Death is the Best Revenge
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
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
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.