Did the anti-war protests of the sixties and seventies hasten the end of the Vietnam War? In retrospect, probably not. They most certainly helped bring an end to the political career of Lyndon Johnson and bring on Richard Nixon as the next president in 1968. But I could hardly fail to participate in those protests, knowing what I did from spending the year between October 1967 and October 1968 in Vietnam . Did Rosa Parks bring Lyndon Johnson to confront the American South and shepherd the passage through Congress of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965? Not directly or by herself, but she started a parade of protests by countless others when she refused to move to the back of the bus in 1955. In the end, all of the protests did make a difference. Will the “I Can’t Breathe” protests have similar result—eliminating the impunity with which police officers can kill unarmed suspects? Who can say for sure, but the protests must continue. In 1849, Henry David Thoreau was imprisoned for refusing to pay a poll tax. While jailed, his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson visited him. He asked Thoreau, “Henry, what are you doing in there?” To which Thoreau replied, “Waldo, the question is what are you doing out there?” Thoreau in his civil disobedience (a published treatise) inspired Gandhi, who in turn inspired Martin Luther King. Nonviolent protest has a rich tradition in America. When an injustice occurs repeatedly, protests may be the one of the most effective tools at the citizen’s disposal, along with the ballot box, in generating a change.
Are you tired of hearing, viewing and reading about this yet? If you are, then you should skip this post. But let me try a multifaceted approach that may overcome your reluctance. There is legality and there is morality. There is politics and pragmatics. There is truth and there are lies. There are causes and there are consequences (effects). Finally, there is the opportunity for national self-reflection–if one can get beyond the self-protective rationalization. Continue reading The Torture Report
I have been putting a lot of effort into attracting interest through social media this spring, in preparation for recommencing serious writing. A cross-country move, a new home, a daughter’s wedding and other events kept me occupied for years longer than I wished after publishing Waiting for Westmoreland and the essay in TODAY. The essay is here, on Views from Eagle Peak, in the form of a static page, but in commemoration of the renewed push to write, here is that essay in the form of a post.
Reprinted courtesy of TODAY at Minnesota State, May 2008 edition.
Path Lost, and Found
For many years listening to classic rock, watching movies made by fellow boomers or reading their books, I sometimes felt pangs of regret. I had missed realizing my own creative potential. Why couldn’t I have been like Crosby, Stills and Nash? They were a commercial success and spokespersons of sorts for antiwar sentiments that I held dear. Why could I not have been at least as much a literary success as Donald Fagen was a musical success? Fagen, my unimpressive classmate from South Brunswick High School in New Jersey, had gone on to found and co-lead the very successful Steely Dan.
For years, I felt somehow cheated by the politicians who’d engineered the war in Vietnam and by the generals who had conducted it. Their actions had forever altered my college and career trajectory.
Since the second grade, when I received my first rejection slip from Scholastic, I cherished the goal of being a writer. I expected college to provide me with the tools of the writing trade, essential for fulfilling my childhood dream. Not only that, college would lead me to that all-important day job, providing food and shelter to otherwise starving authors.
Shameless self-promotion: you can download Waiting for Westmoreland as an epub now for $8.99. Go here if you have an iPad, etc. with which to view it and are so inclined. If you don’t know about WFW, hit the last item in the links to your right.
Also, belatedly, if you had a comment that was trashed erroneously (i.e., you are not a spammer) try submitting it again and I will review what comes in for integrity. I had to do a lot of bulk deletions to clean up this blog.
Forty years ago today, shots rang out in Memphis, killing the Reverend Martin Luther King. I was in Hawaii that day, on R&R from Vietnam. I returned to my unit in Bearcat, the 9th Infantry Division basecamp 25 miles east of Saigon after the riots had spread across America. Things were not much more wonderful there. Tensions between blacks and whites were already high. Continue reading Martin Luther King