Monday, February 22, 2010

Why Now?


Recently, while going through the mountains of papers, magazines, notes, poems, letters, diaries, journals,  etc. that I have hauled around almost all of my life I ran across this great article in the Washington Post from Sunday May 25, 1980. The title of it is "After Vietnam: Voices of a Wounded Generation". There were numerous reasons that the subject of the Vietnam War suddenly began to creep into our conversations back then in the early 80s. Ronald Reagan had just been elected to office and the hostages being held in Iran by revolutionaries at the American Embassy in Tehran had been released. I was in Washington, DC the morning that the hostages (as they were known) arrived safely back to a grateful and expectant nation. There they were, in buses waving feebly at those of us on the ground on Pennsylvania Avenue holding yellow ribbons. In the background, a guy in a black van was driving around with a sign painted onto the side asking, "What about all the American soldiers who returned from VN, what about their homecoming?" Or something to that effect. It was a sad and stark reminder. And it pissed me off!  I thought, "Yeah! Where WAS their homecoming?" For me, that is when it really hit home that this gigantic disconnect in my generation had taken hold and dragged us into the next decade.

Meantime, Jan Scruggs and his gang were planning to commission a Vietnam Memorial on the Mall and this too was stirring up memories of a war we pretend happened to someone else and not ourselves. One whispered the word Vietnam. One did not shout it out.

I hated the war. I didn't understand it to begin with and communism as it was at the time was just not all that frightening anymore with Cuba isolated and China and Russia having their own problems. The pictures we began to see in Time and Life magazines and on TV were disturbing and horrible, to say the least. In the meantime, there is all this peace and love stuff going on, all the protests and marches-also on TV and pictured in Time and Life. To say that the messages we were receiving were mixed is an understatement.

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