When I was in the Army, I was in air defense. We manned the missile sights around the major cities in the U.S. and along the DMZ in Korea; we were in Germany, Greece, Greenland, Japan, lots of places. Our commanders would tell us that even during peacetime, we were in "real-time, all the time", referring to our job of protecting the skies. Sometimes we would be at Defcon 3, a 15 minute state of alert, which meant we had to be able to track and launch a nuke against the enemy within 15 minutes. Sometimes it could get really scary, you never knew when the day would come and a warhead would be detonated, and life would take a new turn for the worse.
Somehow we managed to get through all of that. Vietnam came and went. I remember how it took up so much of everyone's time. I was in the Army, but I was against that war. I marched, went to demonstrations and I felt a certain kinship with those of my generation that were against the war. When the administration started banging the war drums this time, my wife and I thought that our generation, the same generation that stood up to Nixon, the same brave generation that put an end to the Vietnam War, would rise again, and come out of the woodwork, and stand for those principles we stood for thirty years ago.
It didn't happen. I watched as the run up to the invasion started, and then gathered steam. I watched as Colin Powell shilled for his bosses at the U.N. I didn't believe him. I sat on the couch with my wife and gave her a knowing smile as if to say, watch, watch our old comrades stand up and stop this miscarriage of power. They didn't stand up. I watched as Bush spoke to the people and told us, with his right shoulder jutting out in a bully-like stance that Saddam Hussein had but 72 hours to submit. I thought now my generation will stand up and stop this nonsense, I figured that Congress would stand up and call a halt to this game; they never, ever stood up. Nobody stood up.
I couldn't believe it. The war started, and people talked of the war and acted as if we actually had a legitimate reason for starting it. When the tanks rolled towards Baghdad, Americans cheered. It bothered me so much. I have to tell you, I have thought about it everyday since. My wife and I would ask each other what happened to the "flower children" that sang songs and marched for peace? I realized that they had gotten older, and they had cut their hair, and gotten jobs where they couldn't just run out on the street and act up. I realized that all the girls that had the long straight hair, and the flowers tucked into their headbands had become mothers and God-forbid, grandmothers now. I still thought they would show, a little more reserved, but show up, just the same.
They didn't show. A few people were becoming disgruntled as places like Fallujah came to be known. Everyday somebody else would ask a question about why we were there, where were the weapons of mass destruction? After another year, people were getting downright angry about this never-ending war, but it was multi-generational. I thought that when the government started trampling on our rights, and gutting the Constitution, that my generation would lead the charge. They were nowhere to be seen. I was disappointed and disgusted. I thought that they just didn't understand, and that somehow, this President had actually pulled the wool over their eyes.
Now, with the 2006 elections past us, the anger and the disgust of this war, and disgust with this administration is bearing down on this nations psyche. Not from any sense of moral outrage, but because we are losing and spending too much money. The days of seeking justice and understanding, of standing for principles that the older generation "couldn't get" were gone. It's about losing and spending money. There are some people that still have reservations and anger over our liberties being taken away by the neo-conservative right wing, but the ranks aren't noticeably swelled with people of my generation. That retro-revolution that I had pictured in my head never came. The old hippies were just like everyone else. It took untold billions of dollars and over a half million dead Iraqi's and 3,000 dead American kids. It also took God knows how many wounded and maimed, and soldiers mentally twisted like a pretzel, because of the horror that is war.
There was some of my generation that did stand up. It wasn't everyone that sucked the government line like a three year old with a lollipop. Still, it wasn't a fearful roar that I had envisioned. It really bothered me, and it made me angry. I thought of so many reasons why it didn't happen, and today I think I stumbled on to it while thinking about the memorial for those 3,000 heroes that I am going to honor.
No draft. No involvement. No resistance. I didn't worry about the draft when I was protesting and linking arms with my brothers and sisters. But they were. Nobody knew what the future had in store for them when Vietnam was at its peak. If I hadn't seen this retreat from speaking out on Iraq, I wouldn't have believed it. I believed that my generation was somehow better than other generations... more moral. We had stopped the war in Vietnam hadn't we? What a selfless thing to do!
Not so selfless. I have more respect for John Kerry now...today, than I did yesterday. He had finished his tour and was still leading the marches against the war. The Vietnam Vets against the War were against this one too. Where were all the rest of you? I don't really want to believe this, but the word "chicken hawk" comes to mind. You certainly fooled this old hippie, but not now, not anymore. Sometimes reality isn't so sweet.