Death is the Best Revenge

Paul Lowinger


Fred Normal East was big, maybe 250 pounds, usually in motion, friendly and Bill Clinton-smart. He was an expert on brainwashing and studied it for the CIA. He knew when to brainwash and when to accuse the enemy of it. This was during the Asian Cold War when countries like China and North Korea were the enemies and South Korea, Australia and Taiwan were friends.

I was interested in brainwashing too and like Fred, I studied the effects of LSD. I gave LSD to emotionally troubled patients and saw few favorable changes and Fred gave it to an elephant which was a weekend national news event.

Fred moved to Southern Califorma to head a large department while I found myself in the Bay area directing a training program that needed the approval of a national committee. I had taken over a wounded training program for residents in psychiatry that was on probation. We were coming up to another three year inspection and our students, teachers, classes and records were battle-ready.

The program review was careful and uneventful so I wasn't ready for the letter in April from the national office cancelling our program and telling us that no one who trained in it would get credit after June. The shock affected the students, teachers, administrators, an d even the elected officials who appproved the funds for this training in a county hospital. There was no appeal since we were already on probation. The circuitious language of the letter might just as well have said, "You are dead."

Hope and curiosity spring eternal so I started making phone calls to find out what happened. I thought, "We deserve to survive as one of the few community controlled training programs still left." Finally a friend from the East coast said, "The country is divided into regions and Fred reviews all the reports of the inspections in California." Fred had torpedoed my ship.

Everyone read my letter of complaint to a professional newspaper but that was the end except for folding the remnants of the program into another one that was still accredited so there was a transition for the students.

Now, I recalled my 1977 oped article in the Los Angeles Times which said that Fred East's ideas about brainwashing were wrong. He said that the twenty one Americans who decided to live in China after they were taken prisoner in the Korean War were brainwashed. One of these Americans, Jim who was taken prisoner in 1950 and then went to live in China visited the United States in the Seventies. He told me that he wasn't brainwashed but that he choose a Marxist system to a capitalist one. I had said it was time to put the record straight.

Nothing much happened after that for a long while. Jim was still living in China. Fred and I retired.

Revenge was signalled by an obituary in the New York Times, "Fred Normal East, psychiatrist dies." It was cancer. I felt elated and powerful and I wanted to tell people about my feelings. This is my opportunity to celebrate that death is the best revenge!

Oh yes, there is another character who is connected with this episode whose death I also patiently await. Maybe I'll write about him later.