Native Writes: Why then and why now?


It was a sunny afternoon when I sat watching little dust particles drifting through the air. They do that when sunbeams yield the spotlight.

I began thinking about my collegiate days. I met several longtime friends back then and we share similar convictions.

Adams State was still a college and the mascot was an Indian. Someone blew the back end out of Richardson Hall. Things had gone too far, but the protests against the war in Vietnam continued.

The war was called “McNamara’s War” after Robert McNamara, secretary of defense under Lyndon Baines Johnson, who seemed obsessed with fighting a war that seemed unimportant to students who saw big problems closer to home.

Both were accused of war crimes, but supporters argued that they somehow had top-secret information that the collapse of South Vietnam would open the door for communists to take over the world.

Facts leaked to the press and made available to opponents of the war were considered unreliable.

Does this sound even remotely familiar?

Thousands of U.S. citizens opposed the war in Vietnam by chanting, "Hell, no, we won't go," and they’re back in the streets again, protesting what they see wrong with our nation and its future.

What we’re seeing unfold in the fledgling Trump administration has happened before, in a time when many the leaders were young people still sitting at the family dinner table listening to their dads talk about the latest heavyweight boxing match.

This memory caused a sob to get caught in my throat.

A deep breath and then a whistle caused the little dust particles to dance.

McNamara’s War was widely covered by TV and the wire services and we saw children burned with napalm running down rutted streets.

His belated apology was made in an effort to sell his book, a retrospective.

The debate over the war in Vietnam saw people who wanted peace clashing with “hawks” who supported the war, which eventually claimed more than 58,000 lives. While the nation has finally recognized the troops who innocently served in good faith, we appear poised to send more young people to war again. They are volunteers now, but will be draft come with the military build-up?

Many of the people now in government are from that era, but they seem to have forgotten the past as they rattle sabers in the Middle East and Korea. Some of them served, others didn’t, and their perspectives are as different as they are.

As dusk came and the little dust particles fell asleep with the sun, questions remained.

Why then and why now?

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