Re: Vets and the Summer of Love

Joe Williams (
Tue, 02 Sep 1997 20:33:53 -0700

To All:

I've been following this thread very avidly, and while I "wasn't there" due
to being born in 1962, I have been indelibly shaped by what happened "back
in the day". I feel I would have been on the side of the freaks,
protesters, resisters, etc., had I been a participant and aware of what I
know now. Easy talk with no walk, I know, but I have tried to place myself
vicariously in various situations in 'the sixties' and attempted to come to
grips with others' motivations for their actions. It is probably for the
best I didn't have to learn (real-time) all the mistakes that were made. I
feel very fortunate to have learned these lessons from those who
experienced the time in their own way. I do believe there is truth in the
statement, "If you can remember the 60s, you weren't really there." I
wasn't there, and consequently have the benefit of hindsight without the
emotional baggage. It is these types of explorations and examinations that,
I feel, have focused my politics in the '90s to a sharper edge, in addition
to making me a life-long student of the era. I am in awe of what was
accomplished then, although it seems the same battles need to be fought
again, and taken further.

David Harris (assume folks on the list know who he is) has a book out
titled, "Our War: What We Did In Vietnam, And What It Did To Us". (1996). I
cannot recommend this book highly enough!! Harris draws the reader in to
the gut-wrenching decisions he, and others like him, felt compelled to make
about the 'American War' as the Vietnamese call it. Apologies? Not on your
life! Harris is on fire in this book and every word is like molten lava
dripping off the page and burning a hole through your moral conscience.
(Country Joe especially should read it, if he hasn't already.) I will
leave you with an excerpt that explains why he wrote the book. It seems
that what he is advocating is starting to show on this list. Get the book
and read it!!

David Harris writes:

"I remember the war as someone it obsessed and imprisoned. And while it no
longer preys on my mind, it is still a subject about which I find it
difficult to summon disinterest or distance. I have never known the war at
arm's length. I remember it on my skin and in my bones; I remember it as a
weight in the pit of my stomach and I remember it as a pain in my chest,
late at night and alone...

"What I seek is a Reckoning...

"Reckoning has been a word full of meaning for me ever since. (his wife,
Lacey's death-ed.) Coming to terms with ourselves is what we do when we
reckon, and reckon with our war is what we must do: stand outside our
fears, revisit what we did so many years ago, and clear our souls of this
perpetual shadow.

"Our reckoning is not to be engaged in lightly or with less than the whole
of ouselves. At the very least, I expect that taking a good look at the war
will be a painful and demanding process. Hard things need to be said, often
in hard ways. And, as raw as my memory of the war is, I still do not come
easily to that task. ... But there are subjects about which there is no
easiness, and this war is one of them. I cannot avoid its ugliness, nor do
I think such avoidance useful.

"So also with my anger. Some of it, too, is unavoidable, even necessary,
though again I am not, on the whole, an angry man. Few have ever seen my
temper, and while I make a point of speaking my mind, I mostly shy from
enlarging confrontations, and in this instance I worry that my surviving
outrage will sound bitter so many years after the fact. But I am outraged
still. And I mean to say things that bother me deeply and that I know will
disturb others, as unfortunate as that disturbance may be. And I hope
others will do likewise until we finally run out of things to say. ...

"We need to face up to it first. For me, this is not just about us and not
just about now. It is an engagement in the sacred human ritual of studying
our own tracks, an attempt at the consecration of those who have gone
before through the contemplation of how and why their lives were spent. If
healing what the war left behind is possible, I look for such healing in
this therapy of honest self-examination and informed acceptance. I also
find such a proceess the most fundamental form of respect. It obliges us to
value one another's passing and refuse to spend lives without an
accounting. So now, so much later, it is finally time to account."

(end excerpt)

Perhaps Country Joe and David Harris could be persuaded to open public
forums/debates/discussions (teach-ins?) on this in the SF Bay Area. They
both live in the area and while I think they would disagree on many things,
I think a meeting of their minds on 'Our War' would faciliate coming to
grips with a lot of these issues. I have a show on Free Radio Berkeley (an
unlicensed free radio station) and would be more than happy to provide
air-time to these "legends of the '60s".

"Remember kids, when you're out there smashing the state, don't forget to
keep a smile on your lips and a song in your heart!" -- Freak Brothers

Peace, love and anarchy,

Joe Williams, Bookseller
aka 'the radman' 104.1FM
Specialty: The Sixties