salt Lake City.

Act Two. God Of War.

Ira Glass

Act Two, God of War. This is the story about somebody who, like Job Matusow, had power over people's lives, thanks to a convergence of historical forces. But unlike Job Matusow, this man made a decision about what he thought about his role in history, at the time that it all happened. And he hasn't wavered much about it since.

It has taken a kind of toll on him, though. Jeffrey Harris served as a kind of psychologist for the Army during the Vietnam War, even though he had no graduate degree in psychology. It was his job to decide who could go home and who had to stay at the front. In other words, who might die and who might have a chance at living. He only had one year of grad school. His tour of duty began at Chu Lai.

Jeffrey Harris

It's right on the South China Sea. We had a beach right there. So we were kind of on the beach, and fairly far away from the perimeter. It's fairly safe. We'd get rockets in periodically that'd make you run for cover, but anything that hit over where we were was going to be stray because they'd generally aim their rockets at the airfield.

I told my wife, I'm going to go over there and I'm going to stay as safe as possible and try to make it through the year and come back. That's what I want to do. That all changed after I got there. I mean, first place you start seeing people coming in out of the field, and it's hard not to identify with the war in some sense.

Scott Carrier

So what do you mean, identify with the war?

Jeffrey Harris

Well, there's a certain excitement to it. And if you're back in the rear, back someplace going through somewhat meaningless kind of procedures, you know, just practicing rote, over and over and over again, field training exercises, war games, and all the other stuff that you do, you know, inspection, shining your boots, marching, then the things that are going on are going on out there. I'll give you an example. The commanding officer of that company decided that he was going to beautify the place. He was going to plant palm trees and put in sidewalks. You know, you've got to get out there and do this.

Many soldiers volunteer. If they're in a safe place, it's not uncommon to volunteer to out where the action is, to get away from the bull [BLEEP] at the rear. The captain invites me into his little office and he says, we have a situation and we need a volunteer. You know, we considered the other social work specialists around here, but we figure you're the most qualified, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

And I said, what the hell are you asking me to volunteer for? Now, remember, I'm in Chu Lai, out on the beach. We'd go down there and drink beer and swim, the other kinds of things you do in Vietnam, sit there and smoke a joint and watch the moon rise. It's kind of a nice place. And I said, what are you asking me to volunteer for? And he says, well, the 196th Infantry Brigade is going away. And it was at that time-- I don't know whether you remember-- but it was when the siege on Hue was taking place. This was right after the Tet Offensive.

In fact, it's the setting for Full Metal Jacket. He says, 196th is going away, and we'd like you to go with them. And my stomach just went [MAKES PLOPPING SOUND]. And I'm sitting there looking at this guy. And so what I finally did, I got to use the-- Actually, the thing that ended up getting me out in the field was I couldn't pass up a good one liner. I turned to him and I said, yeah, I've been wanting to get out of this chicken [BLEEP] anyway.

And I couldn't pass up the one-liner. You know, it was one of those mixed feelings. Did I want to go through this whole situation and someday my grandkids come out and say, grandpa, were you in the war? Yeah. What did you do? Planted palm trees.

Furthermore, they were right. I mean, when he said, you're the most qualified, he was right. I conceivably was-- well, I was. I was the most qualified there, and I knew that. Even though I didn't know what the hell I was doing, I knew none of us did. So I went.

I am out with a medical unit. And we have our own little kind of a hospital to handle incoming casualties, which could either be some sort of physical casualty or psychiatric casualty. And I have to give you an idea of what our hospital looked like. The hospital that we'd worked in was built out of ammo boxes that were filled with sand-- that was the walls-- and a plywood kind of a roof over this thing. That was basically it. Plywood floor.

What the equivalent of a bed was a stretcher. What you had was like saw horses set up, and the casualties would come in on stretchers and you'd lay the stretchers over the saw horses. That's essentially what the hospital looked like.

And I am the only-- what would you call it? I'm the only thing close to a psychologist they've got, even though I'm only an enlisted man. And it was frightening for me. It was very scary for me. They're going to tell me, this individual is yours, and you've got to deal with it, when my background was essentially running rats around mazes. And what in the hell am I doing here?

And often, when we get casualties, one out of four would be psychiatric. So I was dealing one out of-- 25% often would be-- And they'd say, Harris, he's yours. Take what used to be called combat fatigue. That term was not used in Vietnam. It has been used previously. Shell-shocked is another term. It's the notion of somebody situationally that has reacted to a very high-stress situation, and in some sense or another, broken down. That was a common sort of thing that I had to deal with.

You weren't looking at psychotic behavior. You weren't looking at somebody that was having delusions or hallucinations. You were looking at someone that's basically in sort of a major panic attack. Sometimes it was. You'd see panic attacks. But kind of a breakdown and a return to sort of a childishness, help me, help me. I can't handle myself. I can't handle this. I'm weak. And crying, crying to become-- How can I put it? Somebody to help them, somebody to save them. And given the situations that they were in, it's quite understandable. They might have been walking along and all of a sudden, their whole unit's gone and they're there.

They wanted me to state that they were psychiatrically, in some constitutional way, unable to go back into that kind of situation, that they had to be removed from the danger because there was something wrong with them. They're saying that they can't do it. They may not be saying that explicitly, but the body language and the language and everything implied that. And furthermore, quite often it was quite explicit. I can't go back out there. I can't do it. I'll break down. I'll die. I'm unable to do this. I'm not strong enough.

I mean, you can play with the theory theoretically yourself. What happens to somebody when you turn to them, and they say, I'm too weak, I can't handle this kind of situation. Other people can handle stress, other people can handle danger, I can't. And I turn to them and I agree, and I say, that's right, that's the kind of person you are.

So I didn't say that. I placed the responsibility back on them, that they've got to make a choice, that I am not going to tell them that they're too weak, or that they're too incapable of handling stress, that there's something constitutionally or genetically or whatever the hell it is wrong with them that makes them different from other people. And also that the reaction is a human reaction, and conceivably it could happen to anybody, any of us.

And my rule was basically none of us go home unless we all go home. And so, for the combat fatigue or acute situational reaction, the response was that, you are going back to your unit. I'm not going to take you out. I'm not going to give you a diagnosis and tell you-- I'm not going to send you back to a hospital on the basis that there's something psychologically wrong with you.

And it's a simple philosophy. If you fall of the horse, you get back on. You go back into the situation and you deal with. Now, the individual, they'll say, I can't. I'll say, well, you've got a choice. You can go back to your unit commander and refuse. Well, they'll throw me in the stockade. I say, that's a possibility. Another possibility is that they'll send you back to the rear and have you folding blankets in some supply room. I don't know what they'll do. But I'm not going to make the decision. You've got to make a decision.

Do I sound like it was not difficult for me? Quite often, I could've pulled people back, sent them back to the rear. I could have done a number of things. I had the power to do that, even though I was only an enlisted man. I was the only one they had. And I had that kind of power, and it was very frightening for me. It was something that I had never planned on. I had never taken that kind of responsibility in my life, and had never planned on taking it.

And there is sense in which you do become inert. You're able to look at something and say, oh, there it is. You look at something gruesome. That was a common expression in Vietnam-- There it is. You walk up on somebody and he's got his head blown off and his guts are all over, and people look at it and say, there it is, and walk on.

How else do you deal with sort of thing? What do you say? You say, there it is. So you do develop a defense, which for me was kind of frightening after I realized I had it. After I came back from Vietnam, that was part of a change that had occurred to me that I was not sure that I wanted to maintain, was this being able to emotionally distance myself from pain, from somebody else's pain. At the same time, I don't want to give it up.

Ira Glass

Dr. Jeffrey Harris is now a psychologist practicing in Salt Lake City. He spoke with Scott Carrier.

Credits.

Ira Glass

Well, our program produced today by Alix Spiegel and myself, with Nancy Updike and Julie Snyder. Senior editor Paul Tough. Contributing editors, Jack Hitt, Margy Rochlin, and consigliere Sarah Vowell. Production help from Rachel Day and [? Suyuni ?] Davenport. "That's The Way It Is" was played on acoustic guitar for us by Michael Kirkpatrick.

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If you want to buy a cassette of this program, call us here at the WBEZ in Chicago. The phone number, 312-832-3380. Our email address, radio@well.com.

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Scott Carrier

The person who started the myth about getting high off smoking banana peels.

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass, back next week with more stories of This American Life.

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