An Activist Crazy Hippie Peace Freak
The Future Is Now - Will It Be Peace or War?
Hippie Peace Freaks
We were hippie peace freaks the minute we chanted, "Hell no, we won't go!" Weren't we? We didn't get with the program.
They said we were an insult to their patriotism. True, to their version, we were.
Peace activism has been anathema to the core values of large segments of American culture and enterprise for over fifty years now.
There are good reasons and bad reasons, just as there are good and bad results. I'm a peace activist because, having looked at it objectively as well as humanely, I see our addiction to the juices of the war machine as poisoning American culture.
The machine has to do what it does all of the time, and too often, what it does is act like a schoolyard bully with no one around nearly powerful enough to fight back.
And, no, I am not a pacifist. I just don't believe that, knowing all we know, war continues to be necessary. I also believe that war is more of a horror than most of us ever acknowledge, the details of which we prefer to ignore.
And I believe our soldiers are among the bravest and most idealistic among us, but in recent years especially, I think we haven't respected them enough to guarantee that our causes are worthy.
As a hippie peace freak, I agree with Ely Culbertson:
"God and the politicians willing, the United States can declare peace upon the world, and win it."
That's where I hope we're going, but I figure we're not until we make a lot more noise.
A Hippie Peace Freak in the Years that Followed
Ten years after his hippie friends promised to change the world, Peter McCarthy seemed to be the last one standing - or was he just the last one still in uniform?
The American Economy vs The Peace Freaks
One of the friends I remember most vividly from the 1970s, a time during which I got outside the Sixties Counterculture far enough to get to know a much broader world, was Joe McPartland.
Joe, a generation and a half older than me, was one of several World War II vets I worked with in a Plant Operations department and not a peace activist by any means. He'd learned his general machinist skills in the military and was now struggling in a deteriorating blue collar job market that was worse than average in Buffalo.
A realist who grew up in the Depression, he told me that President Roosevelt got too much credit for ending the Great Depression in America.
"He didn't get us out of it. We still couldn't find jobs right up to the war. World War II ended the Depression."
The truth is that our involvement in World War II took the United States from an emerging, somewhat isolationist economy to an international powerhouse.
Our resources were used to great advantage. And by resources, I mean human resources as well as minerals, water and the other natural resources. A unity of purpose against a powerful enemy advancing from East and West brought Americans together like never before.
It was in many ways the maturing of nation that had always been full of promise that had never quite come fully together.
And Economy Boosted by War
Industry and labor both gained, even though industry gained the most, and women went to work outside the home in large numbers. Children lead vigorous fund drives.
There was a clarity of purpose under Roosevelt's leadership and a sense that all of us were in it together.
True, along racial lines, our country was as segregated as ever. Not until Truman succeeded Roosevelt were our troops integrated, for example, and the ugly remnants of the Old South still retained enough hate to explode in murderous violence in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
But the common belief that a rising tide lifts all boats held true. All of us were better off.Trouble was, our economic uplift was built on a war machine, products and supplies that supported battle.
In my hometown, Binghamton, New York, the local plants for Endicott-Johnson supplied virtually all the footwear for our soldiers.
Things boomed, then started falling apart as the war machine cooled and E-J lost their lock on military procurement.
America was a powerhouse of production, a place where production per capita outstripped the rest of the world by far. We made everything, refrigerators, cars, chemicals and milled grains.
We also made more and more products for war, our economic health becoming increasingly dependent on that sector.
As he left office in 1961, Dwight Eisenhower, a president who'd never have run, let alone been elected, without his record as a war hero, set aside what has become the most memorable section of his Farewell Address to concerns about "the military-industrial complex," a term before that unknown to virtually everyone outside government.
The nation, he warned, was becoming so dependent on it that a permanent state of war might become inevitable.
Little did Eisenhower know or intend that his words would fuel a peace movement and generations of peace activists.
Indeed, business leaders had been talking excitedly about the benefits of such a state of perpetual readiness since the wars of the 1940s and early 1950s threatened to wind down. It wasn't anything they were ashamed enough about to keep their talk in the back room.
Continuing a long tradition, American businessmen argued for the benefits of war. Soon, we had the debacle in Vietnam - and a booming economy.
Peace Is The Way - War Is The Obstacle
It's not just hippie peace freaks. Meditators who dig deep into the transcendental unity of all living things see war is a destructive force and always a killing contest between people who have forgotten they are brothers and sisters.
Mindfulness brings peace instantly, ingrained among us. Distraction brings war.
War As A Way of Thinking
It's a widely accepted lie we tell ourselves that nobody, nobody, not even the generals likes war.
Face it. If that were true, we wouldn't have them.
We have wars because there is a potential for violence within each of us that needs only a stir.
Keep in mind that few of them ever fight themselves. They get others to do it for them.
I've been reading news stories since I ran a delivery route as a kid about horrible acts of violence. A mother kills her children, or a random act ends the lives of strangers. An inevitable part of each story is a quote from a bystander who just can't believe it could happen here, to them, right across the hall, etc.
We like to pretend we don't know the potential for violence and cruelty in each of us when, in context, it tells a wonderful tale about better choices consistently taken by us.
Here's the condensed version.
It isn't easy for us to admit to the capacity for unspeakable horrors in us, but we do know it's there.
A bit of recognition might spur pride in the kindness and empathy we show instead while refusing to let the worst of us see the light of day. It takes a lot to drag it out.
Peace really does prevail almost all the time, for our simplest interactions to the larger stage of world politics.
It's hard then to break it down and make soldiers, and the soldiers themselves must be more than passive followers.
When I was twenty, I was called to appear before my draft board at a time when the Vietnam War raged.
Surrounded at the table by veterans assigned to decide who would go to fight, I was told that, in their time, my antiwar position would have been a stigma on my patriotism, and what would be my solution to the "issues of the day."
Not seeing the connection between World War II and the atrocity in Southeast Asia, I answered, "Which issues?"
"Vietnam," I was told.
"Get out and pay them reparations for what we've done to their country."
A close relative had already been there and came back with this advice: stay the hell out of there.
He'd been on a ship where the main mission was to shell coastal villages north of the demilitarized zone, keeping track of their successes by county how many steeples they knocked down.
Well before the faked Gulf of Tonkin Incident that President Johnson and the Joint Chiefs of Staff used to start a massive, undeclared war, they were trying to provoke a reaction they could call belligerent enough to justify a fight.
From there, the eventually discredited "domino theory" could be trotted out to show how commies were heading straight to the West Coast. The war machine got cranking.
Changed for the Worse by War
My best friend had volunteered, rather than wait for the draft to take him.
Three months out of boot camp, he was sending me letters that bragged about his "confirmed kills" and how many were women and children. A year before, we were riding horses all summer, chasing girls and camping out in the woods.
Boot camp designers had perfected ways of getting young men past any reluctance about killing or being killed themselves.
It started with the public propaganda about patriotism and equating it with an emotional, but ill-defined "freedom," making it socially acceptable, even heroic.
Then, once they had a man's head shaved and put him in a uniform, they began the grim process of teaching him that people in distant countries were not really people at all, but "gooks," which made it much easier to fear and hate them.
In Washington, we've erected a monument to the fifty-thousand American soldiers who lost their lives in Vietnam. It's a heartbreaking sight to see, the pain visible in the expressions visitors.
By contrast, the number of victims in the country we attacked is at least ten times higher and includes many innocents, women, children and the elderly. We barely know about them, proving the propaganda worked.
All that for a war fought under false pretenses, sparked by a phonied up incident.
It takes a lot to get us there, and fortunately, it doesn't happen often.
Peace is our normal state, and if we are going to be bumped off it again, maybe we should demand a higher standard for commitment.
Zinn was a radical academic who was passionate about American values.
Hippie Peace Freaks Versus War Economics
When you get down to the basics, there is nothing inherently wrong with having a war machine, as such, nor is there anything wrong with its consuming so much of our budget.
My concerns and those of many peace activists is simple: we're not using the tool we have to the best effect. We could, if we choose, be the most powerful engine for peace the world ever has or ever will know.
President Obama & War
I had hopes that President Obama, with his charisma and international acceptance, would leverage those factors to bring about what would be a dramatic change in the face we show the world.
I didn't have high hopes because he'd run for the country's highest office apparently unaware that he wasn't qualified by experience and, also, because the subject of the military's growing dominance in our culture never hit the debates by any candidate, pro or con, even though we were fighting two admitted wars and participating in other undisclosed conflicts.
It became apparent that he was cowed by the military and, in spite of his campaign promises and the sentiments of the people who elected him, was not going to substantially change anything.
The war in Afghanistan has won us nothing and threatens to be a permanent drain, and as of this writing, we've not gotten entangled in Syria. Obama has changed nothing, not even philosophically.
The Peace Dilemma
So, as Peace Activists and Peace Freaks, what can we do?
We can vigorously promote an awareness that the energies, inventiveness and passion we devote to the destruction of war can be turned to a more effective result in peace.
The majority of the nations of the world are utterly devoted to this.
That's why, almost ten years ago, we were showered with international empathy after 9/11, but George Bush was barely able to scrape together a symbolic "Coalition of The Willing."
Willing to go to war, most of the world was not.
So, what if we changed course in our cultural challenge to the Arab world and spent the same money on industrial development, education and the arts as we're spending on war?
Our position is based on the illusion that we are threatened by Arabs, Muslims especially. We use religious zealots as an appealing tool in painting a huge section of the planet as a danger.
But are they really? How could they be?
We spend more on our military than the rest of the developed world combined. How is it possible be could be endangered by a largely impoverished Third World?
We're not. What we're really afraid of is their independence, their desire to own their own countries. That threatens American business interests who demand special treatment in selling and special access to resources.
We use our power to deny them the right to their own lands, enabling us to continue to drive gas guzzlers and to pick out wars that keep feeding the economic engines.
But is it really necessary? Would an honestly charitable approach to the Muslim communities in their homelands, based on respect, produce a worse result than endless wars?
Wars brutalize, to some degree, everyone involved in them, including taxpayers who consent to paying the freight in every election.
International brotherhood is an impossibility as long as we always need an enemy to spike our economy.
Always Another Election, a Chance to Make a Difference
Elections are coming up, aren't they? The media feeding frenzy has already started.
If the peace movement can step back from the constant media focus on the noisy lunatic fringe now holding the stage, peace activists still have time to insist on candidates who will talk in something more than soundbites and tell the truth.
Whether you agree with me politically or not, I hope you agree that we need better representatives on all sides. We can't continue to put in office people who seem to come prepaid and hold fast to positions that disregard facts.
I also believe that, if we can do this, we will elect men and women who find peaceful alternatives for spending our immense wealth.
Nobody likes war, right?
If that's true, let's show how American ingenuity can be mobilized to rid ourselves of it.
It's called, euphemistically, "the military-industrial complex," but it really is a business that does nothing but make tools for killing.
Given that we need something as a defense, does it make sense to dedicate 65% of discretionary spending in our national budget?
What would we do without it?
Music Videos for Hippie Peace Freaks - Woodstock and Blind Faith
Hippie peace was all about music for freaks.
© 2011 David Stone