Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"The Adult" Alien in the Delta Series

The Vietnam War and the civil rights movement gained momentum while I was stationed in Germany. During that time, the news we received came from the military newspaper Stars and Stripes. The US military TV network also provided news. We had very little information about the day-to-day events in the United States or the rest of the world. We were told only what the military wanted us to know. Some of the most important changes in the history of the United States were taking place in the early 1960's. Our lack of news was good and bad at the same time. It was good because we were unaware of the marches and demonstrations taking place in the United States. So we didn't find it necessary to take sides on any of the issues. That could have led to fights amongst the troops. It was bad because we were not aware of the changes taking place, nor did we have a chance to participate or contribute at the time.

The four years that I spent in the US Air Force in Germany shaped me for the rest of my life. It was very important to my overall development. The US Air Force provided me with the opportunity to go to Germany in the first place. Germany and Europe showed me that my life in the United States had been so limited. Born and growing up in the segregated southern United States, with its lack of respect for human rights, its inequality, and its restrictions had me feeling uncertain, conflicted emotionally, and very unhappy. Germany offered me so much more freedom than I had experienced in the United States. When I left the southern United States in 1962 to go to Germany, I was oblivious about how other people on the planet lived. Exposure to other countries and cultures from the age of eighteen until the age of twenty-two helped to shape me, my beliefs, and my life’s future direction.

The happiest time in my life was making discoveries and experiencing firsthand events and new things about my world and me. I had felt like an alien in the delta because of its location, people, culture, prejudices, inequality, and overall environment. I had grown up next to the Mississippi River in Arkansas. Living in Germany, I no longer felt alienated. I had to leave my country, unfortunately, to feel comfortable in my skin.