Reliving My Dream of Being a Radial Protester
ANTI-VIETNAM WAR PROTESTS
OTHER "FACES" OF PROTESTING
I DON'T CARE HOW YOU SLICE IT
or spin it, from 1967 through 1972, our country was a "hotbed of turmoil." Changes were inevitable. People of all ages were weary of how things were being engineered in our country, namely, the Vietnam Conflict, which by all standards, was an out and out war. But in order for a war to be a legal war, the United States Congress has to pass a measure stating that a "conflict" isn't a war until they say that it is. So I wish now in 2012, that someone of higher political intelligence would explain the nearly 1 million young men who were butchered in Vietnam and Cambodia. No takers, huh? Figures.
I'm not about to waste your time talking about how "I" truly felt about this "blood bath," of a "conflict," in Vietnam when our country used the Draft to "snag" young men between the ages of 18 and 22, to become unwilling soldiers in a war that notable political minds said couldn't be, or wouldn't be won. The Vietnam "conflict," was a huge money-maker for such American corporations as: Dow Chemical, the company responsible for napalm, BF Goodrich, and other "factories of war," whose profits hit skyrocket heights at the expense of our young men who paid "the" ultimate price of giving their very lives for nothing more than a political skirmish.
I can see the point of our country defending our own shores, (e.g. "9-1-1, World Trade Center airline bombings), and even to the point of helping out our "true" allies abroad, in the case then, South Vietnam who didn't want to be ruled by Communists, but after a few years of lives and money spent, I personally think that the political (and military) powers "behind the curtain," knew that the Vietnam War was just too good to stop while so much money was being made for Wall Street and their endless parades of investors--mostly huge corporations.
I said all that to say this, "I personally, while sitting in an official, high school-approved wooden desk, in the classroom of the now-late Mr. Ruble Shotts, a fine man and wonderful teacher who taught my class (1972) and I the subject of American Economics, had a dream of soon becoming a radial protester." No one around me, including my trusting parents knew what was in my heart. Now if you were raised in a middle-working-class home like I was, it was sheer taboo to even speak the word "protest," or be verbally-bombarded by my dad, an Army vet, (and I did respect that), who said that the cause of all the turmoil in America, including "those long haired hippies, marching in the streets," as he called them, was all because of The Beatles coming to America. He believed that through and through. I knew, even at my young age of 17, I was in a no-win debate, so I kept my dream of being a protester to myself.
You know what was funny? You seldom heard of any group of young people in rural America being seen on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. That included my few friends who shared by protester-dreams as we all knew (in our motley group) that "we" wouldn't be putting Hamilton High School, Hamilton, Alabama, on the map or in the news for marching on our courthouse in the center of town where our "draft board" was located. For the most part, my friends and I were actually fearful of Mrs. Edith Wright, the one, solitary member of the Draft Board of Marion County, Alabama. That's right, folks. Our Draft Board was run by one lady, who didn't like it when on my eighteenth birthday, I climbed those obscure, gray-colored courthouse steel stairs to the second floor where she worked in her office signing boys like my friends and I up for the Draft and soon to be shipped somewhere for basic training in the U.S. Army.
Wright bristled with anger as I asked how I was to answer this actual question from one of the many redundant forms I had to fill-out that traumatic day when I turned eighteen. The question read: Name 7 people who are not family, friends, or neighbors, who will know of your whereabouts at all times. "Mrs. Wright," I said meekly. "Who does that leave? I do not know seven strangers who would even take time to know or care about my whereabouts." She glared. Then flared her nostrils that looked like a fire-breathing dragon's nose and snapped, "Oh, just put somebody down there!" And I did just that. To this day, there are seven strangers, hopefully still alive in Hamilton, Alabama, that I used as my contacts if the U.S. Army wanted to find me.
Even with this Federal Government Department of Defense-approved paperwork snafu, I still wanted to join the ranks of the rebellious, radical and outspoken young men and women who were willing to lay down their school books and pick up a sign that said, "make love, not war," and trod the pavement to get someone in power to listen to reason and stop the "conflict" in Vietnam.
And here, for your approval, are some of the major reasons that I dreamed of being a protester--anti-Vietnam, or any other cause. I just wanted to be a protester.
MARCHING WITH CROWDS looked like "big fun" to me as I watched college students from major colleges, USC, UCLA and The University of Berkeley, march almost daily--holding banners condemning the Vietnam War. They were always smiling and grinning. Must have been like I said, "big fun." And if you lived in Hamilton, Alabama, my hometown, there wasn't any "big fun," "regular fun," or any fun for that matter. The town was owned and ruled by adults.
BURNING MY DRAFT CARD now that was one, sure-fire, convincing reason that I wanted to be a protester. I did, thanks to Mrs. Edith Wright, my Draft Board, receive all of my Federal Government-issued military paperwork including my draft card that I still have today. The instructions said on the card, "keep this card on your person all of the time," well I did for a few years. Now at age 58, it is in a strong box in some closet in my house. I would have been delighted to hold up my draft card as reporters' cameras clicked and set fire to this one-way "ticket to Hades," that the Department of Defense issued to draft registrees.
LISTENING TO AND MEETING FAMOUS SINGERS such as folk music legend, Pete Seeger and Ramblin' Jack Elliott. Not to mention Gracie Slick of the Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe McDonald, who led the famous "gimme an "f" cheer at Woodstock, Arlo Guthrie, son of another folk legend, Woody Guthrie, Jim Morrison of the Doors, and guitar master, Jimi Hendrix. You couldn't beat this "paradise on earth" filled with talent, inspiration and bold music that changed how my friends, those in my small protester wannabe group, chose to think about Vietnam and life itself. And I might have scored a few free LP's in the process.
GETTING AN F.B.I RECORD the hot girls in my class of 1972, in Hamilton High School, loved "bad boys," and their reputations for smoking weed, rebelling against "the man," and tearing-down the establishment. Now in my case, I didn't exist to these brunette and blond goddesses. I just knew that if I could get myself arrested for voicing my dissent against the Vietnam War, I mean, "conflict," these ravishing beauties would literally throw themselves on me. So what if I got an F.B.I. record? Who needed a job in 1971, when you were eighteen, full of life and dreams and hoping to get a car when you graduated high school.
WEARING TIE-DYE CLOTHING this speaks for itself. I loved tie-dye jeans and tee-shirts. I was pretty good at this new-wave art from San Francisco. One summer day during summer vacation from school, I got a pair of my favorite Wrangler jeans, a bottle of mama's Clorox and a few rubber bands I had collected from the floors at school, and set-out to design myself a pair of true tie-dye jeans. I followed the instructions in some radial teen magazine, PARADE or something, and you wouldn't believe the attractive circles and designs that came out on my jeans. And I couldn't believe that I could be so stupid as to say, "mama, look at what I done today," when she came home from work. And couldn't believe that my "saintly" mother could talk with the harshness of a Marine drill instructor to an inductee who had screwed-up.
THROWING ROCKS was a favorite past time of mine. This fit right in with my dream of being a protester. Most anti-war or whatever protesters were protesting a certain event that they didn't like, all threw rocks. At the police. Mostly through the windows of their college office buildings. I thought it to be huge to be able to hurl rocks and hear the sound of windows of my classroom at Hamilton High School smashing to the tile floors. But getting someone to get me out of jail was another thing.
ATTENDING ROCK FESTIVALS such as the Woodstock Music and Art Fair held in August, 1969. Everyone knows that a seasoned-protester who is worth his chant, has to be in attendance at a wild and hairy rock festival that has illegal drugs, fights, and the occasional sliding in mud holes caused by the rainfall. You see. I knew that I had "missed the train," by not getting to attend Woodstock or any rock festival. How I longed to be locked-up with my friends and our photo be seen in our only daily newspaper, The Birmingham News, Birmingham, Alabama.
That dream, like all of my dreams of being a protester went up in smoke. So to speak.
And when the good people of America who had been pushed around by the huge, greedy banks of Wall Street, staged the now-famous "Occupy Wall Street," that was seen almost nightly on the national news networks, I also missed that, my last chance of being a protester.
And honestly. Who, in high places of power, would be alarmed to listen to me, a 58-year old guy, afflicted with two incurable skeletal and muscular diseases, can barely hobble around my house, and not even drive a car.
No one. Oh, how the near-lethal mental attacker, the "What if's" hurt when you get my age.
This hub is lovingly-dedicated to "my group," of protester wannabe's . . .Hardwick Gregg who now sells trail bicycles somewhere in Alabama; the late Al Wynn, a wonderful guy and a natural electric guitar talent; Bobby Johnson, who lives in whatever rehab facility that is nearest him; John Tyra, a successful lawyer in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Vicky Mason and her brother, Boody, two huge anti-war protesters and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young fans and the illusive Mickey Mills, a transfer student who only went to my high school about three months. He was kicked-out for some trouble he and our head football coach, L.E. Fowler had concerning him, Mills, walking on our new gym floor.
"It was a nice ride while it lasted."