A Mormon Don Quixote

August 17, 2009 | 28 comments
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Last week I was in Cedar City for my annual visit to the Utah Shakespearean Festival, which has brought a lot of pleasure to my family for the past 24 years, thanks to the nearly 50-year-old impossible dream of a returned missionary, Fred Adams. His success is, today, an interesting counterpoint to other impossible dreams.

There is something very human in seeking an impossible dream, especially when that dream includes a noble goal, even if  the goal isn’t reached. In Mormon culture we have our own version of this impossible dream. To be truly Mormon, our dreams must originate in inspiration or revelation, something that comes from beyond ourselves. That is the pattern in our myths. Even the Joseph Smith story might be considered a kind of impossible dream—an inspired vision from God that succeeded beyond any reasonable expectation.

For much of the past four months I’ve been following the impossible dream of another Mormon and its difficult denoument. While I’m not sure that the dream of John Yettaw was inspired, in a Quixote-like sense it was very noble, and given our inability to know what would have happened, it might have been successful. Without that knowledge, Yettaw is now known as a fool and imbicile among supporters of democracy in Burma, and among observers worldwide.

How and when Yettaw got his inspiration isn’t known. He first traveled to Burma in November of last year, and was able to visit the lake-side home of Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, but left a copy of the Book of Mormon when he wasn’t able to speak to her. Apparently encouraged by the fact that he wasn’t caught, or further inspired, the 53-year-old Yettaw returned in May, convinced that Suu Kyi would be assassinated and needed to be warned. He swam, with the aid of home-made flotation devices, 2 kilometers across the lake to Daw Suu Kyi’s home despite his diabetes and occasional seizures (from a head injury he suffered while serving in the U.S. military in Germany during the Vietnam War). This time he met and warned Suu Kyi, who tried to get him to leave. Yettaw was then caught and arrested as he tried to return across the lake.

Until the visit of Virginia Senator Webb yesterday, Yettaw was in Burma’s infamous Insein Prison, at first awaiting trial, then begining what was to be a seven year sentence for violating Suu Kyi’s house arrest, violating immigration laws, and swimming in a restricted area. According to Burmese authorities, he fasted for 62 days of the nearly 4 months he was incarcerated (the authorities say he claimed the fast was for religious reasons), and spent several days in the hospital near the end of his stay after going into convulsions. His efforts created an international incident, with human rights groups decrying his effort, the Burmese government suggesting that he was part of a plot to embarrass them and democracy supporters there claiming that he was a government lackey creating an excuse for the government to keep Suu Kyi out of upcoming Burmese elections.

Despite all this, the most plausible reason for his actions is, in my view, the claim that he was trying to help. That he had the impression that Suu Kyi would be assassinated. As an outsider, one with an admittedly limited understanding of Burma, it seems plausible. The Burmese junta has been in power since 1962, and has held Suu Kyi in prison or under house arrest for 14 of the last 20 years, since she won a 1990 election to the presidency of Burma and was not allowed to taken office. An assassination would remove a perpetual thorn from the junta’s side. At their recent trial, Suu Kyi was given an additional 18 months of house arrest, which keeps her from participating in next year’s election, but has kept Burma, Suu Kyi, the junta, and even Yettaw under international scrutiny for several months. Did all this save her life? I have no idea, and I don’t believe anyone but the Lord knows.

Despite the international attention, Burma is likely to continue to be ruled by this junta. Nicole McClelland on The Daily Beast explained why:

Burma’s home to some of the largest natural-gas reserves on the planet. In 2008, it experienced a 250 percent increase in the number of Chinese companies involved in mining, oil and gas, and hydropower development over the year before; trade between the two countries is up to $2.6 billion, from $630 million in 2001. Japan (along with China and Russia) rejected a proposal to bring a draft resolution on Burma to the Security Council in 2006, pandering to the regime, some analysts say, in an effort to counter Beijing’s influence on it. And Thailand has the rights to nearly two trillion cubic feet of natural gas in one Burmese concession alone. Last year, more foreign companies had invested in Burma than ever, and Burma’s neighbors—energy starved, overpopulated neighbors—are not about to just pull their money out because the U.S. and EU keep telling them to.

Especially considering that the U.S. and EU aren’t pulling their own money out, either.

From a Mormon perspective, Yettaw seems to make many church members uncomfortable. His approach seems to follow Mormon views about inspiration, but violate our cultural beliefs about how to approach a problem — legally and through proper channels. And then there is the question of the inspiration itself. Most Mormons reject the idea that his inspiration could be true, because we are taught that inspiration is limited to our own stewardship–to our own business, not that of others. But I’m not sure that our belief is quite that simple. We teach that we should pay attention to promptings that tell us to speak to those we meet on the street, or act to help those around us. Is what Yettaw did significantly different than that? The more I think about it, Yettaw’s inspiration seems only different in degree. And if Suu Kyi isn’t in Yettaw’s stewardship, whose stewardship is she in?

To me, Yettaw does seem like a kind of Mormon Don Quixote. I can’t say that his inspiration was true, or that he approached the situation as he should have, or even that his actions were successful in preventing an attempt to assassinate Suu Kyi. It seems likely that his efforts, as noble as their motivation was, were a failure. But somehow I still admire his attempt. I wish more Mormons were willing to follow their impressions to change the world.

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28 Responses to A Mormon Don Quixote

  1. Ardis E. Parshall on August 17, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Saying that Yettaw’s inspiration was different only in degree to, say, Bookslinger’s impression that he should stop at a particular mini-mart could just as easily be said this way: Yettaw’s inspiration was different only in degree to the inspiration that came to Ron and Dan Lafferty to slit the throats of their sister-in-law and her baby daughter.

    That is, if Yettaw is as crazy as I think he is.

    Even if Yettaw had “succeeded,” what would the success have consisted of? That Suu Kyi would have been “warned” about something of which she is already painfully aware?

    At least Don Quixote risked injury only to himself, or to the one who had already willingly signed up to ride with him, not to innocent parties. Fred Adams’ impossible dream was a risk to no one but himself, or to those who voluntarily invested with him. I think that is a significant difference between Yettaw and Don Quixote/Fred Adams, and in part why we are entitled to question the source of his “inspiration” and to distance ourselves from any share in it.

  2. Jim F. on August 17, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Thank you Ardis for your usual absolutely sensible response.

  3. oudenos on August 17, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Just for fun perhaps each commenter could add a brief note stating whether s/he has read Don Quixote, unabridged (and better yet in the original language), or whether s/he has interacted with the work through, um, other media. Fair is fair: read, unabridged, English, in 2006.

  4. Ardis E. Parshall on August 17, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Yes, I read the Modern Library edition, unabridged, in English, in the late ’80s, long after I left school. (I have, however, read the unabridged Les Miserables in French — I’m not completely limited by language.)

    Thanks, Jim.

  5. DavidH on August 17, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    I think Yettaw’s heart was in the right place, unlike the Lafferty’s. I am a big fan of Senator Webb (I was hoping Obama would select him as his running mate, although I am happy with Biden). Glad Senator Webb was able to get Yettaw out. I suspect that Webb and the regime that jailed Yettaw saw him for what he likely is, a little off in his thinking (like Don Quixote) but, again, his heart was in the right place.

    I read an abridged verson of Don Quixote in Spanish in high school many years ago, and am slowly plowing through the unabridged original in Spanish now. (More slowly than surely, but surely nonetheless.)

  6. queuno on August 17, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    I read an abridged edition in Spanish in high school. I would have liked to have taken the BYU class that reads it in the unabridged, original version, but I couldn’t fit it into my schedule.

  7. Kent Larsen on August 17, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Read most of Don Quixote (unabridged) in Spanish about 15 years ago. FWIW, I do recognize that it is simplistic to reduce Don Quixote to being about the impossible dream.

    While I certainly respect Ardis’ opinion, I’m not quite sure that I agree. The content of our inspirations make a difference, and while I’m certainly less willing to respect someone’s inspiration that involves a negative effect on others, I don’t think I can count it out completely. Given the number of missionaries that have been killed for their service, surely it is possible for revelation to send someone into harm’s way. (Although I can see restricting such revelation to those the recipient has stewardship over).

    In any case, to make your argument, Ardis, I do think you need to claim that the harm of Suu Kyi’s 18 months of house arrest is worse than what might have happened if Yettaw had not made his visit.

  8. Sam B. on August 17, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Kent,
    I’ll answer your question to Ardis: Clearly, 18 months of house arrest is not worse than what might have happened if Yettaw had not made his visit—aliens could have come, for example, kidnapped her, and done all of the painful probing interrogations that apparently aliens do.

    The real question is, is 18 months of house arrest worse than what likely would have happened had Yettaw not gone? And I would wager that the answer is yes. I doubt very strongly that his trip was inspired but, even if it were, I don’t see where international scrutiny would prevent Burma from following through on an assassination that it intended to do.

    And no, I haven’t read Don Quixote, but I saw The Man From La Mancha on Broadway a couple years ago.

  9. Ardis Parshall on August 17, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    My point, Kent, is as Sam says — not only that harm came from Yettaw’s visit, but that even had it succeeded *no good* could have resulted.

    His heart being in the right place doesn’t change that.

  10. Hunter on August 17, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    I haven’t read Don Quixote. But I have heard of it. I read The Da Vinci Code once. I think it was teh unabridged version.

  11. Marc Bohn on August 17, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Ardis – I think what Kent’s point is that, however unlikely, maybe Yettaw succeeded by failing. Perhaps God foresaw that Yettaw would fail and that in failing he would save Suu Kyi. I’m certainly not convinced of this, but it’s an argument one could make.

  12. Sam B. on August 17, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Marc,
    Except that argument renders evaluation of anybody’s actions pointless. Yes, it is possible that his actions saved Suu Kyi. But it’s also possible that Kent’s writing this post, or my writing this comment, will save Suu Kyi. But it is remarkably doubtful. On the other hand, Kent’s post and my comment are also unlikely to further harm her, whereas it was fairly obvious that Yettaw’s actions would harm her.

    Yes, it is possible that he was inspired. But I haven’t seen anything to suggest that he was and haven’t received any spiritual witness that he was. I do know that he caused distinct harm, however, and have to base my evaluation of his actions on that harm I can see, weighed against a benefit that may or may not have happened and, even if it did, there is no way to evaluate.

  13. Mark B. on August 17, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    I heard Arthur Henry King pronounce the second word of the title Kwicksutt. Do I get part credit?

  14. Paradox on August 17, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Define “read.”

    I could have sworn there were no SparkNotes when I had to read it, but evidence to the present contrary is making me question my own reliability/sanity on that one. Not that I’m gonna go vomit into anyone’s mouth about it though.

    My judgment of Quixote remains that he represents mankind’s efforts to understand everything that exists outside of himself–a tale told by a blundering idiot whose attempts at reconciling truth with perception are sometimes too painful to watch. (Let me just say, I didn’t enjoy the book, nor did I find any humor in it.)

    Having done my share of looking like an idiot in order to learn how to discern spirits, it is not my place to pass judgment on whether Don Yettaw was under the influence of a good or an evil spirit. All I know is he was a painful embarrassment to some of us, which is why I handled his incident the same way I handled Don Quixote.

    I shut the book and went back to living my life. Don Quixote eventually came to his senses and had to live a life without delusion if he was to die anything other than a fool.

    Yettaw, and the rest of us, have that same task ahead of us.

  15. Justmeherenow on August 17, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    A news article from the day before yesterday (“US man at center of Suu Kyi uproar has troubled past” (AFP)) sums up nicely the disinformation we’re supposed to believe about Yettaw.

    (1) He’s not a real spook.

    The He was found with a pair of homemade flippers, along with an amateur “spy kit” in his black haversack that included a flashlight, folding pliers, a camera, two 100-dollar bills and some Myanmar currency notes.

    (2) He suffers from compulsive religiosity.

    A picture eventually emerged of Yettaw as a somewhat tragic figure on a spiritual quest, a devout Mormon who sought redemption after his teenage son was killed riding a motorcycle that Yettaw had bought for him as a present.
    [... ...]
    “He’s a very sincere and pious person,” Yettaw’s lawyer Khin Maung Oo told AFP.
    [... ...]
    It later emerged that he had been to Aung San Suu Kyi’s crumbling villa once before, in November 2008, when he walked along a lakeside drain and left a copy of the Book of Mormon at her house before escaping.
    [... ...]
    Yettaw went on hunger strike after his arrest, which resulted in a series of epileptic fits he experienced in early August.

    (3) He is a ne’er-do-well.

    Military records showed that Yettaw spent a short time in the US military in the 1970s, though Yettaw told Myanmar authorities that he was a Vietnam veteran with a history of post-traumatic stress disorder.
    [... ...]
    His US neighbors described Yettaw — who lived in a trailer home, was married four times and had a history of drinking problems — as something of a misfit who briefly studied psychology.

    _____
    Let’s examine the facts.

    (1) Any scratching below the surface of the image that has been promulgated reveals Yettaw to have conducted investigations of various sorts that appear to have been competent.

    Exhibit A: Yes, a Newsweek piece “Lady and the Tramp” follows the script wrt Yettaw. (It’s the only major publication to research and print something on him.) However, observe:

    The piece briefly mentions that Yettaw (i) “thought” he had received a directive from someone in Burma to visit Suu Kyi; and it (ii) quotes his un-named friend/confidant of Yettaw’s who said that Yettaw had uncovered information that would jeapardize him if the government of Burma were to find it out.

    Exhibit B. A random snip from an old AP peice: “According to police in Myanmar, Yettaw said that in Thailand he met with Bo Kyi of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) and made 10 visits to a clinic that serves refugees from Myanmar.”

    There are scores of such snippets. The guy was busily engaged in research: fact.

    (2) Another fact is that this story we’ve all swallowed hook, line and sinker with regard to Yettaw’s extreme religiosity only surfaced after his arrest. But, before that? NO SUCH STORY!

    In fact, his family only said that Yettaw had left poetry and other writings to Suu Kyi, along with, yes, some of a religious sort, when he had visited the compound previously back in January of 2008.

    After Yettaws arrest at the conclusion of his 2009 visit, however, Suu Kyi’s lawyer quickly began to emphasize that Yettaw had prayed and that he’d left a Book of Mormon on that first visit. Suddenly that was the emphasis everyone was to give. Yettaw himself got the memo and at his own trial he said he’d been on a mission from God. But people who knew him before his arrest describe him as a competent person who just happened be religious.

    (3) The easiest way to look beyond the coatrack that has been placed in front of the real John Yettaw is to examine his employement.

    Hmm: a ne’er-do-well? Let’s see. (And once this card is shown to be bogus, the rest of the false picture comes to the fore, too.)

    Newsweek says the only job they could discover for him was ferrying service personnel to and from the nearby Army base there in southern Missouri where he lives. And it goes on to mention how he lived in a trailer ( http://www.newsweek.com/id/201938/output/print ):

    After a house fire and a messy divorce from Yvonne, Yettaw found himself living in a trailer on his property, where a veritable Noah’s Ark of trash began to accumulate on the lawn: two broken-down cars, two derelict trucks, two rusted satellite dishes and a pair of portable basketball hoops that still stand in the tall, tick-infested grass. Debt began to snowball, as Yettaw pursued increasingly impractical dreams. He started driving a USA Tours bus in part to ferry soldiers from their homes to nearby Fort Leonard Wood, began work on a 6,000-square-foot turreted home and started putting up drifters in a local hotel. / ¶ / A darker side also emerged. He put his thumb through a man’s eye during a fight in a bar parking lot, say Brian and Yvonne, and, according to police records, spat in the face of a woman who accused him of taking her car. (Although no charges were filed, Yettaw admitted to the spitting, and the woman won a restraining order against him.) In 1997 he graduated cum laude/…/.

    Hey, whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa!

    Back up the film and put it on pause, OK?

    Next to the General Lee with the welded-shut doors, our Missouri bumpkin………has an almost-completed, 6,000-square-foot house?

    The current news reports that say Yettaw studied psychology for a short time is supposed to be about a guy who graduated in it cum laude and thereafter entered the doctoral program at the Springfield, Missouri–based Forest Institute’s School of Professional Psychology? Whose kids are likewise honor students, and whose entire family are pillars of the community?

    That such disinformation has happened in the distant past has never surprised me. That it can happen right before our very eyes, in the here and now, is truly amazing to me.

    There is footage showing Yettaw riding in a van. Other than that, there is footage of when he stepped off the US government plane in Bangkok yesterday. I personally think it was taken by reporters with the Voice of Ameria — the AP copies a frame from television coverage to illustrate its recent piece. Yettaw himself hasn’t said a word to reporters.

    I doubt there will ever be extensive interviews…maybe one, to construct a carefully pre-arranged picture, and then no other requests will ever be granted.

    The Kansas City Star’s Tony Ruzzo reported yesterday, “Betty Yettaw said her husband has been unfairly described as being crazy or eccentric.”

    Oops. That was off script.

  16. gst on August 17, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    I think he should be rewarded for opening Burma to the preaching of the gospel. Put him in the Quorum of the Eighties, perhaps. Or appoint him CES Director, Burma Region.

  17. Dan on August 17, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    I’m just glad we’ve got sensible people in charge of our country who use diplomacy to get the job done and not kill anyone in the process.

    As for Don Quixote, I read the first hundred pages or so of the unabridged and have been meaning to get back to it ever since. One day I will.

    As for Mr. Yettaw, I don’t think much should be made of this incident. Applause should be given to the Obama administration for using this as a way to open relations again with Burma. But that would have occurred whether or not Mr. Yettaw caused this incident to happen. It’s like blaming World War I on Gavrilo Princip.

  18. E on August 17, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    I think yettaw’s old head injury is a more likely source of his inspiration than the Holy Ghost.

  19. MadChemist on August 17, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    Well Ardis.
    You are human, you finally managed to write a comment I don’t agree with completely.

    I’ll withhold my judgement on this guy until we get more facts. I, for one, have learned from Obama’s blunders on speaking when all facts weren’t known.

  20. Eric Boysen on August 17, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    Good morning Mr. Yettaw. . .

    . . . In the event that you or any of your team are captured, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will self destruct in five seconds.

    (2 pages of the original Spanish. The whole thing in English. I sing Man of LaMancha songs frequently.)

  21. Justmeherenow on August 18, 2009 at 1:10 am

    I don’t say, “Believe he’s a spook.” (Even were he to be one, he’d have to deny it. So, don’t believe that. Fine!………)
    .
    * * *
    What I do say is, “Believe those who knew him! not Suu Kyi’s lawyer who had not met him previously, nor the news reporters who have never met him and who’re simply at a keyboard typing up stories, just about like any of us here are, here on the Net.

    And, yes, also do ignore what the “crazy-acting-man” Yettaw said about his motivations at his own trial. After all, a captive has his fellow captive’s best interests at heart could well deceive their powerful captors. Remember Abraham and Sarah. She was his “sister.” [Whups! that is, "...in faith"!!]

    In the last T&S thread about Yettaw, a commenter showed up named B. Erith ( http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2009/05/anyone-know-john-william-yettaw/#comment-291874 ) who said, “His [Yettaw's] only political belief is that Burma should not be pushed, change should come gradually, based on forgiveness and trust.”

    Sounds like, instead of crazy, Yettaw is a man with his head on his shoulders straight! Later in that thread, B. Erith also had queried, “His [Yettaw's] religion being mentioned often by the press, not him, makes him a ‘headcase’ and ‘mentally suspect’?”

    Touche, Mr. or Ms. B. Erith. Touche!
    .
    * * *

    Further, I agree with what Dan said above in comment 17: “I’m just glad we’ve got sensible people in charge of our country who use diplomacy to get the job done and not kill anyone in the process.”

    Yes.

  22. lyle on August 18, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Ah, the refreshing amusement of monday morning quarterbacking. And if he had succeeded, I wonder what the commentary would be like, and how long before it would be made into a movie?

  23. Justmeherenow on August 18, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    My last addendum. In the interest of full disclosure, Mr. Yettaw does get $3,157 in full disability from the Veterans Administration. (He served in the Army for a little over a year from when he was 17 to when he was 18, stationed in Germany.)

    This is gonna be a little long and rambly (my style — along with its not being proof-read; sorry!)

    Voice of America — which has been given the best access to the story, so far — for the most part does not seem to emphasize all too much Yettaw’s religiosity, in its reports, other than the bare minimum to go along with the flow emanating from Suu Kyi’s lawyer and Mr. Yettaw’s antics during his trial there. Read their reports and find this out for yourself.

    There are some minor inconsistencies that I’d really like to figure out though.

    According to Newsweek reporters, John William Yettaw DID NOT HAVE A PASSPORT until the Spring of 2008; yet, the record shows that Yettaw visited Suu Kyi’s estate in the late Winter of 2007.

    * What kind of documents did Mr. Yettaw travel on, on that trip?

    I’m not going to speculate about if Mr. Yettaw has ever worked for a government agency any more, since it’s pointless. (News reporters aren’t supposed to reveal such things, and bloggers relying on news reports would be hard pressed to find it out, anyway. So, why even bother to speculate?) Instead, I’ll go along with the idea that Mr. Yettaw is an independent, international researcher in the field of human rights. (However, if I were a reporter, I’d hang around Fort Leanard Wood (Wikipedia says, “The post is commonly referred to as ‘Fort Lost in the Woods’ amongst soldiers and visitors due to its remoteness and distance from a major metropolitan center”) in a truckers hat and chat up the locals to see if someone in the pool hall ever hints that the area is at all a spookstown, that is, renown for having a major US intelligence agency headquartered in the area).

    Anyway, what Voice of America says is this.

    Mr. Yettaw has his alleged active residence down two miles of gravel road in Falcon, Missouri [situated upon an unfarmed, 160-acre spread]. It seems apparent from the following video, shot by VOA’s Burmese-language reporter that the property, along with its large trailer and what’s apparently a boarded- up, fire-damaged house all remain un-lived upon, at this time. Yettaw’s deceased son’s grave there is shown, too. [The VOA reporter's "vid" doesn't seem to pan his camera over the larger, turreted new-house construction that Mr. Yettaw is in the midst of putting up, though.] Here is Ronnie Nyane’s report: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9FucgjDdVY . The grass around the place looks to be about foot-and-a-half high, and not trampled down.

    Mr. Yettaw’s family actually is safely en?sconce in some house in a neighboring county, situated right outside Camdenton, Missouri, anyway. (Which hasn’t been shown, that I know of.)

    The VOA video features interviews with family members and, also, with Sherrif Wrinkles, who can be made out saying how John had charged everything on his credit card. (The Mormon chapel in Lebanon, Missouri is shown. Also a mailman, interrupted while driving his rounds, is interviewed; the Cracker Barrel eating spot and store on the local interstate interchange is shown.)

    The message of the piece is that Mr. Yettaw is a but kindly and well-meaning, self-styled man of self-initiated, international travel and study involving helping people.

    [We've already seen, from my last post, a hint about Mr. Yettaw's academic credentials to engage in research on individuals' withstanding psychological ordeals, along with his higher than "everyman" level of social standing.]

    Nonetheless, the sheriff in the piece does bring up Mr. Yettaw’s finances. Apparently he has managed to keep up on his credit (what with his property and income, I guess) that he’s able to fund his adventures on credit cards.

    Newsweek’s interviews of family members said Mr. Yettaw suffers as-yet-undiagnosed post traumatic stress disorder. Of course, it also said he only served in Germany for a little over a year.

    Whatever, these details are Mr. Yettaws’ and Mr. Yettaw’s family’s business, for sure. Still, I in particular dig this comment posted immediately after Newsweek’s “Lady and the Tramp” article. It’s by nafgim, who writes, “”He [''Yettaw''] did not put his thumb ‘through’ a man’s eye but in fact took the drunken, gun-wielding man down with an eye socket hold after he threatened his wife with a gun in front of several witnesses.””

    You see, there is a police report of Yettaw’s having pushed his thumb into a guys eye. But this commenter insists that Yettaw, rather, was merely executing professional, not-ultimately-harmful “eye-socket” holds in order to disable gun-toting weirdo.

    A pretty run-of-the-mill doctoral candidate in rural Missouri, who wields highly sophisticated maneuvers against armed opponents — who expressed anxiety to the point of tears to his confidants before his recent, self-initiated mission to visit both refugee activists and “the Lady” in Burma. Which suddenly has become not a psychological research mission but one following a “Latter-day Saints” type of vision quest.

    I’m done for now. This is all I’ve got off the top of my head.

  24. Carl Youngblood on August 18, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Paradox wrote: “Don Quixote eventually came to his senses and had to live a life without delusion if he was to die anything other than a fool.”

    I think you missed one of the profound points of the whole “impossible dream” theme. There are a large class of truths, perhaps the most important truths, that require our active faith and belief in their possibility to be achieved.

    I quote from one of Quixote’s most powerful monologues in Man of La Mancha:

    “I’ve heard all the voices of God’s noblest creature. Moans from bundles of filth in the street. I’ve been a soldier and a slave. I’ve seen my comrades fall in battle, or die more slowly under the lash in Africa. I’ve held them at the last moment. These were men who saw life as it is. Yet they died despairing. No glory, no brave last words. Only their eyes, filled with confusion, questioning why. I do not think they were asking why they were dying, but why they had ever lived. When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams, this may be madness. To seek treasure where there is only trash, too much sanity may be madness! And maddest of all: to see life as it is and not as it should be! I am I, Don Quixote The Lord of La Mancha, Destroyer of evil am I! I will march to the sound of the trumpets of glory forever, to conquer or die.”

  25. Justmeherenow on August 19, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    I messed up the year of Yettaws first trip, sorry. It was in 2008.

    The latest:

    “‘If I had to do it again, I would do it a hundred times, a hundred times, to save her life,’ he said, speaking through his surgical mask.””Though Yettaw was released, Suu Kyi and her two live-in aides remain in detention because of Yettaw’s visit. Although defended by Suu Kyi, Yettaw has been called a fool and a madman by some of her supporters.”‘That they locked her up, it just breaks my heart,’ and exhausted-looking Yettaw told the AP about Suu Kyi.”As he waited for his flight in Chicago, Yettaw sat with his head in his hands, his eyes bloodshot. His companion, who did not identify herself, said he was ‘very tired.’ He flashed the sign language symbol for ‘I love you’ and nodded and smiled when asked whether he was happy to be home.”When asked later if he would comment further, Yettaw said ‘I wish I could talk more. I can’t’”

    And here’s an old blog thread about Yettaw from a forum affiliated with the Lebanon (Missouri) Daily Record:

    http://www.ozarkregionalonline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=5059

  26. Justmeherenow on August 26, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Yettaw has completely laid low after his return with the exception of a trip to New York, accompanied by his lawyer, to be interviewed on CNN. Here is a link to the the only excerpt that CNN has posted:

    http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2009/08/26/sot.myanmar.suu.kyi.yettaw.cnn?iref=videosearch

    Yettaw apparently warned her of what he believed to be an impending assassination, yet he says nothing in the tiny clip about how he became aware of the same (nor are we shown that CNN pressed him to say).

  27. Justmeherenow on August 27, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    it’s not Yettaw’s talking about his religion than makes him into a freak, but it is the mere fact that he happens to be a believing Mormon. What a “coatrack,” man!

    And whereas Newsweek’s last report went to super great lenght to paint Yettaw as non-political, now it quotes him as saying,

    “”I want to free Myanmar. I want to stop the suffering there. I am antijunta. I will never be at peace, emotionally or psychologically, until that woman is free, until that nation is free.””

    Nope, I don’t see anything political there. Do you?

    Instead, Kent’s “lone Don Quixote” interpretation continues to be taken by Newsweek (the lone scribe interested in Mr. Yettaw) as the explanation for his adventure.

    Is Yettaw on disability? Newsweek says Yettaw has given up on his former occupation of ferrying servicemen and women around in a bus (that is, it labels him a retired busdriver).

    Yet, what is Yettaw’s current work? “[...A]” “dissertation””[...]”and a book”[...].”

    OK.

    But, to backtrack here: What are the details about Yettaw’s disability?

    Either Yettaw wasn’t asked by Newsweek for specifics or Newsweek isn’t saying. Yettaw did, though, tell Newsweek, “I am not bipolar.”

    Well, geez, what ”is” his [alleged] disability, then?

    Isn’t this kind of info usually leaked to the press from government sources? But, we get nothing.

    But, instead, what gets leaked is this: Newsweek fills out a super-interesting tidbit that Newsweek had previously only hinted at, within Newsweek’s initial profile, some time ago:

    [...O]ne Western diplomat, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely, [explains that] intelligence reports show that senior Burmese officials were told to come up with a way to keep the Lady incarcerated, as her May 27 release date loomed. Around a week before Yettaw’s second swim, this person says, two men posing as members of the reform-minded National League for Democracy allegedly approached Yettaw in Mae Sot, an untidy border town in Thailand, and told him that the Lady was ready to receive him.

    * * *

    OK…..

    So Yettaw was set up by the junta to believe he was a secret agent.

    Thanks US goverment. Great leak.

    * * *
    Newsweek says, “After years of questions that have gone unanswered[...Yettaw's family] have come to accept Yettaw the way he is[...]without asking too many follow-ups.

    It seems to me that it is the general media that is not all too interested in doing much of a follow-up in investigating Yettaw’s background. (I have visions of Newsweek’s exclusive interest in the story being a result of Newsweek’s deciding to make itself an private version of the Voice of America.)

    * * *
    (((OK OK OK, prolly Newsweek’s “lone Don Quixote” (thanks Kent) theme is the true one and the US government’s leaked conspiracy theory about a fake set-up for Yettaw to go see Suu Kyi, that is the right conspiracy theory to believe. But, let’s keep our minds open until we see the proof. Which we may never, so….

    (((Who knows!)))

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/213129

  28. Justmeherenow on August 27, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    The gist of the above post:

    So Yettaw was set up by the junta to believe he was a secret agent.

    Which is to say: No visions. No trying to convert her to believe in the Book of Mormon. No crazy guy. But, rather, a case of a guy allegedly duped into thinking he was relaying information from parties associated with Suu Kyi on to her. Whatever.

    Thanks US goverment. Great leak.