I looked down at the affluent California cities from an airplane taking me to Fresno, just mustered out of Vietnam in 1965, by the skin of me teeth. I’m embarrassed to report that these maudlin thoughts were running through my mind, “Gee, if only those communists could see this, they would abandon communism.” Only a few months later, back in the Midwest, I watched television reporters mildly quiz Johnson Administration officials on the war. Though I knew these officials were lying I cheered them on, concerned predictably if unconsciously, not with the truth of the situation but with our side winning the argument. Had I this mindset during Contra-gate, I would have been with the myopic faction that saw Oliver North as a hero. And given that I was such an easy victim of the propaganda machine, one would expect me to be patient with those who still are. Well… sometimes.
A year later, on the night shift in a factory, saving up for Art School tuition, I agreed with other workers who talked of assaulting anti-war demonstrators when they announced their intention to join the 4th of July parade. Six months later I was trying out, just for fun, on these same factory workers, the anti-war arguments I had encountered on campus. In the course of our talks I gradually realized that the hawks failed to adequately address the issues while the doves were far more coherent, persuasive and honest. Soon I too was crashing 4th of July parades and hearing my former hardhat class mates yelling, “Get a job!”
All these years later (during the Bush II. Administration around the time of the illegal invasion of Iraq), someone shouted at a group of us Standing for Peace on a busy Atlanta intersection, “Support the President!”… Without missing a beat, a flag-waving veteran responded, “Support the Constitution!” (Interesting how Support the President has gone out of fashion on the right – what can possibly have changed to account for that?)