Tag Archives: Vietnam

A Short Rant

soldier

I was seventeen when the Pentagon Papers were released.  I had just graduated high school.  A year earlier the massacre at Kent State happened.  The nightly news reported the numbers of casualties and losses  in Vietnam.  I read the New York Times daily,  and asked a lot of questions.  Walter Cronkite was in our living room every night delivering somber news about a place I could find on a map but was on the other side of my globe.  I was headed to college in the fall and didn’t know anyone who was drafted.  It was the time of the draft lottery.  People I knew were making arrangements to go to Canada or to get a student deferment or were going to be conscientious objectors.  I was sheltered by my middle class, educated standing in the world of New York City.  I didn’t have a clue.

I am not a big believer in coincidence.  I don’t think it was a coincidence this past weekend,  that my FHB and I should have gone to see a movie in Plymouth Massachusetts. “The Post”, is  about what became known as the Pentagon Papers and their release by the New York Times and Washington Post in 1971.  Plymouth is home to the famous but underwhelming “Plymouth Rock” which is supposedly where the Pilgrims landed after leaving England because of religious persecution.  All of New England has ties to the Founding Fathers and the wish for independence almost 400 years ago.

Living through those times (not Plymouth Rock or the Tea Party) did not make me a student or true witness of history.  The film brought those times to light and evoked feelings that I was witnessing  the history of my growing up years almost fifty years later.  I knew the music. I recognized the faces of the politicians.  I knew the names of the reporters.  I read the papers, every day, but I didn’t know how to understand how it effected my life.  Was I naive?  Absolutely.  I saw protests and felt the passion of my peers  and others who were angry and hated the war.  There was only one war…the wrong war, a friend called it.  The film, despite the Hollywood creation, left its mark. It was good writing, great acting and a sense of clarity that showed that we had bad guys right in our backyard.  We didn’t need to go around the world to figure that out.  I remember signs that said “Don’t Trust the Government”.  Now I get it, just when it seems like it’s coming around again.  The film affirmed the role of emerging awareness by women to rise up and push back and take their places at the helm.  Katherine Graham, and Meryl Streep’s performance in that role was powerful.  The character showed development of her moral conscience and the actress delivered it.

I enjoy a good drama until it seems as though life mirrors art daily.  I can’t read the paper without anxiety.  I don’t read the NY Times as much but check in on line.  The media bombards us with information that conflicts and contradicts with no immediate resolution to anything.  Recently,  I pulled up a clip on Youtube…. Remember Howard Beale?

 

It’s been 42 years…or has it?

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Oldies But Goodies

 

There’s nothing like music to make you remember the details of your youth.  Every song has a moment attached to it.  You remember where you were when you heard it and who you were with.  Then of course, there were the  moments when you realized with your girlfriend or boyfriend that this was “our song”.  It doesn’t take more than a millisecond for our brains to see ourselves  back in time.  It’s like Google has nothing on your musical memory.  These are the sweetest moments.  Even the break-up songs bring a smile(well, maybe that’s an overexaggeration).

My FHB found a new “oldies” station that transmits from Long Island and we listen  to songs on his cell phone through our bluetooth speaker  . Pretty romantic, huh?  Tonight over dinner we listened to John Denver’s “Sunshine on my Shoulder” and we talked about back in the day, what the song meant and how young we were.  We weren’t together then, as he is a bit older (by four years, which in music memories is a whole high school or college history difference).  We had other relationships, which I just see as rehearsals for now, and the music evokes summers and concerts and the other reality, that many of the folks whose songs came over the airways, never got older.  They will be forever young.  We can all name the  actors, singers and songwriters who tempted the fates, through driving too fast , living too hard, and whose rise to fame might have been too much to handle.  The belief that we all had that we were untouchable and that life was right in front of us, to grab onto.  We were appropriately shocked and sad when they left.  Then we grow older and here we are.

The strange thing about “oldies” (the music, not the people) is that each generation has their music and their memories.  My parents grew up to the sounds of the Big Bands and their relationship with the music of the thirties and forties made its impact on their lives, through the prewar years, during the war, and post war  times.  We had Vietnam and the music of change, in knowing who we were, and who we weren’t. We were that generation that questioned the  values and motives of the generation before us.  There were those of us who wanted peace and equality and the music played to bring us together and raise our voices for freedom and injustice.  I write now and I remember then.  I hear the harmony of the Mamas and the Papas and the gravelly voice of Janis.  I can bring it to my head and to my heart and sigh.  I don’t feel older when I hear the voices and the songs.  It takes being transported back to the sixties and seventies when I sang along with John Denver and felt the beat of the Doors.  It’s not even melancholy despite the passage of so many years.  I don’t remember a lot of stuff that I probably should, and never was good at remembering the artists and sometimes the lyrics.  But I can hum along and Google the lyrics and sing the songs of my growing up.  I can sing in the car with my FHB, and we both  recall the songs   we didn’t have together the first time around,  but are grateful to  have it now.  Moving and grooving.  It’s nice to go back in that time machine, but knowing what I know now, that I didn’t know then, I’m happy to be where I’m at and who I’m with.  So for those of you who knew the lingo…..Get your groove on, don’t freak out and always remember to say “Goodnight, John-Boy”.

But for the children….

I do not consider myself an overtly political person.  I formulate my opinions and investigate the issues and if asked, I will probably give a truthful answer of what my thought are on hot topics or views.  My demeanor is to try and learn within the dictates of a neutral position, until it is necessary for me to speak up. I speak up when I witness situations, either directly or through other relatively reliable sources, and I know that something is very wrong.  The news these days is particularly frought with completely crazy drama.  I am not going to spend time in that realm as it has already been discussed, synthesized, analyzed beyond what I could add to it.

What brings me to tears, on sometimes a daily basis, is when children die.  Last night I saw footage of dead children.  They  were described as just young children walking to school, in what had become a war zone, casualties of missiles and attacks, supposedly aimed at soldiers on opposing sides…except that these were children, not soldiers and they didn’t do anything wrong.  My breath is taken away, and the tears roll down my cheeks and I feel a sense of helplessness and the depth of sadness, as  I recognize that something has gone very wrong.  There is no numbing out of feelings when it comes to children dying.  I could turn off the pictures and the sound. I could choose to listen to something else, something pleasant and familiar but it wouldn’t change what is happening whether I bear witness or I don’t.  In a country I will never visit, in communities of people I will never meet, I will still cry for the parents and grandparents and families. I will cry for the loss of a life, of the  possibility of that child having the  experience of growing up and knowing the world.  I don’t pretend to understand the nuances of battle and war and what winning means and what losing costs.  I only know that as a grandparent, a parent, a member of a family, that to lose a child as a “casualty” of war will never be something I could ever come to accept because it is unacceptable.

Being lucky in life takes on new meaning as time progresses.  Having the company of people I care about, and who care about me, makes me feel lucky.  Having plenty of food and a more than adequate shelter, a a peaceful existence, and intellectual stimulation and the ability to travel safely to and from my work and beyond makes me know that I am lucky.  A simple life includes music and books and the ability to learn new things, through my own experience or through the teachings of others.  Despite the normal frustrations of day to day interactions and obstacles, the sense of purpose and resolve allows the day to end and the next day to begin with a sense of certainty.  Not so for children caught in the midst of war.  The rules do not apply.  There is no luck or guarantee of much.  As parents and grandparents we worry, as that is hardwired at the moment you become responsible for another human being.  It has no end date. It is perpetual for as long as it is possible.  I shed the tears and then I get really angry.  I cannot accept this situation and I wonder if I was more “political” whether it would help.  My father who studied economics used to talk about war as the conflict between the “haves” and the “have nots”.  It seemed like a simple construct that if I didn’t factor in the humanity, it seemed like something that had to occur to continue to build reasonable civilizations.  I often wonder how he would view the world today, having been a refugee, an American soldier in World World II, a business man, a parent, a grandparent, a child.  The first war that my generation was aware of was the Vietnam War….it was in our living room nightly.  My father did not shelter us from seeing the numbers of casualties across the screen.  He didn’t explain who was on which side.  We were expected to develop our own views.  Here we are again, except that in the last 50 plus years , I have no clearer understanding of what happened then and what is happening now.  The media and the journalists explain things and it is subjective.  I cry because I will never reconcile why the children, just walking to school, didn’t get there.

Be peaceful this weekend and smile at strangers since we never know everyone’s story.