America 1967 saw civil rights marches, some displayed on the evening news how brutal the fight against racial discrimination had become. The headlines on racial issues diminished, not because the problem was eliminated, but because protests against the Vietnam War had come to the fore front. Many white people viewed the civil rights movement as their problem, not ours. Many people sympathized with the movement but Vietnam had no racial boundary. White, black, Hispanic or other all could receive an induction notice. The times were filled with anger but not hate.
Expo 67 was occurring at this time in Montreal, Canada. A friend and I decided to drive there. I already had received my military draft notice. His would be arrive in a few months. As we drove from Florida to Canada I thought about this country, my country. It is difficult to recollect all the thoughts, feelings and talks as we drove. It was long ago and the times were different. Boys my age grew up playing soldiers, cowboys and Indians, with our make believe weapons and heroic images. The realization that so many actually were now soldiers in a war created mixed feelings. We all had an underlying basic belief in family and country but pursued different directions. We all had friends who had already served, were serving, preparing for induction and some friends who were protesting the Vietnam War as wrong for various reasons.
We all knew some friends or high school classmates who had served or been injured and even been killed over there. Others we knew sought deferments, student or other, many openly protested the war in the streets and were seen on the evening news on TV. A few others chose to leave the country including some who moved to Canada.
The realization came that this Vietnam thing was not a John Wayne type movie with great courage and heroes. Although we did see both displayed by this generation. These times also produced great pain and suffering. The notices of death and injury were daily occurrences. Perhaps the most significant part was that this pain was felt by so many, by us all. There were the claims that this was a poor man’s war. Regardless the pain and anguish transcended rich and poor, black, White, Hispanic, Native American and others. The military induction tended to spread the suffering throughout our society.
After some discussion we both returned and joined and returned safely from military service. I try to recall the feelings I had and other sentiments during those times. The protests continued into the 70’s and until the end of the draft or about that time. After military service the country had changed in some ways and in particular the general attitude toward military conflict. What ultimately became America’s view of war is left to each of us indidually. We need to reach our own opinions of the role of our all volunteer military and when and where to use it.
We saw much of America in 1967 and learned much throughout those tumultuous or turbulent times. We all knew anguish and anger. There were the calls for “America love it or leave it.” There were Vietnam veterans joined by non veterans calling for an end to the “Vietnam Conflict.” Often we view the past through a distorted lens and recall mostly the good or better times. As I view those times and consider the current times one aspect stands out in my mind. Today are times of enormous disagreement between haves and have nots, conservatives and progressives, urban and rural, white collar, blue collar and the list goes on. The most signicant aspect or difference to me is I don’t remember the animosity or hateful feelings that seem to be prevalent in the current times. America has always been a great country with all our bumps in the road but we have never been a hateful country. If anyone is looking for America, look no further than your bathroom mirror. The person you see is the face of America.