Monday, November 20, 2023

Recent Technological Developments Relevant to Espionage and Information Warfare


In Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui’s “Unrestricted Warfare,” written in 1995, they describe how militarily and politically weak Communist China can triumph over a stronger power such as the United States. They do this by using an extremely broad concept of weaponry, to wit: "Everything that can benefit mankind can also harm him. This is to say that there is nothing in this world that cannot become a weapon.” They go on to give examples of these new types of weapons: stock-market crashes, computer viruses, and rumors or scandals on the Internet. They argue that four fundamental elements of war - soldiers, weapons, battlefield, and purpose – “have changed so that it is impossible to get a firm grip on them. When that day comes, is the war god’s face still distinct?” (Liang, Q. & Xiangsui, 2015).

This paper examines two examples of this expanded type of weapon: a Russian troll farm called the Internet Research Agency used to create dissent and conflict within the United States, and social network analysis and graph databases that could be used to track employees and recruit assets from inside Iran’s Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility.


The Internet Research Agency

The Internet Research Agency was a Russian company operating from July 2013 to July 2023 that maintained social media accounts for the purpose of spreading propaganda, altering public opinion, and sowing dissent. It was owned and financed by Yevgeny Prigozhin of Wagner Company fame (Volchek, 2021) and was used to influence European public opinion of Ukraine and the upcoming invasions. In the United States, the IRA’s purpose was to influence social media with the goal of eroding trust in American media organizations, spreading distrust in American politicians and political parties, and generally to inflame tensions.

The IRA created user accounts and various Facebook groups with titles such as "Heart of Texas," "United Muslims of America," "Being Patriotic," "LGBT United," "Don't Shoot," "Blacktivist," "BlackMattersUS," and "SecuredBorders", among others. The IRA then used these groups to organize protests or even dueling protests/counterprotests including:

  • A Black Lives Matter protest (not organized by IRA) and a Blue Lives Matter counterprotest (that was organized using the "Heart of Texas" group) held in Dallas, Texas, on 10 July 2016.
  • A "Safe Space for Muslim Neighborhood" rally in Washington, D.C., on 3 September 2016 was organized using the "United Muslims of America" group.
  • As mentioned in Zegart (2022), the "Heart of Texas" and "United Muslims of America" Facebook groups were used to organize dueling protests on 21 May 2016 in Houston, Texas.
  • "BlackMattersUS" and "United Muslims of America" groups were used to organize anti-Trump protests.
  • The "Being Patriotic" group was used to organize multiple pro-Trump rallies throughout Florida.
  • "United Muslims of America" was used to organize the "Support Hillary, Save American Muslims" rally.
  • A vigil for the Pulse nightclub shooting victims was organized using the "LGBT United" group.
  • Etc.

The supposed ultimate goal of the IRA in the United States was to influence the 2016 election. While this may be true, supporters of this supposition make several assumptions that must be explicitly stated:

  • Social media platforms allow anyone to create groups and use them to organize meetings and protests.
  • For each group IRA created, numerous non-IRA groups with the same concerns existed.
  • It is likely that the IRA groups were used by Americans for our own purposes, e.g. to schedule our own rallies.
  • The influence of the IRA was small in comparison to the biases enforced by various social media companies.
  • The various problems the IRA supposedly tried to inflame were already concerns for multiple decades, including:
    • The growing influence of Islam and other foreign cultures.
    • Illegal immigration.
    • Fear of government overreach and doubts of its legitimacy.
    • Contempt of elected officials and other government employees.
    • Contempt that elected officials and other government employees have of their constituents.
    • Doubts about the intentions of US intelligence agencies.
    • Distrust of traditional and social media outlets.
  • For people concerned about those problems, the IRA was doing nothing but "preaching to the choir."

For those of us who already distrust mainstream media, it is not clear if the IRA had any influence on us, since we rely on other methods for gathering information and arriving at conclusions (multiple alternative news sources, discourse and debate, historical reference, plausibility, consistency, evidence of the senses, correspondence with reality). Further, the ultimate responsibility for an individual's beliefs and actions lies with himself, despite the "NPC" (non-player character) description that is often applied to those that continue to trust media and government.

This does not mean that the IRA did not have an impact: the Mueller Investigation lasted from May 2017 to March 2019, and though the final report of the Investigation "did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities" (Mueller, 2019), the pretext for the investigation was used by various politicians, government employees, and media outlets to foment dissent on their own. This wasn't obviously a part of the IRA's plan, but it was certainly an example of how certain politicians and news agencies are willing to create a tragedy so as not to let it go to waste. Was it an unintended consequence?


An Emerging Technology Useful for Espionage

An emerging technology that is useful for espionage is the field of social network analysis with the support of graph database technology.

Traditional relational databases store data in one or more tables, and each table consists of rows (records) and columns (fields). Graph databases store data in nodes (also called vertices) and edges (lines or arrows connecting nodes). (Robinson, et. al., 2015) This organization is perfect for storing data about social networks.

[Illustration comparing data organization in relational vs graph databases]

What the nodes and edges in a graph DB represent depend on the application. For example:

  • For navigation, the nodes can be cities and the edges can be roads.
  • For an e-commerce recommendation engine, the nodes can represent products and two products are connected by a directed edge if a customer who purchases one product is likely to purchase the other.
  • The nodes can be people and the edges can be various types of relationships (familial, coworker, etc.)

Nodes do not need to be all the same type: one type of node can represent people, and a second type can represent organizations, and an edge connects a person-node to an organization-node when that person is a member of that organization. Similarly, there can be different kinds of edges: besides the membership-edge, there can also be familial-relationship edges linking two people who are of the same family.

By itself, a graph database is useless without a source of data. For social network analysis, populating a graph DB usually involves manually entering specifically chosen people or organizations to seed the graph DB, then augmenting that with data pulled from social media sites.

The investigative applications include:

  • The process of “doxxing” was studied using graph DBs in (Lee, 2022).
  • Relationships between Antifa, journalists, and university professors were investigated in (Lenihan, 2022).
If Antifa were to be designated a criminal organization, graph databases would be immensely useful for investigating that organization. (Jaccourd, et. al., 2023).


The Definition of "Importance" in Graph Databases

For sake of discussion, suppose we are investigating terrorism, and the nodes in our graph DB represent individual terrorists or terrorist organizations, and edges between those two types of nodes represents membership. We also assume that terrorists can be linked with an edge if they are of the same family.

Once our database is populated with terrorists, organizations, and the relationships between them, how do we extract information from all that data? The most obvious approach is to pick a target (a known terrorist), and then investigate all the people related to that target and all the groups (terrorist organizations) to which that target belongs. There are situations where this approach is applicable (like should a terrorist be captured), but in general this approach begs the question: how is a target of interest chosen? This is not a trivial question since there may be tens of thousands of terrorists in our graph database.

This problem - determining which nodes (terrorists or organizations) are most important or influential - is solved in various ways through what are called "measures of centrality." There are numerous measures of centrality, the most basic one being "degree centrality" - the nodes with the most edges are most important, i.e. the terrorists with the most connections to other terrorists or terrorist organizations are most influential.

A different measure that is perhaps more useful is "betweenness centrality". This involves finding the shortest path between all distinct pairs of nodes and counting the number of these shortest paths that pass-through a given node. The nodes with the highest betweenness centrality can be thought as the ones through which the most information passes.

In terms of espionage, it would then make sense to prioritize intelligence-gathering on terrorists with the highest betweenness centrality, since the most information would pass through those terrorists. In terms of counterterrorism, eliminating a terrorist with a high betweenness centrality would cause the most disruption in information flow.

An example of this kind of social network analysis was performed independently by Kieran Healy (Healy, 2013) and Shin-Kap Han (Han, 2009) using data found in David Hackett Fischer's "Paul Revere's Ride" (Fischer, 1995). Fischer includes data on 254 individuals involved in the American Revolution (among them John Adams, Samuel Adams, and Paul Revere) and their memberships in seven Whig groups, including the Tea Party and the London Enemies. Using only this data, it is possible to determine:

  • the number of groups to which any pair of people both belonged (for example, John Adams and Sam Adams both belonged to two groups)
  • the number of people any pair of organizations have in common (the Tea Party and the London Enemies had 10 people in common).

Notice that the starting data (membership lists for the organizations) did not include data about which individuals knew each other, but a social network can be derived from the membership lists - two individuals are related if they share membership in an organization. (Breiger, 1974).

[Illustration from (Healy, 2013)]

Centrality measures can then be calculated on that social network. Healy and Shin-Kap Han found that Paul Revere has the highest betweenness centrality of the 254 individuals and ranks high in several other centrality measures. Shin-Kap Han describes Revere's role as a "broker" between not only the people in Fischer's analysis but also between the various classes - artisans and gentlemen, patricians and plebeians, and to make the American Revolution a success, for those people,

"both the identities and interests needed to be articulated and organized as in any effort at extensive, robust, and sustained mobilization. For that, the movement needed men whose socioeconomic status and cultural outlook allowed them to move among the various ranks of society. As a man whose contacts reached deep and wide into the social and political networks, Revere was one of the few who were comfortable in all of these places, each of which became an important part of Boston’s revolutionary movement." (Han, 2009).


Past, Present, and Emerging Technologies for Espionage

Past and current espionage-related methodologies and technologies could be used to recruit individuals working inside Iran's Natanz nuclear facility. For example, wiretapping could have been used to monitor the telephone calls of employees of that facility, and from the conversations, potential assets could be chosen. This would have worked before calls were encrypted. Combining satellite photographs with on-the-ground presence, individuals working in the facility can be identified, traced, appraised, and recruited. Realtime satellite imaging may not be needed, but considerable collaboration between satellite reconnaissance teams and in-person reconnaissance would be necessary.

Another current technology that is applicable are mobile applications such as TikTok, Facebook/Meta, etc. These applications track the user's location, the people the user interacts with, and can be used to build a psychological profile of the user. Further, by manipulating the popular trends displayed by those apps, the companies owning these applications can attempt to influence user opinions.

Can social network analysis be used to recruit an individual working inside a highly secure location, like the Natanz facility? Natanz employees may not be allowed to have applications such as TicTok on their phones. All hope is not lost, however... As described above, Kieran Healy and Shin-Kap Han were able to build a social network using only a list of names and membership lists for organizations – they built a social network using data that predated social network analysis by centuries! The same can be done today, and examples of the organizations that would be helpful in the case of the Natanz facility include:

  • Universities, for their graduation lists and list of faculty members
  • Mosques
  • Fraternal organizations

Additional sources of information include marriage announcements, graduation announcements, flight logs, and so on.



These two examples of contemporary espionage technology – troll farms and social network analysis – represent two examples of the new types of weapons envisioned by Liang and Xiangsui. The Internet Research Agency was effective (in some way) in spreading dissent in the U.S., though they were dwarfed by the attempts at manipulation and “nudging” used by social media companies. Social network analysis would certainly be useful for investigating the operations of criminal organizations and should also be relevant for identifying intelligence assets and evaluating the importance of individuals in facilities like the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility.



Breiger, R. (1974). The duality of persons and groups. Social Forces 53(2)
Retrieved from:

Fischer, D. H. (1995). Paul Revere’s ride. Oxford University Press.

Han, S-K. (2009). The other ride of Paul Revere: The brokerage role in the making of the American Revolution. Mobilization: An International Quarterly 14(2): 143-162
Retrieved from:

Healy, K. (2013). Using metadada to find Paul Revere.
Retrieved from:

Jaccourd, L., Molnar, L., & Abei, M. (2023) Antifa's political violence on Twitter: A grounded theory approach. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research. 29, 495-513 (2023)
Retrieved from:

Lee, Carmen. (2022). Doxxing as discursive action in a social movement. Critical Discourse Studies, 19:3, 326-344, DOI: 10.1080/17405904.2020.1852093

Lenihan, E. (2022). A classification of Antifa Twitter accounts based on social network mapping and linguistic analysis. Social Network Analysis and Mining (2022) 12:12
Retrieved from:

Liang, Q., Xiangsui, W. (tr. 2015). Unrestricted warfare. Echo Point Books & Media.

Mueller, R. S. (2019) Report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. U.S. Department of Justice.

Robinson, I., Webber, J., Eifrem, E. (2015). Graph databases: New opportunities for connected data. 2nd Edition. O'Reilly Media.
Retrieved from:

Volchek, D. (2021). Inside the ‘propaganda kitchen’ – A former Russian ‘troll factory’ employee speaks out. Radio Free Europe/RadioLiberty.
Retrieved from:

Zegart, A. (2022). Spies, lies, and algorithms: The history and future of American Intelligence. Princeton University Press.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Young Faucistein

Dr. Anthony Faucistein’s area of research was… strange. Some of his fellow researchers considered him to be a mad genius, but most thought he was just mad. He only just received his doctorate last year, late in 1993, and he was eager to blind, or stop, the world with his intellect.

His research focused on answering the following question: “can a person’s sexual orientation be changed by grafting-on a body part?”

“We’ll need a recently deceased gay man, and a straight man who has been dismembered,” his new assistant said. “But what idiots would fund it?”

“The idiots at the NIH, that’s who. We’ve been funded for 5 years!” Faucistein gushed in his thick Boston accent. His large glasses fogged over for a moment.

“How did you spin it, doc?”

“I had them classify it as ‘gain of function’ research! They really are idiots!”

“Gain of… function?”

“Yes - we’ll be taking a straight man and turning him bi, or maybe even gay. See? Gain of function!” The doctor and his assistant high-fived each other. Dr. Faucistein raised his noodle-thin arms triumphantly and shouted “I… AM… THE… SCIENCE™!!” pronouncing “science” as “SOYence.”

They didn’t have to wait long for the “source material.” A gay mass-murderer named Jeffrey Dahmer, while serving 16 terms of life imprisonment, was killed by his cell mate. “The body is being flown in from Wisconsin”, the doc told his assistant, pronouncing it “WisCONNsin.”

On almost the same day, a young bon vivant named Jay Gatsby lost his hand in a car accident. He was driving his dad’s DeLorean on the freeway when he crashed into the berm. The prostitute he had in the car was providing “personal service.” If it wasn’t for that prostitute - or more specifically that prostitute’s head - the steering column would have gone through his abdomen. Instead, the column took off his right hand, the hand he was using to keep the prostitute’s head in position.

“Perfect!” Dr Faucistein exclaimed on learning this. He quickly scheduled an operating theater. Dr. Faucistein loves theater.

In the operating room, Gatsby was under general anesthesia. All the doctors and technicians were wearing masks. Except for Dr. Faucistein, who wore two.

The assistant carried a large flask containing Dahmer’s right hand into the operating room.

“Are you sure you got the correct donor?” Faucistein asked.

“No, the hand came from somebody named ‘Abbey Normal.’” Faucistein rolled his eyes.

The operation went smooth. After it was finished, Faucistein and his assistant looked at the patient, still unconscious.

“He’s so light and thin, you’d think he would be gay if you didn’t know him,” Faucistein said.

“You’d think he’s gay even if you did know him!”

The anesthesia was wearing off, and Gatsby started to stir. Faucistein rushed from the patient’s room, and his assistant followed. “Don’t you want to talk to him?”

“Listen,” Faucistein told his assistant, “I must observe Mr. Gatsby to see how our experiment is proceeding, so he must never know I performed the operation. Check in with him on a weekly basis. Ask him about his overall health as well as any unusual dreams or urges he’s had.”

Following his release, Gatsby spent the next several weeks recuperating at his parents’ home, mostly lying in bed, mostly watching TV, or reading the newspaper.

Every few days, Gatsby would read a headline titled something like “Rent Boy Strangled” or “Gay Man Killed” or “Another Hate Crime”. Gatsby read the stories, mostly out of boredom. In each case, the victim’s own semen was found on his clothes. And in each story, the coroner was quoted as saying “he was strangled, but he died with a smile on his face.”

During one of the first calls, Gatsby told the assistant, “I decided to redecorate my house - the upholsterers will be here next Monday.”

In a later call, the assistant inquired if Gatsby was having any dreams.

Gatsby was quick to respond: “I had the most horrible nightmare - I dreamt that my new hand detached itself!”

“Dismemberment nightmares are common with patients who have lost a limb. I don’t think the dreams will ever go away, at least in your case, but you’ll find them less intrusive as time goes on.”

The following week, the assistant asked, “have you had any more of those dismemberment dreams?”

“Yes, almost every night. And you’re right, they’re not stressful anymore. In fact, I can even see my right hand crawling behind seedy restaurants. But that’s impossible!”

The evening news lead with a story about a gay man whose body was found behind a diner, strangled. According to the police report, the victim’s pants were covered with his own semen. The reporter concluded by looking solemnly at the camera and saying, “at least he died with a smile on his face.”

It was Friday afternoon at 4:30 PM. The phone next to his bed rang, just as it always did on that day and time. Gatsby answered it, knowing it would be the assistant.

“How are you feeling, Mr. Gatsby?”

“Well, I have this strange desire to go to the gym. I’ve never been to the gym in my life, but for some reason I think I’ll have a religious experience there! Isn’t that weird?”

“Not at all - many people think that the gym is the one true God. But why don’t you try something relaxing, like going to a bar? A new one just opened down the street from you, called ‘The White Swallow.’”

“Oh yea, it’s right between ‘Fudge Packers’ and ‘The Sausage Factory!’ I think I’ll do that!” Gatsby hung up the phone and examined his wardrobe - he knew he had too many sweaters, but where did all those leather jackets come from?

Meanwhile, the assistant called Dr. Faucistein and relayed Gatsby’s evening plans.

Gatsby arrived at The White Swallow at 8 PM. The bar was crowded, and he noticed that the patrons and bartenders were all men. He noticed, but he didn’t care. “How could it be any other way?” he thought.

Against one wall stood a water cooler filled with what looked like blue mouth wash. Gatsby was slightly confused by it, then he just shrugged.

Gatsby saw a short thin man sitting alone at the bar. He wore rather large glasses and was dressed in a lab coat. He was also wearing two blue paper masks. Gatsby noticed that Dr. Dress-Up was watching him, and when Faucistein realized he was caught, he switched all his attention to the open notebook and half-empty martini glass in front of him.

Gatsby didn’t have a medical fetish, but he realized that way too many people would tolerate or even enjoy being dominated by that little creep.

Gatsby continued to scan the crowd, and locked eyes with a pair of dark-haired muscular men. Both had identical handlebar mustaches and were wearing identical leather hats, leather harnesses, jock straps, and nothing else. All their leather was decorated with metal studs.

Gatsby approached them and introduced himself: “Hello, I’m Jay.”

“Hey, I’m Tom”. Tom looked Gatsby up and down.

“Hey, I’m Seth” Seth also looked Gatsby up and down.

“Are you two twins?”

“Na, why’d you ask” Tom replied.

“No reason.”

“Hey,” Seth said, “Tom and I are going to the bathroom. Want to join us?”

Tom explained: “there’s twelve open stalls. It’s hot.”

“It’s very hot,” Seth added.

“I’ve never done anything like that before!” Gatsby said, his voice breaking.

A waiter was walking close by, and Tom asked him for something. The waiter removed three small plastic vials from his waist apron pocket. “Don’t be a buzzkill. Here’s some poppers.” Tom passed out the vials. They all inhaled deeply and the three of them went into the men’s room.

Gatsby perceived the whole experience as if he were looking through a thick fog. In fact, he didn’t feel like he was all… together.

After leaving the bathroom, Gatsby understood the purpose of the mouth wash water cooler, and he used it.

Later that evening the police had to be called - a man was found dead in one of those stalls. He had red marks across his neck, a crusty white stain on his pants, and a big smile on his face.

The next weekend, Gatsby went back to the White Swallow, and decided to explore the basement, poppers in hand.

After spending some time there, Gatsby began to panic. He didn’t want to be a buzzkill, but it was all too much. He ran up the stairs, almost tripping over the mouth wash water cooler. He suppressed the urge to vomit, and pulled the oil covered, brown stained latex glove off his right hand, tossed it to the floor, and shuttered.

Gatsby looked at his right hand, aghast, and shouted: “How could you do that? I didn’t know a fist could go inside such a small hole?” He expected his right hand to answer him, but the hand was… just a hand. He unconsciously walked onto the dance floor and continued staring at his right hand.

Tom and Seth watched him. They were both wearing blue jeans, black leather jackets, with no shirts underneath.

Of course, Dr. Dress-Up was there, sitting at the bar, wearing his large glasses, his usual lab coat and two paper masks. This time, Faucistein made no effort to conceal the fact that he was closely observing Gatsby. He opened his notebook and began to quickly jot notes.

Gatsby continued to shout at his right hand: “We’re going to the hospital tomorrow, and I’m going to have you removed! I don’t need a right hand that bad!”

Gatsby suddenly lost control of his right arm, and his right hand grabbed his own throat and started squeezing, hard. He tried using his other hand to dislodge the mutinous appendage, but to no avail. He started gasping and was soon on his knees.

The dance music stopped, and the crowd stared at the choking man, standing 6 feet back.

Observing this, Tom said “autoerotic asphyxiation, that’s hot.”

Seth added, “that’s very hot.”

Gatsby soon collapsed on his side, dead.

His right hand casually detached itself from his arm and crawled in front of his face. The hand gave him the middle finger, then flicked Gatsby’s forehead with its index finger.

The hand then crawled across the dance floor and exited the building. It was almost as if the hand was strutting.

The patrons in The White Swallow watched all this in silence, slack jawed. After an awkward moment, the crowd gave a mighty “woo hoo!” Tom and Seth chest bumped like two drunk frat boys, and the loud dance music resumed.

Beneath his masks, Dr. Faucistein smiled. He neatly closed his notebook and put his pen in the lab coat’s breast pocket. He left the bar, wondering what other gain of function grants he could get.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Comparing Revolutionary War and WWI Soldiers' Experiences


Since America’s beginning, we have been defended by both militia forces as well as regular military, but the sharpest contrast between fighters of the Revolutionary War and those of the First World War is made by comparing the militiamen of the War of Independence with the soldiers of World War I. This paper compares the experiences of those two types of warriors, examines the reasons for entering WWI, and how the history of that war and its veterans were erased.

The Militia Experience

The militia predates the independence of the United Stated by more than a century. It was a tradition that came along as part of being colonies of the British Empire, but the militias of the New World rapidly evolved into a distinct, uniquely American, institution. The primary opponent of the militias were the Indians, who conducted raids and ambushes by operating in small, mobile war parties. From Millet, et. al. (2012):

“Warriors would move stealthily, spread out over a considerable distance to avoid being ambushed themselves, and rapidly concentrate for a whirling attack—often at night, during storms, or in dense fog so as to catch their adversaries off guard and confuse them. Then the Indians would vanish into the wilderness.”
The militias, meanwhile, were still practicing European-style battlefield tactics such as close-order formations, loading their muskets using a fifty-six step process, then firing those muskets in unaimed mass volleys. The Indians easily defeated them, as “it was as easy to hit them as to hit a house.” (Millet, et. al, p.34).

The militias were slow to adapt, but adapt they did, for natural selection is a hard teacher. Commanders such as Benjamin Church (c. 1639 – 1718) began incorporating Indians into the ranks, learning from them, emulating them, and soon it was the militias that were using cover and concealment, attacking the enemy’s weakest spots, targeting and firing at individual enemies, conducting hit-and-run raids and ambushes, and avoiding tight formations. In general, the militias were practicing what would later be called the DOCA loop – disperse, orient, concentrate, act – as described by William S. Lind (Lind & Thiele, 2015, p.73).

It wasn’t just the fighting tactics that made the Colonial and Revolutionary War militias unique – the militia was a local institution, organized for local defense, and at least partially self-funded. It evolved naturally from a light infantry (not line infantry) institution to include cavalry and (later) naval components as needs and opportunities presented themselves.

The psychology of militiamen can be inferred from this quote (Millet, et. al., p.30):

“From whatever social class they came, once enlisted for an expedition the men who filled the ranks believed they had a legal contract with the provincial government that could not be breached without the mutual consent of both parties… Once authorities broke the contract, the troops felt no compunction against staging a mutiny or deserting in mass, even in the midst of a campaign. To the colonial soldiers these actions were legal and sensible, but to British regulars serving alongside the provincials during the colonial wars, such violations of military discipline were intolerable.”
Indeed, the attitude of the British regulars was exemplified by British Major General James Abercrombie who described the militiamen as the “rif-raf of the continent” (Millet, et. al., p.30), and to this imperious attitude and sense of entitlement one can only expect the average militiaman to respond, “rif-raf and proud!” Abercrombie’s point is salient, however, and this is one of the reasons the regular Army existed.

Cooperation between regular Army forces and the militia continued past the War of Independence. For example, at the Battle of New Orleans at the conclusion of the War of 1812, the Americans were commanded by a militiaman (Andrew Jackson was a major general in the Tennessee militia) and the American forces were a combination of the Army, Marines, and militias from several states. During the Civil War, militia-like (partisan) warfare was used by both sides, and John Mosby’s Raiders coordinated attacks and performed reconnaissance with the needs of local Army commanders in mind.

Reasons for America’s Entry into World War I

In the run-up to the war, Americans attempted to separate German culture from Prussian militarism, but we also felt kindred for the Allied nations (Neiberg, 2014). German actions soon forced us into the camp of Entente Powers.

First, American banks and businesses made massive loans to the Allied nations. If they didn’t win the war, those loans would not be repaid.

Germany invaded Belgium in 1914, and rumors of German atrocities against civilians began to circulate. This atrocity propaganda swept the U.S. leading to anti-German sentiment.

In 1915, Germany began unrestricted submarine warfare in the Atlantic Ocean, and one of the vessels the U-boats sank was the Lusitania, which caused the death of over one thousand people including 123 Americans. Several American cargo vessels were sunk in 1917.

In January 1917, the British intercepted a telegram sent from German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmerman to the German diplomat to Mexico. In this telegram, Zimmerman proposed an alliance between Germany and Mexico, and if Germany were to win, Mexico would be able to annex Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. The British passed the telegram to the Americans, and it was publicized by the press on March 1st. The United States declared war on Germany on April 6th.

Comparing Wartime Experiences

The most obvious difference between the Revolutionary War and WWI were the weapons and fighting techniques. There was no Revolutionary War equivalent to mustard gas and trench warfare.

The militiamen and WWI soldiers had different views of their respective enemies. For militiamen, the enemy Indians could be depersonalized by race and culture, and the Redcoats could be depersonalized by political philosophy. The enemy of American WWI soldiers was different in language but were of the same race and similar culture. This explains why the American people attempted to separate German education, culture, and industry from the “imperial and military” Prussian state in the American run-up to entry in WWI (Neiberg, 2014).

The circumstances and reasons for hostilities during the colonial era and the Revolutionary War were completely different from those during WWI. For the militiamen, the stakes in the conflict were extremely personal and local, and they were vested in the outcome as the stakes were the militiaman’s home and family. The same cannot be said for the WWI soldiers – the war was distant and the causes were partially economic. Further, America entered the war with little national self-interest, which means the individual soldiers needn’t have any rational value for participating, and the same can be said for individual soldiers of other countries. Although America didn’t participate in them, this explains the Christmas frontline truces on the Western Front during Christmas 1914 as recounted by Wilfred Ewart (Ewart, 1920). These kinds of truces would never have occurred during the colonial era or the Revolutionary War.

There is the level of freedom of militiamen compared to WWI soldiers. The militiamen operated under well-circumscribed contracts, whereas the men under the military were under obligation for “the duration.” There was less local service and more service overseas. There was less local control (or even no local control) and more federal control.

Further, federal control included control over industries and manufacturing, with businesses and factories being nationalized. The economic subtext of the war was not lost on the populace, as American banks and businesses made huge loans to the Allies and thus they had financial interest in victory.

There was also resistance to America’s participation in WWI. To tramp down those protesting involvement, the Wilson administration resorted to propaganda - creating the Committee on Public Information (CPI) and the Creel Committee to fill all communication channels with pro-war and anti-German agitprop. The committee's output was targeted not at the enemy but rather against Americans, and when this propaganda wasn't sufficient, the 1918 Sedition Act was “[e]nforced enthusiastically by Justice Department agents” and “the Sedition Act gave the 1918 mobilization a vicious edge.” (Millet, et. al, p.410).

Operating in the background was the rise of Progressivism and Taylorism which minimized the importance of the individual in everything they touched. From the standpoint of a fighter during the Revolutionary War, this would be completely alien and anathema to the American spirit and tradition of freedom. Militiamen were the machine; WWI soldiers were cogs in the machine.

Most important, perhaps, is the sense of completion in their respective battles. If a militiaman survived a battle, he was sure to see not only the end of it but also the end of the campaign and the war as a whole. The same cannot be said for the American soldier in WWI, due in part to our late entry.

The Lost Generation

Gertrude Stein referred to American expatriate writers living in Paris as “a lost generation,” but the term soon expanded to refer to the entire generation of people that came of age during the First World War. The phrase was memorialized at the start of Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, and the literature of that era projected hedonism, a disconnection from the previous generation’s values, and a recognition of the inflation that the price of achieving the American Dream was undergoing.

Three of the major authors of that period – Ernest Hemingway, E. E. Cummings, and John Dos Passos – were ambulance drivers during the war, and their works describe not only their wartime experiences (almost to the point of being autobiographical) but also include strong anti-war sentiments. An excellent example of this is found in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.

Given the parallels between Hemingway's life (serious drinker, American ambulance driver in the Italian army during WWI, met the love of his life after being injured) and the life of the narrator of A Farewell to Arms (serious drinker, American ambulance driver in the Italian army during WWI, met the love of his life after being injured), we must interpret the following quote from that novel as representing Hemingway's true outlook on the war:

“I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious and sacrifice and the expression in vain. We had heard them, sometimes standing in the rain almost out of earshot, so that only the shouted words came through, and had read them, on proclamations that were slapped up by billposters over other proclamations, now for a long time, and I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it. There were many words that you could not stand to hear and finally only the names of places had dignity. Certain numbers were the same way and certain dates and these with the names of the places were all you could say and have them mean anything. Abstract words such as glory, honour, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates.” (Hemingway, 1929)
The novel included several harrowing descriptions of what ambulance drivers must have experienced but notice that this quote is a rejection of not only the mechanics of warfare, but of the jingoism that surrounds the war-making process. This anti-war sentiment extended beyond ambulance drivers to the writings of American combat veterans (e.g., William March’s Company K) and to writers from other countries (such as the German Erich Maria Remarque in his All Quiet on the Western Front).

Erasing the Lost Generation

In the time between the end of the First World War and now, the history of the war was belatedly recognized, or the soldier's trust was betrayed, or its history has been outright erased and diluted. For example, no WWI memorial appeared in Washington D.C. until 1931, and that memorial was small in comparison to the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, built in 1926, which commemorated the same war. An elaborate upgrade is planned to the D.C. memorial for 2024.

Something that must have soured veterans of the Great War was the conclusion of the 1932 Bonus March. The Bonus March was a protest on Washington, D.C., in which thousands of WWI veterans and their families demanded early payment for the bonus certificates that were issued to them in 1924 but could not be redeemed until 1945. President Herbert Hoover ordered the U.S. Army to clear the protesters’ campsites, and the list of participants in this operation reads like a who’s who of World War II leadership. Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur had George S. Patton’s 3rd Cavalry advance on the protesters. The Bonus Marchers cheered the troops, believing that they were marching in their honor. The troops turned on their brothers-in-arms and responded with tanks, bayonets, and tear gas. The Bonus Marchers were thus evicted, their camps burned. The official Army incident report was authored by Dwight Eisenhower, then a military aide to MacArthur, and that report endorsed the whole affair. (Dickson & Allen, 2020)

An example of the erasure of WWI history is the story of how Armistice Day became Memorial Day in 1954, as recounted and analyzed by Kurt Vonnegut:

“When I was a boy... all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

“It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

“Armistice Day has become Veterans' Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans' Day is not.” (Vonnegut, 1973)

Erected in 1921 and completed in 1931, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington National Cemetery was to be the final resting place for the remains of an unidentified WWI service member, and so in a sense it was a WWI memorial. The purpose of this memorial has been diluted since that time, however.

In 1956, President Eisenhower (of Bonus March fame) approved the addition of the remains of two additional unknown soldiers to the Tomb, and in 1958 the unknown WWI soldier was joined by the remains of unknown soldiers from World War II and the Korean War. (Arlington National Cemetery, n.d.) The Arlington National Cemetery began plans to recognize a Vietnam War unknown even before the end of that war, but by 1984 only one set of American remains from Vietnam had not been identified. President Reagan presided over the internment ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but the remains were exhumed in 1998 and DNA testing was used to provide a positive identification. To this day, the crypt dedicated to the Vietnam War Unknown is empty, and in 1999 it was rededicated to honor all missing service members from that war. (Arlington National Cemetery, n.d.)

In the span of under 80 years, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier changed from being the resting place of one unknown WWI service member to the resting place of a total of three unknown service members as well as missing service members from the Vietnam War. Its focus has changed to be a “distinctive, multigenerational shrine.” (Arlington National Cemetery History Office, p.207)


The militiamen of the Revolutionary War and the soldiers of World War I were different in fighting techniques, spirit, and relation to the government as a whole. One way they were similar was that both the WWI soldiers and the militiamen had their histories erased. This was described above for WWI soldiers. For the militia, it was the Dick Act of 1903: the Act created the National Guard which assimilated the militia’s symbolism (such as American Revolution Statuary) and the date of formation (according to their website, the National Guard’s official birth date isn’t 1903 but instead is December 13, 1636, when the Massachusetts colonial legislature organized militia regiments). The National Guard didn’t adopt the militia’s maneuver warfare or self-funding model, and most importantly the militia’s independent ethos was completely rejected.


Arlington National Cemetery. (n.d.). Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Retrieved from:

Arlington National Cemetery History Office. (n.d.). A Century of Honor: A Commemorative Guide to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Retrieved from:

Dickson, P. & Allen, T. (2020). The Bonus army: An American Epic. Dover Publications.

Ewart, W. (1920). Two Christmas Mornings of the Great War: Personal Accounts of the Christmas Frontline Truces. Harper’s Magazine. Retrieved from:

Hemingway, E. (1929). A Farewell to Arms. Scribner.

Lind, W. S. & Thiele, G. A. (2015). 4th Generation Warfare Handbook. Castalia House.

Millett, A. R., Maslowski, P., & Feis, W. B. (2012). For the Common Defense: A Military History of the Unites States from 1607 to 2012 (3rd ed.). Free Press.

Neiberg, M. (2014). Blinking Eyes Began to Open: Legacies from America's Road to the Great War, 1914-1917. Diplomatic History, 38(4). Retrieved from: t=true&db=31h&AN=98052986&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Vonnegut, K. (1973). Breakfast of Champions: A Novel. Dial Press.

Civil War Revenge Porn

In August of this year, I was taking a class in American Military History. One of the assignments was to write about Sherman's March to the Sea, in which William Tecumseh Sherman led his troops from Atlanta to Savannah in November and December 1864, pillaging and plundering, destroying military and civilian properties indiscriminately in a way not seen again until the George Floyd riots fiery but mostly peaceful protests. I originally thought the assignment was to cover how the Union justified Sherman’s March, so I wrote about revisions to the Union Army’s rules of conduct.

Upon rereading the assignment, what was required was a fictional account, from the point of view of a soldier in the Sherman’s Army of Tennessee. Thus, I wrote some fiction. Here are both parts of my submission.


The atrocities committed by the Union throughout the Civil War in general, and Sherman's March to the Sea in particular, were not the unsanctioned actions of individual soldiers but "came from above" through national policy.

Possible justifications for unleashing total war (war against both an enemy's military and civilians) include:

  • Collapse of the distinction between military and civilians
  • Use of total war to quickly end the war.

Both justifications were used by the Union, even early in the Civil War.

General Winfield Scott's Anaconda Plan from the start of the war involved a general blockade of Confederate ports and disruption of commerce along the Mississippi River. The Confederacy was to be deprived not only military supplies (weapons and munitions) but also supplies used by the general population, like food and medicines. The Anaconda Plan was abandoned because it was not producing quick results.

Grant, in an 1862 letter to Sherman, explicitly equivocates civilians with military personnel when he states that "we are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people and we must make old and young, rich and poor feel the hard hand of war."

Subsequently, new rules for the Union Army's conduct were codified in 1863 in the Lieber Code. This military law replaced time-tested laws of war coming from Emer de Vattel and Hugo Grotius. Among the articles of the Lieber Code was Article 21: "The citizen or native of a hostile country is thus an enemy, as one of the constituents of the hostile state or nation, and as such is subjected to the hardships of the war."

Article 15 reads in part "Military necessity... allows of all destruction of property, and obstruction of the ways and channels of traffic, travel, or communication, and of all withholding of sustenance or means of life from the enemy." Raiding of Confederate farms is also covered in that same article which continues "the appropriation of whatever an enemy's country affords necessary for the subsistence and safety of the army."

The use of total war tactics to quickly end a war is explicitly permitted in the Lieber Code under Article 29: "...The more vigorously wars are pursued, the better it is for humanity. Sharp wars are brief."

While total war was advocated from above, implementation during the March to the Sea was carried out by Sherman's soldiers, earning those who looted, vandalized, and destroyed Southern civilian infrastructure the moniker "Sherman's Bummers."

The Indemnity Act of 1863 (amended in 1866) shielded Union officials against charges of violating habeas corpus, which is the legal recourse victims would use to seek restitution. This proves that the concept of "CYA" existed even during the Civil War.

For all the destruction that the March to the Sea caused in Georgia (the South's breadbasket), Sherman felt that it was justified, writing that for the South "to whine and complain of the natural and necessary results is beneath contempt."


Since the start of this accursed war, my brother and I have argued over its causes and how Lincoln gathered and wielded power supposedly forbidden to him by the Constitution. We’re both hunters, and we’ve defended our homes against Indian raiders, and we have no problem fighting for what is right. He once told me that “fighting does not merely sate bloodlust, but rather it enriches the soul, for conflict brings out the very best of us - courage, valor, and honor” and I must agree with that. Where we disagree is when he says that “conscription has no place in the land of the free.” I disagree even more when he says that “if Lincoln’s cause be wrong, our obedience to him does not wipe the crime of it out of us.”

When conscription came to central Pennsylvania, we took different paths. I joined and then later transferred south to serve under General Grant. My brother resisted actively, not like Mark Twain, and was in the gunfight at Bloody Knox in Graham County, the skirmish where Tom Adams was killed. One thing my brother doesn’t believe in is proportionate response, and while no one ever said that he took the scalps of the enforcement officers, no one ever said that he didn’t. Last I heard, he was working with draft resisters in Texas, fighting with the unholy terror of a man who wishes only to be left alone, certainly adding to his scalp collection.

I believed in Mr. Lincoln’s war, but when I saw what Sherman’s Bummers did, my convictions were rattled. When Confederate Lieutenant General Wade Hampton complained to Sherman about his Bummers, Sherman replied that he was keeping 1000 Confederate prisoners of war specifically to “dispose of” when the Grays defended themselves against the Bummers. But that Confederate general was correct, that while the wartime right to forage upon the enemy is as old as history, “there is a right older, even, than this, and one more inalienable--the right that every man has to defend his home and to protect those who are dependent on him; and from my heart I wish that every old man and boy in my country who can fire a gun would shoot down, as he would a wild beast, the men who are desolating their land, burning their homes, and insulting their women.”

The Bummers are like the Vikings of yore, defiling and eviscerating their victims, and not necessarily in that order. Considering that they and I are both of the same army, and that they act with impunity, I knew that I was on the wrong side, and my continued participation would be a crime that can never be erased from my soul.

Last night, I freed three of Sherman’s prisoners (hostages) and saw to it that they escaped from camp. Today, I caught my first two Bummers, looting the farmhouse of an aged couple. After they looted it, they set it ablaze. Too late for the farmhouse, I “disposed of” those Bummers, and acquired my first two scalps.

I thought desertion was an action taken only by cowards and would be a difficult thing, but it wasn’t after seeing that Sherman not only permitted his men to act as vandals, but that he encouraged such shameful behavior. All that hunting my brother and I did allows me to live off the land and not to raid civilians’ homes and businesses. If I need something that can’t be hunted, I will deal honorably with the civilians, either purchasing what I need or trading my services.

My brother and I started out with opposing views, but now are on the same side - we are now the left and right hands of Vengeance. When this war is over, I will meet my brother in Pennsylvania, and we will compare stories and our collection of scalps. Who will have the larger collection? I don’t know, but he has an early start, and I must make up for lost time.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Christopher Floyd Smith
18 May 1946 - 4 May 2023

Note: this is the eulogy I delivered this afternoon for Chris Smith, my ex. There were children in the audience, so it was best to redact some *spicy* comments. I also restored several sentences that I accidently omitted. Chris passed on the 4th, but his birthday would have been today, the 18th of May, that’s why the next of kin delayed it. I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about Vietnam over the past few days, that’s why the history parts are in there.

Before I start, I want to make three observations:
1. Embalmers and funeral directors sometimes do too good a job.
2. Some people die too young, some die too old, but no one ever dies at the right time.
3. When people as old as Chris pass, sometimes no one attends the services. They’re all alone. Maybe they were abandoned in an old age home, or maybe there were no surviving family members. But look how many people came yesterday and today! That is a testament to the quality of family and friends he chose.

People tell each other stories in order to become friends, and I want to tell you a few stories about Chris’ life and how we became friends.

Chris, like many soldiers, rarely talked of his combat experience, and we were all surprised when we found that he earned all sorts of awards and medals, including a Silver Star and several Bronze Stars during his time in Vietnam. We have documents showing that he indeed earned those awards, but the stories behind them are currently missing.

Chris mentioned that he was present in Vietnam in 1968 during all three phases of the Tet Offensive, which were coordinated attacks by the Viet Cong and North Vietnam People’s Army against South Vietnamese civilians and the forces of the US, South Vietnam, and their allies. Tens of thousands of people were killed or wounded and 83% of the civilian population was left homeless. We don’t yet know the particulars of his role in the Offensive.

Something Chris did not mention was that in July 1969 he participated in capturing and holding Hill 4-11, in order to build a Fire Support Base there. The hill was located in a Viet Cong stronghold, guarded by enemy booby traps and snipers. We’re still researching that bit of history as well.

After the Tet Offensive and Hill 4-11, Chris returned to the US where he “lived in a commune on the side of a hill” for a time. That was to recharge himself before returning to the military.

It is appealing to describe Chris as “humble” for not telling us about all those medals. Yet he was anything but a humble man! Rather, this was his way of “firewalling” the experiences that earned him those medals from the sane world, thereby preserving his sanity.

While he didn’t share many stories of combat, he did explain what it was like to be a gay soldier of that era.

One time he was on leave in Saigon, and he went with one of his (straight) friends down to where the French Embassy was located. There was a gay bar there, and a line of soldiers were waiting to get in.

His friend started counting them: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. I didn’t know they let people like that into the Army.”

Chris said “13!” then got into that line.

He did say that he was out to some of his fellow soldiers in Vietnam (and so maybe all of them knew?) but he was mostly reserved. They still trusted each other - so much for unit cohesion being lost because of the gays!

Photos from the 2/61st Air Defense Artillery yearbook, 1974

Later, someone found love letters in his foot locker. His “superiors” gave him a choice: either leave the Army or transfer to the Army Reserves. He chose the latter, and I believe they gave him this choice because his career was so spectacular.

Even after this he still loved the Army, and indeed he loved it for the rest of his life, sometimes begrudgingly but most times passionately, and he said his only regret over the whole affair was that he would never make it to the rank of master sergeant.

Chris’ mixture of optimism and pragmatism on gays in the military is shown by those stories. He wasn’t out to change the military into a politically correct organization, he just wanted to do his job. He understood that gays are in the minority and that the world does not and must not revolve around us. He knew that the military’s purpose is to defend our country, not to act as an agent of societal change, and gays’ presence must be evaluated with that purpose as the standard.

Chris continued in the Army Reserves, helping to establish addiction support services for his fellow soldiers.

He returned full-time and deployed to Kuwait during the Iraq War. The sand in Kuwait is like powder, and it got into his lungs. He collapsed from this and was evacuated to a hospital in Germany, then sent to Walter Reed Hospital, and finally to Fort Knox.

Thus after 30 years in the Army or Army Reserves, he retired.

I met Chris early in the 1990s when I was working at a fast food restaurant across from OSU. He came in one evening and ordered two hard tacos and a medium fountain drink. We kept running into each other - at a convenience store close to where we lived, then at a 24 hour donut shop.

That meeting in the donut shop was the start of a lifelong friendship, but also the start of a strange romance!

For our first date he wanted to see a foreign film at Studio 35. He thought I would like it, but afterwards we realized we both hated it, and that we had similar “pedestrian” tastes in movies.

For our second date we went to the Indian Burial Mounds in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Our third date was in my apartment. I played “Kind of Blue,” an album by Miles Davis, for him. The last song on that album has an eerie quality to it, but I couldn’t identify what made it so enchanting. Well, we danced to that song, and the meaning came to me as a thunderclap: the song is slow, but emotionally it feels as though time has stopped, that the moment would go on forever.

For our fourth date Chris played the first album that Flatt and Scruggs did together, “Foggy Mountain Jamboree.” I still listen to that album, and also to far more bluegrass than if he hadn’t introduced me to it. Anyone who knew him knew that this was Chris’ music!

Our relationship really took off when he brought me into his circle of friends!

Chris was 17 years older than me, and when he introduced me to his friends one of them said: “Chris, you robbed the cradle”. My retort was: “yea, and I robbed the grave.”

Chris’ sense of humor was like mine: dark and spicy.

Chris was a member of NA and AA, but he was clean and sober for at least 10 or 15 years by the time we met. While he was indeed clean and sober, he was not confident at all that he would remain so. Everybody was certain that he would stay that way except him - that confidence would only come later in his life.

We spent our first Thanksgiving dinner together with some of his friends, most of whom were also in AA and NA. I’ve never met anybody like that before! One of them told me the strangest story - she said she used to grow her pinkie fingernail really long to act as a cocaine scoop, and she followed this by demonstrating the motion. There were many other stories that evening all with the same theme.

After dinner, we were walking out to the car, and I had a flash! “Hey Chris, how many AA or NA members does it take to change a lightbulb?”

He was getting pissed at me, but he took the bait: “I don’t know, how many?”

“Five: one to put in the new bulb and four to reminisce about how good the old bulb was.”

I was in the dog house for two weeks for that!

But we kept on, through countless nights playing board games, and through some Mensa conventions, and through a few arguments, but only a few.

Fencing with Chrismas Wrapping Paper Rolls

Years later, our romance cooled, and it made sense for me to move to Maryland for my job.

I knew that Chris would be there at my apartment in Frederick, MD, so when I packed the boxes, I labeled them like “Books and Sex Toys” or “Silverware and Double Headed Dildoes.” The movers got a kick out of that, but Chris was not amused!

Chris got the last laugh, though! He helped me pack when I moved from Frederick over to Pennsylvania, and when I arrived, half the boxes were marked as “Stuff” or “More Stuff!”

This type of banter was certainly part of our chemistry, but it wasn’t the only part. Here’s something more typical:

Chris and I always used to drive at least an hour to some small random town just to have pizza for dinner. The particular town or restaurant didn’t matter. What did matter is that we did this together and that we enjoyed it. It was such a simple thing, and neither of us realized at the time how important those weekly outings were. For this reason I cannot tell you the name of the town or pizza restaurant we first ate at. I thought these short road trips would go on forever, and for that reason I do not remember the name of the last restaurant we ate at. All I know is that there was a first town and restaurant and a last town and restaurant, and that there will be no more such road trips.

Chris wanted to get back together with me in Pennsylvania, and we tried it, but he missed his family and friends in Columbus terribly.

Sending Our Best from the Hospital, September 2017

Thus our strange romance ended, but the friendship endured. My last joke to him was only a few days before he passed, and was like a bookend to the “rob the grave” joke, but it was too dark and too spicy to repeat here!

The lung problems that started in Kuwait only escalated as time went on. Sam and Janos promised to take care of Chris until his last minute, and they did so, admirably.

I’ve been trying to summarize the feelings I have for Chris, taking all these stories into account. Here’s the best I can do.

You know how people say they want somebody to “complete them?” Chris and I didn’t do that for each other. Instead, he extended me. When I was with him, I felt incredibly free, incredibly passionate, incredibly powerful, and I understood just how intense life can be and ought to be. With Chris I knew that there is a whole world of things to choose from, and if something is missing, then I can make it myself.

Besides this spirit, the most important thing Chris did for me was to invite me into his family. Sam, Janos, Bela, cousin Mary, Catrina, and John mean the world to me, as do his friends Shelly and Lisa.

It may be tempting to disengage or distance yourself at times like this, but that would be unworthy of Chris, because it would be denial masquerading as stoicism. Isolation from the memories and feelings we have for him separates yourself from the best part of yourself - your creativity, your ability to be genuine, your potential to be the best you can be. He would insist that we always strive, that we directly challenge the obstacles in life and overcome them, for if we disengage then we wither away.

As mentioned earlier, people tell each other stories in order to become friends. But what happens when one of those friends is gone? I don’t know, but maybe those stories help us reach catharsis.

I hope these stories are indeed cathartic, but also that they help us to remember Chris, for if he exists now only in our memories, then we must never forget him.

Chris, I love you dearly. Until Valhalla.