The opening of the Sixties was symbolized by the hope...the expectations...the optimism of John Kennedy, who compelled us to reach for the stars. As part of the youth brigade that President Kennedy challenged to "Ask not what your country can do for you," we shared the excitement of the Peace Corps, the reality of the Freedom Rides and the eloquence of Dr. Martin Luther King. We experienced the anguish of the Berlin Wall, the tragedy of the Bay of Pigs, the fear wrought by the Cuban Missile Crisis, the adventure of John Glenn and the nightmare of November 22. But we continued to dream. And then came 1968.
Those of us caught up in the events of that fateful year were forever changed. They altered the way we looked at the world...they changed the world. All of the courses in all of the history books paled in comparison with what we read in the newspapers, viewed on TV and experienced on the streets.
The Tet Offensive exploded the myth of American invincibility and imminent victory in Vietnam. The light at the end of the tunnel dimmed; the polarization of America intensified. The events of 1968, a watershed year in American political and social history, were rapid fire; our emotions swinging from one end of the spectrum to the other.
While civil rights foe George Wallace announced his candidacy for the presidency, the Kerner Commission reported that we were moving towards two societies - black, white and unequal; and gloved black fists held high in Mexico City brought politics to the Summer Olympics. Dr. King, in Memphis to support a sanitation strike, was killed...Bobby Kennedy spoke eloquently of Dr. King in the rain in Indianapolis imploring reason and justice. Nevertheless riots followed in Watts, Detroit, across America. King's long planned Poor People's March on Washington lived.
Eugene McCarthy traveled to New Hampshire and his children's crusade narrowly missed defeating an incumbent President in the year's first primary battle and referendum on the war. Bobby Kennedy entered the foray; Lyndon Johnson abdicated, deciding not to "seek or accept my party's nomination." At Columbia University students rioted; in the Ambassador Hotel's pantry Bobby Kennedy's voice was stilled.
At the Democratic Convention in Chicago everything came apart. Backroom politicians handed the nomination to Hubert Humphrey; America's children rebelled and were pounced upon by Mayor Daily's thugs. Ultimately Nixon won.
I received a BA in political science that year having done research papers on among other things the Sino-Soviet Conflict, Presidential Executive Orders, the Formation of the State of Israel and the Political Philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King. Also in 1968, I started and quit law school and worked as a social caseworker for New York City.
But what I really knew about the world was based upon the myriad events of 1968.
Neither the anti-war movement nor civil rights struggle was all noble. The worst became mirror images of the absolutist authority they detested. Violence beget violence. Nothing changed! I changed.
I came home from the first Viet Nam Moratorium on October 15, 1969 and put some thoughts on paper. I continued to do so for three more years.
All of us who lived through the trauma of Viet Nam and the roller coaster ride of the civil rights movement were forever changed, profoundly influenced. Who we are today, how we think and what the world means to us is a result of a coming of age in a time replete with hope...and despair, with celebration...and anguish, with incredible achievements ...and disastrous failures.
These essays reflect those times.
On Patriotism(October 15, 1969)
What is a patriot?
He is one who loves his country. But does the person who sits back in the face of injustice because he does not wish to speak out against his country exhibit these qualities that allow him to be called a patriot? Or is a person who protests the injustices of his country the true patriot?
This country was based upon and formed out of protest. Today it is the protestors against Viet Nam, against racial prejudice who are the true patriots. History will bear this out.
“Patriotism is the love of man – not country.”
On The Sixties
They began with hope: Kennedy won, Nixon lost; they ended in despair: Nixon won, we lost Bobby and Martin.
They began with a silent generation, the ended with a voluble one.
They began with a cold war, they ended with an undeclared one.
They began with dynasties: the Yankees, Packers and Celtics, they ended with others: the Mets, Jets and Knicks.
They began with an orbit of the earth, they ended with a walk on the moon.
Some things change, others do not.
They began with hate, they ended with hate.
They began with poverty, they ended with poverty.
One can only ask what the Seventies have in store for us. We can only hope they they begin as the Sixties did, but end in another light.
Love not hate.
Plenty not poverty and peace not war.
On My Generation
We are not quiet, passive or indifferent; we are loud, active and involved.
We oppose the war in Viet Nam; we are in favor of peace for all mankind.
We do not hate because of color; we do urge true race relations.
We do not wave the flag; yet we honor what is should stand for.
We do not take part in vicious name calling; still we are called Commies and traitors.
We do not destroy our environment; we do beg for environmental reform.
For this we are called a rotten, spoiled, evil generation. If these are the values to be passed on to us, we reject them and proudly bear these labels placed upon us.
On The Moratorium
It is insanity to allow Nixon to claim that the silent majority is behind his policies. The true silent majority must now stand up and become the voluble majority and vigorously oppose the administration’s policies on Viet Nam. The United States Constitution supports and encourages peaceful dissent. It is every American’s duty to exercise this right.
On The Past
The past is gone forever. We can not sit and say what might have been or what shouldn’t have been. The past can only teach, it can not be changed. But we have to make sure that we take full use of this greatest of all teachers.
The lessons of Greece did not prevent the fall of Rome.
The lessons of World War I did not prevent World War II.
And the lessons of Korea did not prevent Viet Nam.
We can not change any of these events, but we can and we must learn from them. We must learn the futility of interfering in the politics of other nations. We must learn the folly of the great white myth. We are not the watch dog of the world, and neither can we hope to influence the politics of the entire world. This lesson we must learn if we are to avoid another Viet Nam.
On The Future
What does the future have in store for us?
As long as we continue to fight in Viet Nam, as long as we hold down the blacks at home, as long as we continue to test nuclear weapons, as long as we allow poverty and disease to exist anywhere – we have no future!
“The future may be beyond our vision but it need not be beyond our control.” Bobby Kennedy
Is life worth living is we must wake up every morning with the pain caused by hunger eating away at our insides?
Is life worth living when every day the threat of nuclear annihilation hangs over our heads?
Is life worth living when it is considered so worthless that our government can say “only 64 Americans were killed in action this week?”
When these questions need not be asked, only then will life really be worth living.
On Moving Too Fast
Where are we going?
What is our hurry?
Our industrialized society appears to be controlling us, not us it.
We appear to be interested in civilizing the planets of the solar system, yet we have not civilized our own earth.
We are interested in expansion, yet our very own remain unfed and unclothed.
If we continue to move ahead too fast, we might turn around and find that we have left too many behind.
Everything terrible and horrifying has been written about war, yet they continue.
War is a game played by the old, the players being the young. It is a chess game, with the stakes being human life.
The old, armchair politicians need not fear war, it is the young who are forced to face its life and death struggle everyday.
Wars arise out of the sicknesses and insecurities of these old politicians. It is our duty to rid ourselves of these politicians who insist on fighting with lives, rather than words. We must stop wars today before they stop us for all time.
What is peace?
For you see, I do not know. I’ve heard the word mentioned many times in my lifetime, yet I’ve never seen it practiced. My life has been a collection of crisis’s, confrontations and wars.
The only question I can ask myself is do we really want peace? Can our economy survive in peacetime? Can our military minds find anything to do in peacetime? Finally, can we find it within ourselves to stop hating long enough and see what peace really is?
On Martin, Bobby And John
Martin – he had a dream and he died for that dream. He believed in an America of equal opportunity for black and white alike. He believed in a world free of violence. For these beliefs he died. One can only wonder what kind of man lives today if this man was forced to die for such natural beliefs.
Bobby – he saw things that never were and questioned why not. For this, he also died. He saw equality for all mankind. He saw prosperity for all Americans, not just a few. He saw peace as the symbol of our time, not war. And he questioned why these were not all so. He died never having these questions answered. It should be our task in our lifetimes to have all of these questions answered and to see these visions not as visions, but as realities.
John – he dreamed many dreams and asked many times, why not. For this, he too died. He might have grown to be our greatest President. He might have prevented Viet Nam. He might have brought the races together. He might have ended poverty and disease here at home. What he might have done, nobody will ever know. Because he too, as Bobby and Martin after him, died because he dreamed, died because he asked why not.
To have been a hope and a man in America during the 1960’s was to be something special.
On October 15, we sat and listened to speeches in Bryant Park, from there we went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral to sing songs and pray prayers for an end to the war in Viet Nam – yet the war continues.
On November 15, we went directly to the White House to petition the President to end the war in Viet Nam – yet the war continues.
On April 15, we tried again, we marched and listened to speeches in Bryant park – yet the war continues, only now in Viet Nam, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia.
They tell us we has a democratic process, petition the government, they say, and majority rule will reign – yet the war continues.
What is our next step, where do we go from here? We see that marches, speeches and other peaceful actions are ignored, scorned or rejected by the administration – and the war continues.
We do not believe in violence, yet it is the only thing the administration responds to. We do not want to resort to violence, we reject and appall its use, yet we want an immediate end to the wars in Southeast Asia. Violence is not the answer – yet what is? We tried peaceful means - yet the war continues.
It is sickness to kill, it is even greater sickness to kill a great man. Suck sickness reaches its peak with assassinations.
Assassination is a primitive societies way of bringing about a change of power. Do we consider ourselves a primitive society? Then why do we tolerate assassinations? John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the list goes on and on.
We are a sick society. Assassination are like a cancerous growth eating away at the very foundations of our existence. We must treat this sickness before it is too late. We must educate those who breed hatred. We must feed the hungry. We must open doors for those with nowhere to go. And then, and only then, can we fight that sickness which threatens our everyday existence.
Is a country free that tries to suppress the views of its people?
Is a country free that puts a person in prison for five years because he refuses to kill?
Is a country free where the President is elected by a handful of political bosses?
If these questions can be answered “yes” then the United States is truly a free country. And if these questions are answered “yes” then I guess that I don’t know the true meaning of freedom.
Education, administered properly, can solve many problems in today’s world. It can bring an end to hate, to war and to want. Education is one tool that can erase prejudice and build a bridge of peace between the peoples of the world. If it does these things, our resources can go towards feeding, housing and making jobs for all of our people. This would bring an end to want. But education must be truthful, it can’t be slanted. It must show things exactly as they are, only this way can they be made the way they should be.
On The Generation Gap
Why can’t our parents understand that we do not want to kill?
Why can’t they understand that we respect all people – black, white or yellow?
Why can’t they understand that no one should go without a decent wage, a good education and three meals a day?
Why, why, why?
They knock us for our long hair and way of dress. Do they remember wearing knickers and mustaches?
They knock us for the way we act. Do they remember sitting on flag poles and entering marathon dance contests?
They knock us for using drugs. Do they remember drinking bootlegged liquor?
We just ask to be understood as I’m sure they once asked to be understood. There will be a gap between the generations as long as they refuse to try and understand us and respect us for what we are, not what they want us to be.
There is no excuse for a country with all of our material and human resources to have a problem of poverty. We have the resources to see that all of our people get an education, to see that they all get jobs with a livable wage, and to see that they are all fed and housed properly. It is our responsibility to see that these resources are used properly.
One can not hope to spend over one-half of our tax dollar on a senseless war in Viet Nam and still have sufficient money to fight the war on poverty. The time has come to choose – between fighting the Viet Cong and fighting disease and poverty at home. There really is no choice. There is only one answer. It is about time it was made.
On The Ghetto
The ghetto is an area of a city where a population puts what it considers its undesirables. During World War II, Poland had its Warsaw Ghetto; today the United States has Harlem, Watts and numerous others.
The ghetto breeds hatred, discontent and disillusionment. And rightfully so. Today masses of blacks are housed in sub-standard housing, schooled in sub-standard schools and forced to live in a sea of filth, disease and crime.
There is no reason for a nation as rich as we are to tolerate such an existence for any of its citizens. Ghettos exist out of ignorance and hatred. It should be the task of this generation to educate the ignorant and erase hatreds child, the ghetto, from the face of the earth.
On Viet Nam
What is a honorable peace?
Is it honorable to see thousands of young Americans die to save face? The greatest honor to be sought by any country is an end to war, an end to suffering and an end to death.
In this line of thought the only honorable peace remaining for the United States to seek is an immediate end to the war in Viet Nam. If this means unilateral withdrawal – let it be so. The time has come to put US interests and American lives ahead of the wishes and false promises of a corrupt, dictatorial regime in the South.
On Civil Rights
Legislation was written one hundred years ago to give civil rights to all, regardless of race, creed or color. Legislation has been added every year since to insure these civil rights. Yet gains have been very slow in this area in the past one hundred years.
A piece of paper can not insure rights to people unless it is backed by the goodwill of all people. Until that day when men truly want to live as brothers, all this legislation will not even be worth the paper it is written on.
It is up to those of us who believe in equal rights for all to see that all men are given equal rights. This must be done peacefully and immediately before peaceful means are abandoned for more violent ones.
On The Establishment
The establishment is Nixon, not O’Dwyer.
It is Mitchell, not McCarthy.
It is Agnew, not Goodell.
And it is Thurmond, not McGovern.
It is the establishment that pursues our reckless policy in Viet Nam.
It is the establishment that condones racial prejudice.
It is the establishment that closes its eyes to poverty.
What else need be said about the establishment?
On Foreign Affairs
It is about time the United States made her foreign relations consistent. How can we fight against one country or not support another because they have dictatorial governments? Granted, North Viet Nam, Cuba and China have left wing dictatorships. But is a right wing dictatorship any better? Yet we continue to support South Viet Nam, Greece, Spain and numerous Latin American countries.
If the aim of this country is to see that the free will of the people is supreme in choosing their governments, it seems a bit hypocritical to allow American boys to die fighting a dictatorship in one place, yet spend billions of dollars supporting a dictatorship elsewhere. Left or right, any dictatorship suppresses the will of the people and therefore should be contrary to American foreign policy.
On A Domino Theory
Dominos is a game played by little children, old politicians and generals. The stakes though are quite different. With children, a penny, some popcorn or a piece of cake. With the old politicians and generals the stakes are a little higher – human life.
The domino theory was invented in the early Fifties by the Dulles-Nixon-McCarthy axis as an excuse to fish for those Communists under every bed. Today, it is once again being used by that same Mr. Nixon to expand an already senseless war in South Viet Nam into an even more tragic and destructive war in Southeast Asia.
Will this senseless game end now, or will it continue until what began as a civil war in Viet Nam becomes a war for all of Asia or perhaps the world?
Dominos is a game played by little children?
On Some Questions
Why is it terrible when two people are killed in a subway accident; but a government can say only 64 Americans were killed in action this week?
Why is it terrible to destroy a cloth flag; but a government can destroy the land, the homes, the people of Southeast Asia?
Why is it terrible when subway fares are raised ten cents; but a government can raise taxes to unheard of levels to finance a war on the other side of the world?
Why do we hate, destroy and kill?
The remarks of Agnew these last few days indicate that those people who think that they have something to fear from the Viet Nam war protestors have more to fear from the Vice President. In recent speeches he has advocated repressions and witch hunts against Viet Nam war dissenters and more recently government censorship against the television industry in complete contradiction to the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Those people supporting Nixon’s search for what he calls a just and honorable peace do so in the name of freedom for all mankind. How can they claim to be seeking such a freedom and then turn around and applaud the remarks of this the second most powerful man in the administration. His remarks are totally in contrast with what goals these people claim to be seeking.
Song-My, Auschwitz, Babi Yar, Treblinka. What is the difference – a few years, a different continent, a different war? Nothing else.
The policies of Nazi Germany supported the actions of Auschwitz, Babi Yar and Treblinka. The policies of the United States do not support the actions of Song-My. Yet, the end result is the same – death, destruction, pain and suffering.
The dead cannot question any longer, that is our task. We must ask ourselves why a supposedly moral country allows the same policies as a country we condemned at Nuremberg 25 years ago.
We can’t shrug this off as an isolated incident. It might be, but it probably isn’t.
We can’t blame a few when all of us are to blame. As long as the war in Viet Nam continues, each death must rest on the conscience of all of us.
Perhaps then, those who previously remained silent will speak out against the horrors of Viet Nam. It is their duty to speak now before the moral fiber of America is shot full of holes, as were the inhabitants of Song-My.
On True Greatness
The greatness of a country is not measured by the size of its army, its nuclear capabilities, nor by the amount of cars and TVs its people possess. The true test of greatness is much tougher, much harder to pass.
Greatness is judged by the way its people live together, white and black as brothers, not enemies at each other’s throat.
Greatness is judged by the orderliness of a political system, whether all of the people choose; whether the choice can be made without a Dallas, without a Los Angeles, without a Chicago.
Greatness is judged by the ability to see a mistake and rectify that mistake, not compound it by seeking military victories where military force should never have been used.
Any and every country can raise an army, develop a bomb, build a car or a TV but few countries, very few indeed, can be considered great.
The sides are now clearly drawn, but this is no game. It is father against son and brother against brother. What e have is an intellectual revolution, a revolution of ideas; new ideas of an America minding her own business abroad and fostering racial equality here at home against the old ideas of wars to eliminate that great red threat and racial discrimination to protect the status quo.
This split in our society left very few undecided and very few following a middle of the road course. Its catalyst was the empty rhetoric of Agnew, Mitchell and Nixon. What they started they started in order to gain support for their reckless policies at home and abroad.
What they will get in the end will be a nation totally opposed to their policies. With sides so clearly drawn, it is only a matter of time before people see the suicidal results the injustice and immorality of the racial policies, the wars and the hate they their policies breed.
On Tuesday, March 24, 1970
“For whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” Tonight, a bell tolls, once again in memory of Dr. King. It tolls for all mankind to hear – black and white, Jew and Arab, Asian and American. It tolls for love not hate, tolerance not prejudice and most of all, peace not war.
As it tolls we should all dedicate our energies to those dreams Dr. King lived and ultimately died for. Just as Dr. King had a dream, we should not have to dream any longer. Rather we should experience all that he saw at the mountaintop, in the promised land.
Tonight, more than any other night, should be a starting point where we can live in a world free of strife, free of hate and free of war – a world Dr. King saw for us all.
On The USA
What kind of nation has this become? Blacks are shot down by the FBI. Why? Only because they are black. Students are shot down by the national guard. Why? Because their ideas differ, because they are too good for this nation. A war expands in Southeast Asia. Why? Because we must preserve the honor of America; preserve its honor by serving a right wing despot in South Viet Nam?
They say, “honor America”. I honor nothing that does not respect me.
They say, “my country right or wrong”. Well it is my country but I want to see it right, not wrong and I have no inhibitions about rejecting that which is wrong.
They say, “love it or leave it”. I say I can’t live that which hates, that which kills but I’ll be damned if I’ll leave it. I’d prefer to change it.
I really don’t know what kind of nation this is, I only hope it is not too late to change it to what it should be.
I am not black, not poor and not uneducated. But, I too, am alienated.
I oppose the war in Viet Nam, yet it continues.
I supported McCarthy, yet he was denied the nomination of his own party.
I believe that all men are created equal, yet the Black man is treated as a second-class citizen in my own country.
I adhere to the beliefs of Kennedy and King, yet they lie dead.
Yes, I do have the right to vote, still a handful of political bosses choose my President.
Yes, I pay taxes, still over one-half of my tax dollar goes towards the reckless foreign policy of the United States.
Yes, I support the Constitution; still the war in Viet Nam is unconstitutional.
Yes, I am alienated.
On Quiet Militancy
You need not scream nor make a fool of yourself, as do Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. You need not riot nor destroy either. Yet your views can be just as militant, your aims just as strong and your convictions just as dedicated. You might be called a moderate but what you really are is a quiet militant.
You can be totally opposed to the wars in Viet Nam and Laos and do your part to end them without burning or destroying. You can be completely in favor of total racial equality and do your part to bring it about without resorting to violence. You can be opposed to the current administration and what it stands for and do your part to cause its demise from power without calling others “pigs” and trying to bring about confrontations for no reason at all.
These kinds of actions only play into the hands of those to whom we are opposed. There are peaceful ways to bring about change. Through speeches, writings and non-violent actions. These are what must be used to bring about a change. If not, we might change nothing but some names and places, but not the attitudes and hypocrisies of those in power.
A handful of men began the uncertain voyage across the sea to a new world.
A handful of men signed the Declaration of Independence and urged American separation from England.
A handful of men sought to free the slaves prior to the Civil War.
Just as those handfuls eventually became a majority, today’s handful of men – those who oppose United States foreign policy and those who actively support the black man’s struggle – will become the majority.
Always the handful serves as the catalyst for the rest. The handful sees the evil of their time and the promise of their future. Just as in the past, once again our future lies in the courage of the handful. The handful cannot be disillusioned by those around them. The handful cannot be altered from their course by those around them. The handful must continue to do what they know to be the right thing to do. Eventually they will no longer be a handful. Eventually hate and war will no longer be the symbols of the time.
Is it Nixon who is really so bad, or is he merely the extension of what too many Americans really feel?
Is it not true that his nominations of known racist judges to the Supreme Court really not what so many bigoted, scared people want?
Is it not true that his continuance of the arms race under the guise of that “great red threat” really not what so many Americans want?
Is it not true this his continuation of the Johnson policies in Viet Nam really not a continuation of the Eisenhower cold war policies of the Fifties which so many American Legion members, DAR members and other pseudo patriots grew to respect and see as the superiority of the United States?
Is it also not true that those attacks delivered by his mouthpiece Agnew against the press, TV and anti-war demonstrators really not an extension of the McCarthy era so proudly supported by Nixon and a great many Americans?
Nixon is bad, but we are living in a nation that has lost its morality and social conscience. He is not the real villain though, only the figurehead of all the bad things that are widely held by too many Americans.
On the Carswell Nomination
The members of the United States Senate, with the exception of a courageous handful in the Charles Goodell mold, are a disgrace to this country and to the Constitution that they swore to uphold. Their behavior in the wake of the upcoming confirmation vote on Carswell is dangerous, immoral and dishonest.
Certain Democratic Senators refuse to vote against the confirmation although they concede that Carswell has less right to sit on the bench than did Haynsworth because they do not want to rock the boat too often. They are too tired towage another battle against the administration.
Many Republican Senators, also doubting Carswell’s credentials, refuse to vote against confirmation because they fear party wrath against them and with elections coming up in November, they can’t afford to fall in disfavor with the administration. They believe that since the President is a Republican, it would be disloyal to vote against him a second time.
In the light of this base behavior in the Senate how can we be expected to respect the Supreme Court and to honor the Constitution when one of the judges has repeatedly done what he could to impair its very existence?
On the Carswell Vote (51-45)(April 18, 1970)
Perhaps the vote taken today in the United States Senate is the first step back. The first step in winning back those disillusioned by American democracy, those disillusioned by the Democratic convention, those disillusioned by the choices in the November election and those disillusioned by the Chicago conspiracy trial.
Today’s vote was American democracy as it should be, as Jefferson and others meant it to be. Certain Republican Senators voted across party lines. Certain Southern Senators voted with total disregard for sectional ties. And certain Senators voted in the light of threats on their political futures.
Although the vote can’t erase all of the disillusionment of the past, it is a first step, a much-needed beginning in winning back those so needed for American democracy to have a future.
(November 28, 1971)
In the face of incredible pressures, Haynsworth and Carswell were defeated, as rightfully they should have been. Let us hope that the Senate will once again, against insurmountable odds, defeat a preposterous Nixon nominee, William Rehnquist.
A careful evaluation of the events of the past few months have taught me something about myself. I am no longer apart from the whole. Let me philosophy be – “a part of all mankind.”
I do not oppose the war in Viet Nam because of a selfish fear that I might have to serve. I oppose the war for all Americans that have died and will die in the future. I oppose the war for all the suffering of the Vietnamese people.
I do not support civil rights because of a fear of the black man. I support civil rights because of the indignities suffered by blacks in the past and so they need not suffer them in the future.
I do not oppose the Chicago seven conspiracy trial because it is the “thing to do.” I oppose it because these Americans should not sit in jails while the real villains set our nation’s policies.
I am a part of all mankind.
“To be a revolutionary is to love your life enough to change it, to choose struggle instead of exile, to risk everything with only glimmering hope of a world to win.”
On Cambodia(April 31, 1970)
Nine years ago advisors were sent into South Viet Nam, only advisors, nothing more.
Six years ago ground forces were sent in for a short battle to preserve the American honor. They would be out in a few months.
Today troops of the almighty United States Army were sent into Cambodia, once again to preserve the honor of this great nation of ours. They will be out within two months.
What manner of man sits in the White House? He refuses to learn from recent history. He disregards the Constitution and rejects the opinions of the Congress. This is not a sane man, rather a man obsessed with his place in the history books. Worried what future generations might say of the first President to be in power at the time of an American military defeat.
If this nation doesn’t wake up soon to the sickness of this man, it might be too late. Cambodia might very well be the start of the last battle fought on the face of this earth.
(February 1, 1971)
Today an attack into Laos in contemplated. Will we ever learn?
On The Declaration Of Independence
Perhaps some of those pseudo patriots who claim to be protecting the United States and honoring America should read this document and see what it really says.
“All men are created equal” – are not the blacks, the Indians, the Mexicans, Americans?
“Deriving their just power from the consent of the governed” – were we asked our views on Viet Nam, Haynsworth or Carswell?
“It is the right of the people to alter” – was that not our aim in Chicago when Daley set his thugs upon us?
“Should not be changed for light and transient causes” – is racial prejudice, poverty amidst plenty and rampant violence a light and transient cause?
“It is their right, it is their duty to throw off such government.”
“This country with its institutions belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember it or overthrow it.” Abraham Lincoln
Eugene – where have you gone, where are you today when we need you more than ever?
You came out of nowhere in 1968 to lead us in protest against the war in Viet Nam. Today that war has expanded to Cambodia, to Laos and Thailand. Yet you are no longer here to lend a legitimate voice to our continued, yet futile protest.
You spearheaded a movement that came know as “Dump Johnson” – we succeeded, but did we really? Instead we are governed by Dick Nixon, no better, perhaps far worse than the object of our scorn in 1968. Yet you are no longer here to lead our new and even more urgent movement, a movement to remove Nixon, Agnew, Mitchell and Thurmond from power before it is too late.
You stuck by us when Daley had his thugs beat us over the head; you spoke out against his Gestapo methods and supported our right of dissent. Yet you are no longer here to speak out against those tactics employed by the police and National Guard at Jackson State, Kent State and now Kansas State.
Eugene McCarthy – you are an enigma. You blossomed once in our behalf, by God do it again. Speak with us, march with us, protest with us. We need your sane and legitimate voice. We need you, Eugene McCarthy.
On The Construction Workers
Yesterday Nixon honored the construction workers, calling them great patriotic Americans. These men who refuse the blacks the right to enter their unions; these men who brutally attack students, teachers and anyone else who believes in peace; these men who wave the flag as it were some God sent symbol of supreme nobility.
These men are honored by the President of all the people, but maybe they do represent what America really is. After all, doesn’t this country practice benign neglect in the face of racial injustice? Doesn’t this country brutally attack the people of Southeast Asia in the name of freedom? Doesn’t this country wave the flag and call those who dissent, communists, isolationists and snobs? Perhaps these men do represent what America has become.
The question is not whether he is guilty – the court found him to be for killing defenseless civilians and children in Song-My.
The question is not whether he is a scape goat for the higher-ups, the Westmoreland’s, the Johnson’s and the Nixon’s – this he obviously is, but we are all guilty, by our silence, of the war crimes being perpetrated in our country’s name in Southeast Asia.
The question is does the President have the right to interfere in the judicial system by setting this man free?
How can this man be set free while those whose only crime was their refusal to bear arms in this inhuman war sit in jail?
The Calley case is a reflection of what our nation has become. We reward killers of Asian peasants and punish those who refuse to kill. A President who won’t be swayed by mass protest against the war is swayed by the outcry of some veterans of foreign wars.
Calley is a very sick man and we are a very sick nation – to condone what he has done and punish those who refuse to do the same.
On The Flag
I remember the proud feeling, the chills running through my body, as the flag passed. Now a feeling of utter disgust develops as that same flag passes by. Yes! I could even spit upon that piece of cloth.
The flag once represented the entire country, now it represents those who favor repression rather than expression, hate rather than love and war rather than peace.
The flag once represented what was good in this country, now it represents racial injustice, military involvement throughout the world and the politics of fear.
The flag has been taken over as the symbol of one element of our society, an element that we oppose, that we reject. Until that day when the flag is returned to all of the people, until that day it will remain only a piece of cloth, nothing more.
On The Knicks
In a year of hatred, depression and war, one thing of beauty stood out – a team of men, black men and white men, basketball players. But not only that, geniuses in a ballet of fluid motion. The Knicks of New York.
Reed – the captain, the man hobbled by pain who led them to their greatest victory.
Frazier – the thief with hands so fast he might swipe the ball in the blink of an eye.
Barnett – the elder statesman, too old to play, he hit jumpers from all over the floor.
Debusschere – the iron man, the most underrated in the game. A basket, a bound, he would get them when most needed.
Bradley – Mr. President could have been anything, anywhere but wanted to be nowhere but playing ball in New York.
Russell, Stallworth and Riordan – the minute men, for any other team starters, for the Knicks a brilliant bench.
And the rest – Bowman, May, Haskett and Warren, all contributors at some time in the glorious season.
This was the cast, the NBA champions, but more than that – a breath of fresh air, a burst of sunshine in a somewhat dim and depressing year.
It was my intent to discontinue writing in this book until the war was over in Southeast Asia and until racial equality was a fact of life, not a dream in America. Recent events have shown me that my intentions, although honorable and anticipatory were mere idealistic dreams as long as the current administration remained in power.
We heard talk about an end to the war in Viet Nam.
When American troops invaded Cambodia, we were told that this action was taken as a precautionary step to protect US forces in Viet Nam.
Today we invaded Laos – who are we protecting now? How in God’s name do you end a war by starting two new ones?
The peace movement is non-existent, our Senators are quiet and tired, the people are untouched by events so far away from home. We are in grave danger! We must move now to prevent our Mr. Nixon from using US troops to preserve his honor, to fight his little war against communism. Today is the day for action. Tomorrow could be too late.
On Nixon II
He will probably go on TV tonight and tell us, with that wry smile of his, that everything is going the way he has planned it.
The economy is going along with his schedule. Ignore the fact that unemployment is at a ten year high, prices are rising and cities are about to declare bankruptcy.
The war is also going along with his schedule. Forget the fact that Americans, Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians are still dying in this horrible war. Still dying for what? To save face or assure the people of South Viet Nam a democratic say in their government. Democratic – Thieu and Ky?
Yet he will sit there with that same stupid grin on his face and repeat over and over again his Quaker beliefs, how terrible he feels when one American boy dies in that awful war and how we can’t let peace now sidetrack us from our goal of a “generation of peace.”
He will repeat that his plan is working. Vietnamization is working, troop withdrawals are continuing ahead of schedule.
He won’t tell us that American boys are dying to save face. He won’t tell us that his plan calls for American military disinvolvement by the November elections. There are a lot of things he won’t tell us, but he will sit there with that stupid smile of his and try to appease middle America.
Maybe, just maybe, they have learned there is more to a President than some flag waving, some idle promises and some stupid smile designed for the TV cameras.
On The Draft
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, shall exist within the United States…”
This is not a quote from some radical document trying to abolish the draft system. Rather, this is the 13th amendment to the United States Constitution.
Slavery does not only apply to the black man working on the Southern plantation – it applies to any man, black or white, who is forced to do labor of any sort against his will. Who the hell is in Viet Nam because he wants to be there? Who the hell gives up two years of his life voluntarily to play soldier? Who the hell wants to die fighting for Thieu and Ky?
It is therefore quite obvious that the draft system is nothing more than a form of involuntary servitude, a practice explicitly outlawed by the same Constitution that the President , the Senate and the House swore to uphold. It remains for them to do their constitutional duty and abolish the draft.
God created the earth so they say. But who the hell created Brownsville? It is in much the same shape as we left Berlin after the second world war. The difference being we rebuilt Berlin while Brownsville stands as a symbol of man’s inhumanity to man, in the land of the free and the brave. Perhaps we rebuilt Berlin because it was inhabited by whites, not the blacks and Puerto Ricans that make up eighty-five percent of Brownsville’s population.
Whatever the reason it is hard to imagine a nation rich enough to send men to pick up rocks on the moon; yet without sufficient funds to cleanup Brownsville. A nation rich enough to build supersonic jets; yet without enough funds to build decent homes for the people of Brownsville. A nation rich enough to support corrupt dictatorships in Viet Nam, Nationalist China, Greece and Latin America; yet without the capital to support the poor people, starving, without homes or education in Brownsville.
It is about time our politicians began to think about saving lives, rather than destroying them. It is about time Buckley and the boys began to think about feeding people, rather than seeking out a communist under every bed. It is about time our taxes went where they were needed, rather than where they could obtain the greatest propaganda value. It is about time we did something for the people of Brownsville, and all the other Brownsville’s throughout this nation – a nation we were once proud enough to call our own.
On Paul O’Dwyer
He was there in 1947 when the Jews needed him. He smuggled guns into Palestine and then pleaded before the United Nations for a Jewish state to be established there.
He was there whenever the blacks needed him. He was a part of the Freedom Rides and he was the young lawyer who defended those who tried to erase the illegal laws of discrimination.
He was there in 1968 when the world needed him. He supported McCarthy to the very end and it was he who stuck by the kids beat up by Daley’s thugs.
He is here again today and we need him more than ever. He will do his part to end our involvement in Southeast Asia, to end racial discrimination in this country and to give a voice back to the people. He won’t do it for political gain or to jump on a bandwagon. He’ll do it because he did it long before it was the “thing” to do. And he’ll do it because it has to be done.
We do need Paul O’Dwyer.
Victory is not always measured by the number of votes a candidate amasses. It is not even dependent on whether he wins the particular election. Last night Paul O’Dwyer lost the election but he was nevertheless a winner.
He was there before anyone else to speak about the injustice of the American society, to remind us that we were way off base. And he will be there when the others are too tired to fight the battle any longer. He will be there because he is committed. He will be there because someone has to be there.
He, himself, said that an election is only one small segment of a larger battle against injustice, war and hate. He is a winner because he will continue that battle, he will continue it until it is won. He will continue it until we are no longer involved in the internal politics of other nations. He will continue it until the races live as one, not divided as they are today. And he will continue it until love and peace, not hate and war, are the symbols of the day.
Yes, Paul O’Dwyer showed us all last night that victory is much bigger, much deeper than a number of votes that a man can buy in a primary election. Yes, Paul O’Dwyer is a winner.
Is Adlai Stevenson not a perfect example of this? And as he said in 1956: “We will meet often again in the liberals everlasting battle against ignorance, poverty, misery and war.”
Yes Evan, there is a Brigadoon.
Yes Mr. Hilton, there is a Shangri-La.
Yes Thomas Moore, there is a utopia.
I was there this weekend; it’s a little place in the mountains of Pennsylvania, secluded, a recluse from the world – Starlight.
There is no war in Southeast Asia, Mr. Nixon.
There is no campus unrest, Mr. Mitchell.
There is no racial discrimination, Mr. Thurmond.
Life goes on, totally unaffected by the world outside. A tennis match is the only source of conflict and combat. A basketball game the closest thing to war.
Too good to be true – maybe.
Too unreal to be trusted – maybe.
Too isolated to be accepted – maybe.
Yes there is such a place for everyone to see, to touch and to experience.
There is such a place. I was there.
On Independence Day
Perhaps silent reflection is the best and only way to commemorate this independence day.
Today is a day on which we declared our independence from a foreign government. We fought to evict foreign troops from our shores. Can we celebrate today with the knowledge that American troops represent a foreign government to the peoples of Southeast Asia, Greece, Spain and Latin America?
Today is a day on which we became a sovereign nation, a day on which we insisted that we were capable of running the affairs of our own people without foreign interference. Can we celebrate today with the knowledge that our government is refusing the peoples of Viet Nam this right to sovereignty, this right to choose their own government?
We really have no right to commemorate our independence from a foreign government as long as we refuse those same basic goals that we sought in 1776 to numerous nations in 1970.
On The Brothers Berrigan
Today they sit in prison, tried and convicted by the Hoover’s and the Mitchell’s of burning paper.
Today they are accused of conspiracy to kidnap a high government official. Conspiring from their cells.
Once again we hear the words – reprehensible, claptrap, popping off – but this time they are directed at a Congressman, an admiral, a war hero. The words – Agnew’s. The reason, this man, Representative Anderson urged support of the Brothers Berrigan.
What really is their crime? Is it burning draft records or is it even conspiracy?
Is it not a feeling of love for their fellow man, whether he be black, white or yellow in a country that segregates the blacks and treats the yellows like some kind of laboratory specimens to be tested with napalm, bombs and chemical warfare. Isn’t their crime a desire for peace in a nation that pursues was?
It should be they who sit in judgment of the Hoover’s, the Mitchell’s, the Agnew’s and the Nixon’s.
It is a grave inequity how the innocent sit in jail and the guilty rule over us all.
On The Veteran’s March
Never in the history of this nation have veterans of a war come back to this country and marched in opposition to that war. Never until this Saturday when hundreds of veterans from Viet Nam marched on our nation’s capital in opposition to United States policy in Southeast Asia. Can we forget the words: “How can you ask someone to be the last American soldier to die in Viet Nam? How can you ask someone to die for a mistake?”
Yet that is what Nixon, Agnew, Laird and Kissinger are asking of these men. The war will be over in time for a Nixon reelection in November. But how many Americans and Asians alike will die by then? Even one is too many.
The time to stop the war is now, not in November. Not even tomorrow, but now! To hell with Nixon’s plan, to hell with saving face, to hell with Thieu and Ky – the time is upon us, the time is here to say stop!
We owe it those veterans who marched on Washington, but even more to those who never made it home. We owe it to them, to the Vietnamese, to ourselves – to stop that war now!
How can you have the audacity to seek the Democratic nomination for President? You, the apologist for the Johnson war machine; you the candidate who refused to support the peace plank in 1968 and you that same candidate who turned his back on the children beat up by Daley’s thugs.
You might have blocked the past ten years of your life out of your mind, but we can’t.
You might remember yourself as a founder of ADA or the initiator of the civil rights plank at the 1948 Democratic Convention, but most of us are too young to recall those incidents in your early liberal life.
We do remember the hundreds of thousands who died in Southeast Asia; we do remember the cripples who came out of that war; and we do remember the destruction of the land and people of Southeast Asia.
Maybe you can forget but we remember and we hold you as responsible as we hold Johnson, Rusk, Nixon and Kissinger.
You can anything you want by way of excuse for what happened. You can swear your opposition to those policies of the Johnson administration and you can talk of peace until you are blue in the face but because of your craving for power you supported your President rather than resigning your position as Vice President in protest to his policies. Yes we remember.
We can’t forget and because we can’t forget we owe it to ourselves, to those who died and to those who suffered, to never support your political ambitions again.
On Los Angeles
Paradise, Eden, Utopia – not quite. The people of Los Angeles face grave consequences as a result of their unbending belief that LA is the answer to all of their unanswered prayers.
They came from Detroit, Chicago and New York City hoping to leave behind the overcrowded cities, the racial strife and the air and water pollution. They came from Minneapolis, Atlanta and Cleveland expecting to find riches of abundant varieties at the end of the rainbow – the Los Angeles International Airport.
They came with a dream, they settle hoping to live this dream and when the problems come – those same problems that beset all major cities – they continue to cling to this dream, leaving them totally incapable to cope with their problems.
New York has her problems but unlike the dreamy-eyed Californian, the critical New Yorker has begun to face his problems. There have been more race riots in Los Angeles in the past five years than in New York City. Air pollution is worse in Los Angeles than in New York City and Los Angeles, much like New York, faces an immediate problem of over-crowding, as evidenced most hours of the day on the LA Freeway.
The time has come for the citizens of Los Angeles to wake from their little dream world before it turns out to be just the nightmare that they thought they had left behind.
On The US Bombing Raids
According to the Nixon administration it is inhumane and cruel of the North Vietnamese to refuse mail and packages to be sent to American prisoners of war in the North.
But according to the same Nixon administration there is nothing inhumane and cruel about the stepped up bombing activities in the North.
Nothing inhumane and cruel about destroying the land, the homes and the people of Southeast Asia.
Have we lost all sense of morality? How can we have the gall to consider a freeze on mail and package deliveries inhumane and cruel, yet consider bombing missions righteous and just?
On My Enemy
As we came face to face, guns and bayonets drawn, I saw in him, myself.
He was small, I was tall.
His hair was short, mine was long.
His skin was yellow, mine was white.
We wore different uniforms, represented different nations and spoke a different tongue.
Yet, in him, I saw myself.
He has a family, as do I.
He has a dream, as do I.
He is capable of love, as am I.
In him, I saw myself.
And as in him I saw myself, I learned that no government, no political leader, no force on earth could order me to kill, injure or attack my fellow man.
For in him, I saw myself.
On Thanksgiving, 1971
Thanks for what? For Viet Nam, Northern Ireland, East Pakistan, the Mideast crisis? For unemployment, poverty, racial discrimination, nuclear testing? For Nixon, Agnew, Buckley, Mitchell?
These are troubled times but we must never lose sight of those things that we do have to be thankful for. Today we must reserve and say our thanks but also pray for a better tomorrow.
Thank you for a tradition – a tradition of ideas, those of Jefferson, Washington, Lincoln, Wilson and Roosevelt.
Thank you for John, Robert and Dr. King. Their lives were cut short but we learned much from them and we continue to learn from their lives today.
Thank you for the brothers Berrigan and Daniel Ellsberg – men who risked personal consequences because they hoped to move our nation in the right direction once again.
Thank you for Paul O’Dwyer, George McGovern, Charles Goodell and Birch Bayh – men who risked political suicide to save the court, to save our children, to save our world.
Thank you for the people – those of them who marched against racial discrimination, against poverty and against war.
Yes, we do have much to fear but we also have much to be thankful for. Today when we give thanks let us also rededicate ourselves to the goals of those we thank – a world devoid of hunger, disease, poverty and hate; rather a world abundant in love, peace and freedom.
On The American Indian
The white man took his land, massacred his woman and children, slaughtered his buffalo and left him to rot on desolate soil.
Movies show him as a savage, a medieval man. History echoes the names Cochise, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and Geronomo. But how does history remember these men? As killers of the white settler, wanderers on the great plains and ignorant heathens.
We try not to remember that America was their land, that they welcomed those first settlers, fed and housed them.
We forget the treaties constantly broken by the white man, broken whenever gold was discovered, farm land was needed or a railroad had to be laid.
It is very easy to forget. There are millions of whites and only a handful of them. Only a handful. We saw to it that only a handful could survive.
They loved the land, the buffalo and the freedom. All they asked was that the land be free, free for all men, free to live. All they ever asked was to be free.
We must remember!
On Their Finest Hour
1940 – the English people stood alone in the face of almost insurmountable odds. Stood against the Hitler onslaught. Stood, survived and ultimately prevailed.
Today they face another crisis. Although their very lives are not threatened this time, the conscious of the British people is very much at stake.
I can’t begin to imagine that I know the entire story behind the Northern Ireland question. But I do know that any number of white papers, just as they were not the answer in India, South Africa nor Palestine, will not solve the chaotic problem in the north.
I do not know why Northern Ireland is a part of Great Britain, rather than a part of the Irish Republic. But killings sanctioned by the British army, detention camps operated by the British government and infringements upon civil liberties ordained by the British courts will certainly not answer the question.
I do not know if hundreds of years of conflict between Protestant and Catholic can ever be solved. But outlawing civil rights marches and refusals to negotiate obviously can’t be of any concrete value in attempting to solve this problem.
In 1940, they stood for what was good, what was right, what was just in a war torn world. An equitable solution to the Northern Ireland problem would be as important as that heroic stand. That could be their finest hour.
Although vehemently opposed to US policies in Southeast Asia, Greece, Spain and Latin America and troubled by domestic policies exercised against the Blacks, the poor and the young – it is just too easy to write off this nation as a declining Rome.
This country is currently in the midst of a moral and psychological depression – a depression that began on a November afternoon eight and one half years ago in Dallas. A depression most outwardly characterized by our vicious war policy in Viet Nam and evident in all aspects of our national life.
Yet we will survive as a nation – survive as we have in the past.
We survived an era of British tyranny. We survived because of the strength of the American people and the revolutionary leadership of Jefferson, Franklin and Washington.
We survived a tragic Civil War and two world wars because of the dedication of the American people and their leaders – Lincoln, Wilson and Roosevelt.
We survived a cold war and the fear exploited by the McCarthy era. We survived because of men like Adlai Stevenson and Ed Murrow.
And we will survive this most trying of times. We will survive because of the O’Dwyer’s, the McGovern’s and the Berrigan’s. We will survive because we are a nation rich in the ideals of Jefferson, Lincoln, Kennedy and King. And we will survive because above all else we are a nation of free and decent people – people who can see, understand and admit our mistakes – even if our leaders won’t.
On My Country
When I speak out against the war in Southeast Asia, when I speak out about our support for those governments in Spain, Greece and Latin America - I speak for my country, not against.
When I cry out against racial injustice, when I cry out against poverty, disease and hunger – I cry because I love my country, only because I love it.
I can’t remain quiet, just as I could not remain quiet if some deranged individual came into my home and began to tear it apart.
This nation is my home and it is being torn apart. Torn apart by the extreme left, by the extreme right, by the Nixon’s and by the Black Liberation Army.
It is time to put it back together again with new political leaders, based on the philosophies of Jefferson, Stevenson, Kennedy and King and dedicated to a concept of peace not war and a rhetoric of love not hate.
On George McGovern(April 3, 1972)
Tonight he quoted Dr. King and Senator Kennedy. He vowed to strive for those goals that they never saw fulfilled.
Tonight we saw in Wisconsin that he is a genuine candidate for the presidency. Something that we have known for quite some time has now been crystallized for the entire nation to see.
He is a good man, a decent man, a man that can beat Nixon in November. Beat Nixon and finally end that awful war in Southeast Asia. A war that Nixon has expanded once again today. Unseat Nixon and do something about our corroding economic system and rampant unemployment. Defeat Nixon and bring government back to the people. A government that Nixon has made totally unresponsive to the nation he promised to bring back together. A government that has lost all credibility with its own people and those throughout the world.
He can defeat Nixon but he must have the full support of his party. Candidates running in the Democratic primary for an ego trip. The Lindsay’s, the McCarthy’s, the Chisohlm’s and the Jackson’s must step aside and give him their full support. Certain others must stop living in the past. Humphrey in the Fifties, Muskie in the Seventies and pledge their support to defeating Nixon and not each other.
Yes, George McGovern – a good, a decent, a great man – should be the nominee of his party. As such a nominee with the total support of his party, we can put an end to all Nixon policies in November.
On Coming Home(July 14, 1972)
“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”
Tonight that first step was taken – that journey to bring America home has begun.
Tonight, as there has not been since November 1963, tonight there is once again pride in America.
And that pride is manifest in the person of George McGovern.
And McGovern – a good man, a decent man, a honest man – he will bring America home.
Home from the national policy of Viet Nam.
Home from the reckless economic policy that has brought this nation rampant inflation and six percent unemployment.
Home from a divisive domestic policy – pitting young against old, rich against poor and black against white.
Yes, George McGovern will bring America home.
He will defeat Nixon, Agnew, McGregor and Thurmond in November.
And at that time this nation will once again be your land and my land, a land, a nation that we can truly be proud to call America.
On Ramsey Clark
I can only hope that the American electorate is not once again duped by the Nixon policy of hiding real issues, by exploiting meaningless, lesser ones.
Who the hell cares where Ramsey Clark made his charges of inhuman, cruel, vicious bombing policies against the Nixon administration? Is it really important whether these charges were made in Hanoi, in Washington DC or in Disneyland?
The point and the only relevant point is that these charges were made, that they were verified and now they are not even denied by the Nixon administration.
Instead the Nixon thugs – Mitchell, Laird and McGregor – challenge the patriotism of Mr. Clark.
In their demented minds he is disloyal to his country because he has the courage to speak out against this repulsive bombing throughout Southeast Asia.
He is soft on communism because he considers the peasants of Asia human beings.
He is a traitor to America because he questions the political motives of the oppressive Nixon and Thieu regimes.
America now has the opportunity to choose. To choose between the deceit, the death, the destruction of the Nixon axis and the respect for human life symbolized by George McGovern and so aptly defended by Ramsey Clark.
On My 25th Birthday
Twenty-five years, a quarter of a century. Five American presidents, two wars, numerous crises and confrontations, uncountable events, decisions and personalities.
The Presidents – Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. In 25 years a great man sat in the White House for only three and he was assassinated, assassinated because sick minds kill only great men.
The wars – Korea and Viet Nam. The mistakes that led to the first did not prevent the second. The errors of the Eisenhower and Johnson administrations were only compounded by the Nixon-Kissinger-Laird axis.
Crises and confrontations – in Berlin, Hungary, Cuba and Czechoslovakia; between Arab and Jew in the Middle east; between Hindu and Moslem in South Asia and between Catholic and Protestant in Northern Ireland.
Civil war and nation building in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the establishment, after years of struggle, of the Chinese Peoples Republic.
A Supreme Court decision – Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas – to give equality to all men and a man – Dr. Martin Luther King – who sought to see this equality as a reality, not a dream.
The continuation of the nuclear age and beginning of the space age, culminating with man’s first walk on the moon.
In sports – a sub-four minute mile, the dynasties of the New York Yankees, Boston Celtics, Montreal Canadians and Green Bay Packers, and the records of Wilt Chamberlain, Jimmy Brown, Maury Wills and Roger Maris.
In communications – the new television medium rose to a level of importance unfathomed by its creators.
And the personalities – Charles DeGaulle, Mao Tse Tung, Nikita Khrushchev, Ho Chi Minh, Patrice Lamumba, Joseph McCarthy, John Glenn, Fidel Castro, Eugene McCarthy, Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, Pablo Picasso, Lenny Bruce, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, Bill Russell, the Kennedy’s and countless others.
Twenty-five years, years that left their unmistakable mark on civilization. Years that made man’s life more leisurely, more convenient and much easier than ever before in history. But also years that tested man’s ability to live with disaster, crisis and hate.
Good years in many ways and horrible years in many others. Fine years to grow up in, yet sad, frustrating and disillusioning in many other ways.
Years that if they did one thing left those of us who reached maturity during them with one burning desire – to continue the advancements of the past 25 years but also make the next 25 free of strife, hate and war.
On Baseball, Brooklyn And The Fifties
I can sit for hours and reminisce about the summers that I spent with baseball and the Brooklyn Dodgers during my childhood in the Fifties.
The names are indelibly imprinted in my mind. Hodges, Cox, Hoak, Reese, Gilliam, Zimmer and Robinson in the infield. And who can ever forget the sight of number 42 edging down the third base line and either braking the opposing pitcher’s concentration or making a mad dash for the plate.
The outfield – Amoros, Pafko, Shuba, Snider and the man with the rifle arm, Furillo. And what an outfield it was – the Duke was only the third best outfielder in the City and yet the third best in the big leagues. And Skoonj in right – he played that wall as if he had his PhD in physics.
Howell, Walker and that roly-poly MVP behind the plate – Campanella. And of course the men who threw them the ball – Loes, Bessant, Spooner, Craig, Labine, Black, Roebuck, Erskine, Podres, Newcombe, Roe, Maglie and a young fastballer from Brooklyn – Sandy Koufax. Could anyone judging by those early years ever imagine the career that awaited him?
Will we ever forget those glorious days – Branca and Thompson ruining it all for us in 1951. Pennants and the familiar phrase “wait ‘til next year” in ’52 and ’53. A kid named Mays preventing our Bums from winning another pennant in 1954 and finally next year arriving in 1955. The runs knocked in by Hodges, the catch made by Amoros and the youngster, Podres, pitching the Dodgers and himself into the history books and our hearts with a 2-0 seventh game victory against our bitter enemies, the Yankees. But in 1956 they paid us back in spades – a championship and a kid named Larsen.
Then it all ended so very abruptly in 1957. We lost out to a team from of al places, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and finally after the season we suffered our severest loss. Our beloved team – California beckoned – and Brooklyn lost her soul and we lost a part of our lives.
Since then baseball has never quite been the same. Sure, Koufax held our interest once every four days until he was forced to retire in 1966; the Mets for a while there in 1969 looked like they might take the place of our beloved Brooklyn Dodgers but I guess we knew all along that they couldn’t – and I guess no team will ever replace them. Perhaps we became too aware of other aspects of the sport – top management and the big business influence on sport, but most probably because, as a wise man once said, “you can’t go back.”
It is a small community of a few thousand people; but for one day in August thousands more descend upon it for one of sports most thrilling moments. The occasion is baseball’s tribute to its greats – the induction into Cooperstown of the heroes of our youth and the legends of our father’s.
Cooperstown, itself, is a page out of the history books. The Farmers Museum commemorates the first settlers of the upstate region. The Cooper House honors one who brought national attention to this isolated section of New York State. The Indian Museum pledges anew our respect for America’s first settlers and the Hall of Fame symbolizes the dreams of every American boy.
Baseball is more than a game in America; it is a way of life, a common denominator among rich and poor, black and white, young and old. It is a common experience. The home runs of Babe Ruth, the Gashouse Gang, the boys of summer, the grace of Mays and Aaron and the strikeouts of Koufax.
To honor these men, these giants of sports, is a rich and moving occasion. Yogi Berra, Early Wynn, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Lefty Gomez and Sandy Koufax – they were inducted today.
It is an occasion that those who grew up with baseball should not miss. It helps us relive our youth and quite possibly renew our hope in the future.
It begins at about the time you reach your 25th birthday. It dawns upon you that you’re not the next Willie Mays, Earl Monroe, Spider Lockhart or Rod Laver. You continue to play ball, but while you play you fantasize.
You’re playing centerfield for the Dodgers. It’s your first year in the majors. You count your hits, putouts and assists. And between batters you turn to the outfield fence and look at the great mass of fans who came to cheer you on.
You’re playing defensive back for the New York Giants. You lead the league in interceptions. They’re afraid to throw the ball in your zone, finally they do, you intercept and run it in for a TD.
You have moves like the Pearl. It’s the final game of the NBA playoffs and your team’s offensive power rests on your shoulders. You head, shoulder and hip fake; you twist, turn and jump. You can’t be stopped. You’re doing your thing and as the fans go wild you respond with more magic.
It’s the final round of Wimbledon. You’re the rookie pro. Your long hair blowing in the wind, you’re the favorite of the crowd. You smash a great backhand, counter with a better forehand; you put it down the alley past your opponent. You win and as you jump over the net to receive his congratulations you also jump back into reality.
You might be a teacher, a lawyer or a writer. You’ll never play in the World Series, the Super Bowl, the NBA Championships or Wimbledon.
But as long as you dream, you stay alive and maybe someday, just maybe!
On An Olympic Tragedy
“We shall beat our swords into plowshares.” Let’s hope so!
The events of yesterday are an affront to all mankind, but I speak not only of the heartless murder of eleven Israeli Olympic athletes. This was certainly the most shocking act of the day. It came amongst the tranquility of those games designed to unite the world’s people.
But what of the others? The 200 South Vietnamese civilians mistakenly strafed by US Air Force jets; the untold numbers bombed into hell by American bombing raids into North Viet Nam, the Catholics and Protestants killing each other in Northern Ireland and the children starving to death in Appalachia because we have money to destroy but not to feed our nation’s children.
Thank God the people of the world are not too calloused by years of death and destruction to cry out against these barbarous acts in Munich, but where is the moral outcry against the Nixon war policy and the British handling of the Irish question.
Dastardly acts carried out by the Black September group in Munich will continue as long as the nations of the world stand by with their complacent, do-nothing attitudes wherever and whenever these immoral, illegal, obscene acts take place.
Let us mourn the eleven Israelis, but even more; let us dedicate ourselves to an entire world free of destruction, death, war and hate.
Let their horrendous murders symbolize what must be done if we are to truly make this a world fit for man to live upon.
On Team Canada
Team Canada was far more than a hockey team. Team Canada was a nation.
Team Canada was the Finnish distance runners at the Munich Games, Pele at the world championships and Australian tennis.
It was a nation behind it nationals, a people together for a moment, if brief it was, and a cause.
It was apolitical, nationalism without the harmful effects so often associated with a nationalistic state, patriotism derived out of love of country, not fear of another.
It was far more than a sporting event; it was a national experience. It proved to the Canadian people that they need not play second fiddle to their neighbor from the south, rather that they might be accepted as a nation unto themselves.
It rekindled national pride and brought a people together. Who can forget the multitudes of people singing O’Canada as Henderson, Esposito and Bobby Clark came home? Who can forget the Canadian flag waving high in triumph without the blood of a foreign foe being the catalyst? And who can forget the players thanking a nation for its moral and vocal support?
The United States needs its own Team Canada. We are too obsessed with our Viet Nam’s, Kent State’s and Selma, Alabama’s. We lost too much in Dallas, Memphis and Los Angeles. We need something to stand behind and be proud of – to wave our flag not in some pseudo patriotic paranoia, to sing our national anthem not just to begin a football game, to be proud once again to be an American.
Yes, we need a Team Canada too.
On Veterans Day
You look across an endless line of simple military graves; brave men have given their lives for their country – World War I, II, Korea, Viet Nam – and you ask yourself why? For what?
For freedom? Freedom doesn’t exist in a nation where a major political party has its campaign headquarters bugged by the President of that nation.
For equality? Blacks, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Indians are second-class citizens, the rich receive government favors in return for campaign contributions and the young, they are called radical bums by the Vice President.
For peace? World War I, World War II, Korea and for the past nine years, we’ve been smothered in Viet Nam. Peace?
Brave men – fathers, husbands and sons – lie beneath those simple crosses on battlefields throughout the world. Year after year we hear speeches, patriotic outpourings of love of country – how these men should not have given their lives in vain.
Why not, this year, eliminate the speeches and dedicate our actions to our fallen men. Forget the pseudo patriotic slogans, trite appeals to selfish motives and really honor those men.
Honor them with peace, with freedom, with equality for all men. Honor them with purposeful change. Honor them with a generation that need not add to those endless lines of military graves.
On A Decision
It’s strange how people forget or is it how they try to forget? The hope of this nation is that they can’t forget.
The workingman is insulted by the young – by the length of their hair, their way of dress, their mores.
The Nixon young – where the hell is their head at? Are they too young to remember, too apathetic to care, to scared to act?
The new Republican majority – what will it develop from? A means of getting even with the young, a means of assuring the status quo, a means of running scared.
But before such a majority forms, there must be a comparison of men, ideals, actions. It is too close to November to play games, to get even, to run scared. It is time to take a close look at McGovern. It is time to take a close look at Nixon. It is time to make a decision pivotal to the future of America.
Just how ludicrous the Nixon campaign really is can best be viewed in the light of his nomination, by his henchmen, for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Commander in Chief of the world’s greatest air armada’s ruthless attack over North Viet Nam; the man who spread his personal war against communism into Laos and Cambodia; the underlying cause of those tragic deaths at Kent and Jackson States – nominated for a peace prize?
A President affirms his belief in the United States Constitution then goes out and nominates Haynsworth, Carswell and Kleindeinst; uses bugging devices and wiretapping in the normal course of his daily “information gathering” processes; prosecutes the Berrigan Brothers and Vietnam veterans.
Never have so many scandals been present in government as in the Nixon four years – the wheat deal, Watergate, ITT and countless other actions of favoritism towards special interests.
George McGovern’s made his share of mistakes – Eagleton, Pierre Salinger, hastily made and poorly drawn up economic policies – but he has never been the cause of death for thousands in Southeast Asia; he has never taken actions in opposition to the United States Constitution; he has never deceived, cheated or lied to those people he was elected to represent.
In six weeks a choice must be made. Perhaps at that time people will forget their petty differences; reconfirm their belief in their fellow man; remember what Nixon really represents and then put their trust in George McGovern.
God help us if they don’t!
On The People
“A government of the people, by the people shall not perish from this earth.”
The people, the masses, the electorate – they have the power in their hands. Government might seem all too powerful, omnipotent, too distant, but what it really comes down to is the people.
Governments cannot exist without the support of the greatest masses of its citizens.
Governments cannot rule without the consent of the governed.
Governments cannot make policy without the legitimacy entrusted in it by the people.
The people – they are the means of production – they build the machines, man them and distribute the results.
The people – they are the armies – the injured and the dead, wars are declared by governments but fought by men.
The people – they are the government – they install the leaders in positions of power; they can remove them.
The people – they have a responsibility – a responsibility to themselves, to their children, to the world’s children.
They must not be deceived, cheated, robbed by their governments.
They must not be taken in by nationalistic phrases, brought to a feverish pitch by pseudo patriotic chants.
They must not turn on those of different tongue, race or color; they must not go to war, hate or kill.
It is the people who can erase want, prejudice and hate from our world.
The people can put an end to confrontations between nations, conflicts between the races, war.
It is the people who must usher in an age of love, an age of trust, an age of peace.
It is the people who now must stand up and be counted; be counted on the side of right, on the side of peace, on the side of hope.
On Jackie Robinson(Octobe4 24, 1972)
There were six of them; they were the backbone of a childhood team. Two lie dead; one is a virtual cripple. The other three have experienced various ups and downs in their lives.
They are a memory – a memory of childhood, of tranquil days, of carefree summers – but they are far more than a memory, they are men. Black men and white men, mortal men, men just like you and me.
The untimely death of one brings back memories of all of them.
Brooklyn in the Fifties was the Mecca of professional sport – sport as a game, baseball as a religion. We lived and died, ate and slept with our “bums” and we can’t forget them now, they meant too much to us then.
A roly-poly catcher – he won the MVP three separate times. Today he sits in a wheel chair, the victim of a tragic auto wreck.
The captain from Louisville – a man among men, he did more to welcome blacks into Brooklyn than anyone else.
An indestructible first baseman – indestructible? Dead at 50 of a heart attack.
The Duke – a graceful, fleet, power hitter in centerfield.
Skoonj in right – he possessed a rifle arm, the likes of which I’ve never seen.
And finally, the first black man in the big leagues – all heart and guts. Dead at 53, who could have imagined this? I remember those mad dashes around the base paths, the grace under fire, the excitement of a man. It will be no more.
And also being lied to rest with Jackie Robinson is a part of ourselves – an innocence that was youth, a childhood that will be no more, a peace we’ll never see again.
Goodbye Jack Roosevelt Robinson. We shared a beautiful moment with you. Thank you!
On Election ‘72
Richard Nixon deserves our full support in the search for peace abroad and tranquility at home.
He will receive the full fury of our opposition if he alters from that course.
George McGovern has our sincere gratitude for being there when we needed him most, for asking questions that had to be answered and for making us all feel a little more comfortable about Viet Nam, Watergate, poverty and those other national blights that demand immediate attention.
These words were written with a certain youthful passion fueled by the war in Vietnam and the civil rights movement at home. They were written with an innocence that was not erased with the deaths of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. I stopped writing in 1972 for myriad reasons, not the least was the reelection of Richard Nixon. Occasionally since that fateful November day I have written essays, published in Newsday, and motivated by events of the day. A handful of those follow.
America’s Brief Shining Moment
I can still hear those fateful words that I heard for the first time in a senior English class at Mepham High School on November 22, 1963: “The President has been shot!” And I still remember those first emotions, of sadness, despair, fear. He was our President. He was our generation’s hero, role model, leader.
That one shot had ramifications a then 17-year old could not fathom. An opportunity had slipped through our grasp, an opportunity for our nation to achieve true greatness, not in the military sense so important to Ronald Reagan, but a strength of the spirit. An opportunity to lead by example, not by might, by force, by terror.
The words, “for one brief shining moment” have been written in reference to Kennedy, but it pains us to think: What if?
John Kennedy’s inaugural speech had the familiar rhetoric of the Cold War; the Bay of Pigs was both a military and moral disaster; and his misreading of the missile gap started an ignominious arms race. But he learned from these mistakes. Unlike those who followed, he grew in office. He was so appalled by the sight of vicious dogs and fire hoses being turned loose on southern blacks that he made civil and human rights a moral issue. Although the Civil Rights Act was passed after his death, it was his law.
When told about the destruction a nuclear war would cause, he said, “And we call ourselves the human race?” He then dedicated his presidency to a thawing of the Cold War and a test-ban treaty.
During the Cuban missile crisis, his brother Bobby and he were among the few sane voices not seeking a military solution, not willing to risk American lives in a show of force. And when Nikita Khrushchev backed down, Kennedy didn’t rub it in; he understood that as a man, a leader of a powerful nation, he too had to negotiate in the future out of a position of strength if anything worthwhile was to be accomplished.
John Kennedy made us all believe in ourselves, in our country, in the majesty of the human spirit. As he grew, so did we. Whether he would have achieved the greatness of a Jefferson, Lincoln, Wilson or Roosevelt, no one will ever know. What we do know is that for the 1000-plus days he led this nation, he made us a better people. His legacy is that he inspired us, he motivated us to better things, he learned and we learned too. It’s a lesson the current leadership should take to heart.
John F. Kennedy’s Legacy
Twenty-five years ago, the curtain came down on Camelot. It’s futile to wonder: What if? We should, instead, remember John Kennedy for what he was, not what he could have been, for what he meant to a generation of young Americans whose political and social values he helped nourish.
Kennedy spoke of a “new generation of Americans born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace,” a generation sensitive to the realities of world politics, aware of massive destruction possible by a simple error in judgment. During the Cuban missile crisis, he chose not to seek a military solution; he was not willing to risk American lives in a show of force.
He told us that “to whom much is given, much is required.” And give we did. The Peace Corps is a fitting and lasting tribute to what he saw as our role in the world.
He compelled us to reach for the stars. Although he wasn’t there for that glorious moment, he let us know mankind could indeed walk on the moon.
Kennedy believed “the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.” He was so appalled by the sight of vicious dogs and fire hoses being turned loose on southern blacks that he made civil rights and human rights a moral issue. The Civil Rights Act of 1965 was a legacy of that commitment.
Our generation, he told us, is fated “to live with a struggle we did not start, in a world we did not make.” He sent advisors to Vietnam. Would he have pulled them out, as many historians suggest, in his second term? He inherited the Bay of Pigs invasion from the Eisenhower administration, and when it was an abysmal failure, he alone took the blame.
He warned, “those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.” When told about the destruction a nuclear war would cause, he dedicated his presidency to a thawing of the Cold War and a test ban treaty.
In the 25 years since that nightmare day in Dallas, the world has changed. Some of John Kennedy’s hopes, dreams, aspirations have come to fruition. We’re a better people because of his thousand days. As one brother said in his eulogy to a third: “Some men see things as they are and say, why. I dram things that never were and say, why not?” John Kennedy also said why not. As we look to the future, we echo those words, why not?
The Kennedy Legacy: Up From Apathy
John Kennedy brought a generation out of the doldrums of the lethargic, lackluster Fifties. He put us on the road to involvement. He let us know that anything was possible in America; mankind could even walk on the moon. His death, while it shocked and hurt us deeply, did little to diminish our perception of an America where everything was within our grasp. The escalation of the war in Vietnam and the widening gap between two societies at home put a clink in the armor that seemed to guarantee invincibility to the American dream. Robert Kennedy’s death 20 years ago cracked that armor wide open.
The innocence of the Kennedy years was mirrored by the Cartwrights of “Bonanza,” Opie, Barnie and Aunt Bea of “The Andy Griffith Show” and the Clampetts of Beverly Hills; the music of Elvis and Chubby Checker and the movie antics of Rock Hudson and Doris Day. It gave way to the satirical humor of “Laugh-In” and Tom and Dick Smothers; the disillusionment of “The Graduate” and the caustic lyrics of the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel.
Like no other politician since, Bobby Kennedy inspired us. He responded to the alienation felt by the children of the Sixties with a passion. He sought to build a bridge over the troubles waters of race relations; he reached out to the disfranchised, he prescribed a cure for the cancer of Vietnam. He moved us to action, motivated us to commit ourselves to a cause, pushed our nation to a crossroads. A saint to some, a ruthless pragmatist to others, Kennedy grew as a person from the day he announced his candidacy for president to the day a bullet reverberated from the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel to the streets of Watts and Harlem, to the battlefields of Southeast Asia. On his journeys crisscrossing America, he saw poverty and sought to eradicate it; he saw racial injustice and attempted to bind the wounds; he saw war and tried to stop it.
It has been 20 years since Kennedy’s sudden and tragic death on the night of his greatest political victory. Would he have wrestled the Democratic nomination away from Hubert Humphrey? Would he have defeated Richard Nixon? Would he have closed the chapter on the Vietnam conflict years and thousands of deaths ahead of schedule? It really doesn’t matter. History is built upon ifs and what-might-have-beens, but they don’t change what really was. What does matter is that Bobby Kennedy, like his brother, left a legacy for future generations. A legacy of hope – not despair; peace – not war; involvement – not apathy.
Since those fateful days in 1963 and 1968, we have lived through the quagmire of Vietnam, the bitterness of racial conflict, the tragedy of Watergate and Iran-contra, the heartbreak of international terrorism, the indifference of Ronald Reagan. In remembering Bobby Kennedy, we should recall what is right about America and rededicate ourselves to achieving the dreams and aspirations he had for all Americans.
A President for All Americans
My support for Gary Hart has its roots in the late Sixties…before it was fashionable or acceptable to oppose US involvement in Vietnam. In those last days of the Johnson administration, it was the students of this nation who called for an end to the murder, the destruction, the hypocrisy. It was young America who foresaw the scar our escalating involvement in Southeast Asia would have on our national conscience; who saw the folly of military intervention where our national interest was not at stake; who saw the futility and waste of even one more American boy dying abroad.
Most so-called liberals stood with Johnson, and bought the general’s line of a “light at the end of the tunnel.” Walter Mondale is a good and decent man, but he was a party to that Democratic support. Subconsciously, maybe even consciously, many of us made a commitment then not to support the old politics that got us into and kept us bogged down in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos; not to accept ever again gunboat diplomacy, the view that might makes right, but to support those men and women willing to take risks to achieve greater good. What happened in Southeast Asia could repeat itself in Central America, the Persian Gulf or Africa if we permit the old, worn-out ideas to rule the day.
John Kennedy said at his inauguration, “The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans – born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage.” Since his death, the flame of hope the Kennedy torch lit has flickered and on too many occasions it has been on the verge of dying out completely. It’s time we rekindle that flame, that we pass that torch to a new generation of Americans – schooled on the evils of Vietnam, tempered by a foreign policy based upon military might and the support of right-wing dictatorships, willing to take risks to achieve worthwhile objectives.
Gary Hart is this new breed. The complexities of the Eighties demand enlightened new ideas, approaches and solutions. The crisis we now face and the confrontations we will face in the years ahead demand leadership dedicated to peace and willing to seeks new answers to age-old questions. In the international arena, Gary Hart offers us the best opportunity for peace. He is the one individual most apt to steer the ship of state clear of crisis and confrontation.
On the domestic scene his presidency would guarantee all Americans an equal opportunity to get their fair share of the American dream. He is a strong civil rights advocate, and always has been; a staunch supporter of the feminist movement; and has enlightened new ideas on business and education. His new ideas are a most welcome and needed breath of fresh air for these new times.
Focus on Democrats Who Want the Job
Enough is enough. All we keep reading about in the press is the poor Democratic Party, How six candidates – Bruce Babbitt, Michael Dukakis, Richard Gebhardt, Albert Gore, Jesse Jackson and Paul Simon – are just running for the exercise of it – until Governor Mario Cuomo or Senator Bill Bradley decide to enter the fray. The Republicans, on the other hand, are safe an secure with the likes of Pete duPont, Alexander Haig, Jack Kemp, Pat Robertson, George Bush and Robert Dole. Aside from the last two, the other hopefuls have as much chance of getting the Republican nomination as, let’s say, Alf Landon (and he just died).
There is no question that Cuomo, with is demonstrated administrative abilities and his incredible oratory skills, or Bradley, with is tremendous grasp of economic issues, would make enviable candidates. But that’s not to lesson the abilities nor – in this electronic age of presidential politics – the charisma of the announced Democrats.
By the time the curtain comes down on September Tuesday, the evening of March 8 (both the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary will be history), there will be two, perhaps three, viable candidates remaining. This is, of course, not to forget Jesse Jackson who will be a force to be reckoned with through the convention, nor Gary Hart, whose late re-entry for ego gratification or matching funds is probably doomed to another ignominious end. But viable candidates? Not in America in 1988. Figuring Babbitt and Gebhardt to be out of the running, that leaves Simon, Dukakis (on the strength of a victory in neighboring New Hampshire) and Gore.
I’d venture to say each has more substance, more charisma, more focus than America’s favorite cheerleader George Bush or Robert Dole. (In fact, Elizabeth Dole would really be the most attractive Republican candidate, not hubby Bob).
Paul Simon, he of the reverse charisma, is Stevensonesque in stature. He has an incredible grasp of the issues and bow ties just might fly in ’88.
Mike Dukakis has what Ronald Reagan says is the best training for the presidency, a hold on the governor’s mansion, as well as a sound economic track record to run around the course.
And Albert Gore, a product of the New South, with a golden legislative record and an outstanding intellect, is the only candidate of the Vietnam generation. He might just be right when he states: “It’s time for the torch to pass to our generation and for us to take a leadership position in this country.”
So, isn’t it time for the press to stop focusing all its attention on the non-candidates, and give those, who in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, have bloodied themselves in the arena, their due?
It’s Vietnam All Over Again
All those names. A black granite wall of honor stands in Washington DC, with thousands of names. Boys, mostly. Boys killed in Vietnam.
Today, children of the next generation sit in Saudi Arabia, part of Operation Desert Shield. Ready to do battle. Ready to have their names engraved on another monument. For what?
Is it to evict the Iraqi army from Kuwait? To protect the vital interests of Saudi Arabia? Or is it to optimize the interests of the American oil lobby?
We are too complacent again, sitting back as awe did in 1965, ’66 and ’67, while more troops are sent overseas.
Are we poised for battle in the Mideast’s deserts? Are we prepared for the body bags that will invariably follow the bugle calls to battle? Will the same light flicker and die at the end of the desert tunnel, as it did in the jungles of Southeast Asia?
We learned our lesson once. Or didn’t we? Do we wait to protest a failed foreign policy when the death toll reaches 50 a week, 100? Or do we raise our voices today?
Do we bring our boys home immediately? Or do we prepare blueprints for another black granite memorial?
No Easy Choice
“At the age of 18, I went off to fight. Like many of you, I was scared, but I was willing.” This was George Bush’s not to subtle way of questioning Bill Clinton’s patriotism in a speech to the American Legion on August 25.
World War II was not Vietnam; 1941 was not 1968. And maybe that’s the biggest difference between George Bush and Bill Clinton. George Bush is out of touch with an entire generation of Americans born after World War II. He is similarly out of touch with today’s changing geopolitical realities.
Vietnam was a paradox. It was a war fought in the wrong place, by the wrong people, for all of the wrong reasons.
It was a war that demanded to be questioned. Those Americans who fought there and those who died there, were all heroes. So were those who protested American intervention there. It was not an easy choice – to fight in the war or against the war. A decision took guts either way.
I was 13 when my father took me to the train station in Bellmore to see John F Kennedy in the fall of 1960. Later that year, my father and millions of others voted to pass the torch to a leader from a new generation. Like Kennedy, they were children of the Great Depression, had fought in World War II and were products of that war and its aftermath. Their vote was a gift to their children because, interestingly enough, the Kennedy presidency had its greatest influence on my generation.
Today my daughter is 13, and my generation has an opportunity for the first time to elect a president and vice president who, like us, was raised in the “anything-was-possible” Fifties, who were inspired by John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Our generation was taught the grim realities of power politics in Vietnam, was moved to action by the war and civil rights struggle of the Sixties and experienced the ineffectiveness of trickle-down economics.
Now, we have an opportunity to elect candidates who arte in touch with the realities of the present, who are prepared to lead us into the 21st Century. Just maybe Bill Clinton and Al Gore will inspire my daughter the way John F Kennedy inspired me. Like my father 32 years ago, I know this election isn’t as much for me as it is for my children.
Unfortunately, there is no just punishment for Bill Clinton. His major sin is that he let us down. The Monica Lewinsky escapade was not the first time – it probably won’t be the last – but it is yet another example of the President’s lack of moral fiber, of his total disregard for the trust the American people placed in him when we elected him president, not once but twice.
His greatest offense is not his failure to enact any meaningful legislation or his failure to make any significant social strides. It is his cavalier attitude. He thought we were either naïve or stupid and that he could charm himself out of trouble.
His public apology to the American people was vague, as usual. He stated that he had a relationship with Monica Lewinsky. He attacked Kenneth Starr and said it was a private issue that he, his family and God would have to resolve.
Whether Starr should be investigating the president’s personal life is not the issue. I don’t think he should. Whether Clinton cheated on his wife and then lied to her and his daughter is also not the issue. The issue is that he lied to me and to the American people. He tried to deceive us and is still trying. He thinks he can make a four-minute speech and put everything behind him. It just isn’t that easy. Why should we ever trust this man?
September 11, 2001
My generation lost its innocence a long time ago. On November 22, 1963, on the streets of Chicago, in Memphis and Los Angeles and in Southeast Asia. My children lost their innocence on September 11, 2001.
I drove through my neighborhood that Tuesday night. All the homes, the streets, everything was intact. Nothing had changed. But – everything had changed.
America has changed. I have changed. My children have changed. Nothing will be the same again. The next time you get on an airplane, cross a bridge, enter a tunnel, a building, you’ll think about what happened on September 11. You have to. It happened here. Not in Tel Aviv, London or Moscow. It happened in New York City, in Washington DC. It couldn’t happen here. It did happen here.
What is really important is put in perspective. I look at and talk to my children and think what might have been but thankfully was not. What is important in your life crystallizes, your family takes on new importance.
The shrill quivering notes of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah convey a message of warning; a challenge to triumph over the forces of wrath and destruction. They also echo a loud clarion call of hope amid ruin and despair.
And that is the message we should all heed. Retribution and revenge seemed appropriate on September 11 – at times they still do. But an eye for an eye begets blindness, not necessarily redemption. Now is the time for intelligent thought – now is the time to heed the clarion call for hope.