I was a college student in the early 1970s when the Vietnam War was in full force, as was the resistance against it, especially among people my age. There's a US Army base about 30 minutes from the university I attended, which meant that students and soldiers ran into each other with some frequency.
More often than not, those encounters were less than positive. The students visited their opposition to the war, in insufferably rude ways, upon the people drafted to fight in it. Never mind that the privelege of being in college exempted us, for awhile at least, from mandatory service in those days of the draft.
The soldiers, understandably, did not respond well to such open derision. It was not a proud moment for my generation.
I think about those days now, when our country is again involved in an unpopular war. Despite many opinions about whether the wars of our age are just or necessary, this time we seem generally able to separate our feelings about the war from our feelings about young men and women who are waging it.
At least that's a bit of progress.
My personal behavior back in the day was relatively benign -- singing along to protest songs at coffehouse concerts, mostly. I certainly didn't taunt anyone -- I'm too much of a harmony-seeker for that. But I don't recall standing up for those who were soon to be shipped to a far away place to be shot at or killed. I don't recall even thinking much about what their perspective might have been.
Looking back, I'm shocked at my insensitivity, and I realize that makes me just as culpable as those who were overtly hostile to so many young men who really had no choice in the matter.
So today, I am thinking about those who served - my peers - who fought, who died in that war, while I was free to be bored in geology class and go to Saturday night keggers. I apologize for being a witless snot.
And whatever I think about this war, that war, any war.... I humbly thank anyone who has fought on my behalf so I can sit in my comfortable house and do nothing of remotely similar import.
Experiences and your fear of engagement
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