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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Interesting day - the Vietnam era stirred up...


Today I listened to Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi (and peace leader himself) introduce Senator George McGovern, the former Democratic Presidential candidate who ran against Nixon. He's an elderly man now, yet fit and as articulate as he ever was.

This was part of an event near here that brought together many peace activists from the Vietnam years, along with many who chose to leave the US at that time and come to Canada (men and women).

The speeches (and music) were inspiring and certainly focused on today's unneeded and wrong-headed war in Iraq as well. George McGovern repeated words he spoke in Congress 30 years ago "When will old men who have never been to war stop sending our young off to fight and die?"

I was affected two ways today - first, it reinvigorated me to work for peace and to not be a passive observer or cynic. The second thing that happened is somehow the event triggered my youthful memories of marching against the Vietnam War, of feeling united in building something better, of the music, the people, the times, the hope... and all that. Maybe I was also just feeling my 20 year old self and sensing some of the loss since then.

Sorry for wandering here.


It was just before dawn when several hundred of us walked silently through the streets of Washington to reach the bridge into the city that was our particular target. More than 20,000 protesters had gathered to shut down Washington for a day ... to protest the US invasion of Laos, in a war that was supposed to be winding down.

Daylight arrived at the bridge as we did. We could barely see their shapes across the span - row after row of helmeted police, backed up by ranks of National Guard. We quickly moved on to the bridge deck and sat down. I was prepared to be passive, to not resist and to then be arrested and carried away. Maybe we'd stop traffic for a few hours at least.

In what seemed like seconds they were upon us. Marching in step and bashing their batons on their shields, they came. Now they were yelling and kicking and swinging at our heads and shoulders. No passive arrests going on here. I was struck on the shoulder with a baton, then across the back of the head. I saw people with blood coming down their faces, watched a young girl next to me be kicked in the abdomen.

Now I was running through residential streets, being chased by Guard and police - they didn't want to quietly arrest me, they wanted to beat the living shit out of me. I ran, I ducked, I hid and finally found my way to the Georgetown University campus. Riot police moved through the campus, dispersing crowds. Tear gas canisters were landing all around. My eyes were blinded and I couldn't breathe.

I made it into a dormitory looking for sanctuary. The first doors I opened I was told to get the hell out. Then a young woman let me in and I was safe for a while.

I spent that night wrapped in a blanket, sleeping in a ravine on campus. The next day I learned that we had failed to shut down anything, but that several thousand had been arrested and several hundred injured.

I spent the next couple of nights in a church protected by Black Panthers. No police would come near it.

I was invited to a party at a professional boxer's apartment (that's another story), where the good folks took a collection and gave me a pocketful of money. The next day, I got a lift to the highway and hitch-hiked back to Canada.

Comments:
I never ran into something that traumatic but I was around.
 
I know you were Granny...
 
I think this generation may be savvier than the previous but I also am concerned many young people (because of the increased pressure of work) are also very conservative and will not have the inclination to seek out the facts and to be passionate about changing things for the better.

I find your posting particularly interesting, and wonderfully written, quite remarkable. !! Was that the time your Father was against or for the War?!


Best wishes
 
Don't apologize ... don't feel sorry!
I am proud that you feel invigorated and less a cynic than I am :)
 
so that italisized part is your old journal entry?

i agree with lindsey, the "now" working class are so busy, and wrapped up in their lives that they barely have an opinion on what is happening. they see the glamorized part of it, and get into the hype of "support our troops" magnets on their cars, etc. but they don't really even know what we are doing over there.

i've asked people personally who went over there what it is we are doing. i have heard both sides of it. but i still don't like it. if i was 20 yrs old during vietnam, i would have been right there protesting it. i just keep thinking, when is this crap going to end?
 
Yes, I'm asking Suzie's question, too - is the bolded writing yours?
 
Yes, that's my story... or a bit of that chapter.

Lindsay knows that at that same time my father was a Major General - in fact, he was a Command General in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado - where the US underground headquarters for watching and responding to missle or air attacks worldwide is located (still).

He was eventually opposed to the Vietnam War and was always opposed to Canada getting involved. At the time of the story here though, he and I were opposed to each other's views.

It never ruined our relationship though. In a phone call shortly after this time, I called him a fekking fascist and he called me a idiot commie...then we planned my next visit home for his birthday.

At one point years later, I heard him tell a friend that we had both worked for peace, but in different ways.
 
A rather stirring tale.
 
What a story, Gary! The part about the woman who let you in and the Black Panthers was really interesting.

I'm confused. Your father is American? What am I missing?
 
Jublu - my dad was Canadian Air Force. The NORAD system is joint US/Canadian and one of the Command Generals in Cheyenne Mtn. is always a Canadian.

This is controversial today because Canada has opted out of the US space missle defence program (star wars) yet is still part of NORAD (North American Radar Defence). We're afraid our new Prime Minister will move to join Bush II in militarizing space.
 
Speak slowly and draw pictures as you go, and I'll eventually get it. ;) Thanks.
 
I'm glad you made it safely home to Canada but must comment that no country is naturally immune to fascist tendencies. Shortly after the Kent State massacre I was out with friends on Universiry Ave. in Toronto not far from where a large protest was developing in front of the US Embassy. We saw massed police, many of them on horseback, all with shields and billy clubs advancing on the crowds in such a way to block their exit. We left by way of Queen's Park (I was heavily pregnant so won't answer for cowardice) but learned later a number of people were arrested and many injured.
Ever vigilant, eh? I know you know this.
Susan (milasu7@fastmail.fm)
 
Most dangerous protest I ever did was to wear a yellow t-shirt from Amnesty. it was a t-shirt made as a part of a campaign against the Chinese president Jiang Zemin as he visited Oslo in 1996. It said "Human Rights in China now" in Chinese. The tibet Committe and amnesty had invited the Tibetan Monk Palden Gyatso (btw - he wrote a great book about his imprisonment in a Chinese jail in Tibet). the Norwegian police had given permission to Amnesty for the demonstration, but when the Chiniese President arrived, the police had obviously got a message that the President had to be spared the demonstrations at all cost. 20-30 activists were arrested for not wanting to move, and later that day they actually arrested the peaceful Tibetan monk - probably after pressure from the Chinese embassy. It was illegal to wear that yellow t-shirt during the President's visit, but I wore it. (if only under a sweater - I wore it...) It was one of the few times I was heartily ashamed of being Norwegian..

The campaign and the events resulted in Amnesty getting 9000 new members in a year..
 
That's an interesting story, too, Nerdine! I love the ironic twist in the end.

Gary, forgot to tell you Looking Oppositely has a new post about JTH's Due Preps....
 
Nice story. We got tear-gassed and collected the canisters to line our student driveway.
 
Hi,
an adventurous story Gary...reminding us of the very important days in the history of war and struggle for peace.
 
"Passive resistance, that is soul-force, is matchless. It is superior to the force of arms."

"The force of love is the same as the force of the soul or truth… The universe would disappear without the existence of that force. ....greatest and most unimpeachable evidence of this force [of Truth or Love] is to be found in the fact that, in spite of the wars of the world, it still lives on." - Gandhi

Very (very) inspiring Gary.
 

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