Return to site

Redcoat in 'Nam

Jesus...became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.”John 13:21. King James Bible.

Jesus got off lightly!

For the rest of we sons and daughters of God, the number of people who betray us is generally much higher. And it's the very people who assume they would never do such a thing whose (repetitive) betrayal cuts the most deeply.


I came up in the ranks of Her Majesty's Army, a promising young infantryman. I was the pride and flower of my country. I was highly trained in the art, skill, and belief system of war. I learned how to march into battle with my heart full of honour, ready and proud to devote my life to a cause and to die a clean death defending my creed. I learned how to shoot a musket, keep my red coat beautifully clean in the field, and to keep rank and file with Cartesian accuracy. I mastered the intricacies of holding formations, of riflework, and eventually, the fine horsemanship of the cavalry. I gave my life to becoming the best Redcoat I could be.

And then one day....

I shipped out to an unknown shore on Her Majesty's orders. I was proud to go. I was fulfilling my destiny as a Redcoat. This was what I was born to do. But....

They threw me out of the plane and I tumbled down toward an unbroken expanse of lurid green. I hurtled toward the earth and my ears were already full of the rage of shots and explosions. A friend died on the way down. I hit the ground and as my parachute collapsed around me, trees a foot from my nose blew up. I could see nothing and no one. Where was I supposed to go? What was I supposed to do? Where were all my friends in red coats? Where were the rank and file formations? Where was the battle field?

This was not war. This was Hell. There were no rules. There was no fraternity of soldiers. There were no sides. There were no beliefs to uphold. There were no clean deaths. I scrambled on my stomach along the wet ground, an animal desperate to survive, my beautiful red coat a filthy, bloody shred clinging to me by a thread. My musket, which I had spent countless hours polishing, got eaten by a crocodile. I stumbled over abandoned gangrenous festering body parts as I scrambled alone through the exploding jungle.

I do not love the smell of napalm in the morning.

I had made a solemn vow to Her Majesty that I would not hesitate to die in her name and consider it an honor. But I had made no vow to be mutilated, ruptured, ripped to shreds, killed, and then resuscitated just to have it happen over and over again! I had gloriously signed on to battle unto the death in the name of clean energy, and instead found myself dying many times over in a swamp of the filthiest energy ever created by man.

I had learned how to be run through with a bayonet. Instead what happened to me was I stepped on land mines, inhaled poison, lost my internal organs to a bomb, and fell into enemy hands to be tortured and left for dead...and then resuscitated so they could do it again.

.Gentle Reader, that was a parable. I was using metaphor just now to describe an otherwise difficult to verbalize emotional truth. I will now speak literally.

I remember the day I (accidentally) cut my thumb open. I sat on the table at Emergency Health Services, watching blood pumping out of it, fascinated by how what had once been a solid entity was now two flexibly-joined meat objects with fluid coursing from them. “We don't have time to do anaesthesia on this one,” the doctor said. “I've got to sew you up with no pain-killers.” And she did, jabbing that needle and thread deeply through my flesh and back out again. “How are you doing,” she asked, right before I fainted. “Hey,” I said, almost smiling. “Compared to emotional pain, this is nothing! I'm great!”

.And now to the dance.

I was raised to follow the Redcoat Code. Redcoats do horrible things, yes, but there are some things they never do. (For instance, I forget what British pundit once wrote, “a gentleman may on occasion sleep with another gentleman's wife, but on no occasion would he EVER open another gentleman's mail!”) If a Redcoat volunteers the information that he is going to do something, by God he does it, no matter what, and if he dies in the process, his progeny carry out the quest until it is done. And once a Redcoat has slain the enemy, he leaves him there to die a noble death.

Some of the murkier Redcoats have, yes, done horrible things while in uniform, but those of us who truly believe in our military code have a lot of respect for our enemy. Because they too, theoretically, are fighting to uphold belief systems close to their hearts. We get it. We're gentlemen, they're gentlemen, and it's too bad that we're on opposing sides. We honour the enemy by killing them cleanly and immediately on the field of combat. We do not torture, and we really never perform medical miracles on dead soldiers just so we can kill them again. If we take prisoners of war, we treat them humanely and get done what we need to get done in as up-front and direct a manner as possible.

Our personal dignity demands it of us. How else can we hold up our heads as men and as Redcoats?

And then one day Her Majesty sends us into Tangoland. We know what our mission is, but we have no idea what the enemy's mission is! We don't know their tactics, their strategies, their belief systems, their goals, their terrain, their weapons, their gear...anything at all.

I can think of at least three men I've dumped at least three times apiece for the social betrayal of ignoring me all night at milongas. Who knows why they do it. The message that comes through is: I'm too good for you, I can't be bothered, you're not interesting enough for me to say hello to, I'm too sexy for this hello.

Now, if a Redcoat ignores you all night at a milonga, it means this: you no longer exist for me as a person, starting right now. Any social relationship we may have ever had is officially over. The end.

But for these Tangoland tanguerilla warfarers, the dirty-energy land-mine has not yet begun to fight. The real explosion comes afterward: they expect you not to notice! They expect you to uphold all those beautiful principles that good little yoginis swallow with their morning kombucha. Principles like open-hearted trust and compassion. Principles like, never take anybody's actions personally. They expect to waltz through life ignoring, avoiding, and shutting people out...and then still have the option of continuing as if nothing had ever happened!

And that's where Tangoland is just too much. Is there a tanguera alive who is not too old for that?

On the other hand, after so many men do it, over and over again, you quickly learn who your real friends are. Because there are a few inhabitants of Tangoland who don't pull that ----. Let us praise them resoundingly.

By the way, to all you Redcoat Ladies out there: If you consult my previous post Postcard from Eden, that oak in the corner of my garden has never, ever betrayed me. Not Once. Sure, he's as much a clueless human dork as every single one of us is, and he's not perfect. He's let me down, hurt my feelings, and disappointed me on occasion, but the Great Milonga Betrayal Land-Mine (and its ensuant slow-exploding internal shrapnel fiesta)...never. Even when we met and I was a baby and he was a king, he always treated me fair and square, Bluecoat to Redcoat. Better than fair and square. Even when I was a total baby, he always took the time to come to me to chat. No matter what. And that's always been true. He's always helped me in time of need, he's supported and inspired me, he's been the source of just about every single great idea that has gotten me further in life, in art, in dance, in everything. He's a great guy and a mensch. If any of you want him, he's single for probably the next three seconds. And no—God's little joke is that I don't want him for myself! He's my Friend.

Vissi d'Arte. Giacomo Puccini. Maria Callas.