Kenneth, born and raised in the South, resides in Hamilton, Alabama. He enjoys sharing his unique perspectives on life through his writing.
Oct. 17, 2017
10:34 p.m., CDST.
This narrative is the end result of my spending most of my evening thinking about the Vietnam Conflict and my almost getting to protest in our very first Anti-War Protest.
I drank a pot of coffee.
Frankly, and with no reservations, I was scared. Very scared during the years of 1969 through 1972. For me, these were the scariest, wanning moments of the Vietnam Conflict. I wanted to be correct in writing Conflict because the United States intervention in Vietnam was never a declared war. It should have been. Yes, sir. Anytime, and yes, I am being very stoically rural here, when you have two parties with munitions capable of taking lives and shedding innocent red blood, it is war alright, bunky! War in every respect. We all are also aware of William Tecumseh Sherman's heart-rendering saying:War is Hell, when he ordered Atlanta to be vacated and burned in 1864. I never liked Sherman much less respected him. But as for his War is Hell thing, I will never know. I've never been to war or Hell.
I had two uncles who saw action in two different wars: the Korean Conflict and WWII. Both came back alive and both passed on as heroes. I will never know how that feels: passing on as a hero. Never. I should be shouting for joy and then somedays I should be lobbying Washington to my Congressman, Robert Aderholt to bombard his schedule of meetings to let him know that I, along with a whole lot of my friends in northwest Alabama, are not ready to "put boots" on another foreign land. Oh, now I've went and done it. I bet that to you I sound more like a Dove than a Hawk. Did those terms stir up a lot of you who lived through the Vietnam Protests? Then I shouldn't have to explain. Frankly, America cannot afford another Afghanistan whether it is counted in monetary terms or innocent American lives.
I give you this micro-history lesson. The Vietnam Conflict started November 1, 1955 and ran through April 30, 1975 when Lyndon B. Johnson drew up and had negotiators shop his "Peace With Honor" contingency to the North Vietnam rep's who were meeting with these mouth pieces at the Paris Peace Accords, officially titled the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam, which was a Peace treaty signed on January 27, 1973 to establish peace in Vietnam and end the Vietnam Conflict.
Red tape, mumble, stumble. This is how I, a 17-year-old American male a junior in high school and facing the Draft and hopping on a plane to head to Vietnam which was now, thanks to many of our biggest American-based corporations: DuPont Chemical; BF Goodrich and more who were making lucrative bottom-line evidence to their presence in Vietnam. A lot of Americans, protesters included, all resented both the Fed's and big corporations stretching out the war in order to rake in more cash. I remember clearly when then-host, Tom York, Alabama native and U.N.A. (University of North Alabama, Florence, Ala.) graduate who co-hosted a very popular morning TV talk show: The Morning Show on WBRC, Channel 6, Birmingham, who said in a very vocal tone: "Shoot! The War is good for America. Everyone is profiting by the war. Chrysler is making more tanks as well as cars and DuPont Chemical is manufacturing more defoliant for U.S. troops to clear away the rugged jungles where the Viet Cong loved to hide and then stick them for a bloody ambush."
Part of me wanted to stand up (in my living room) and cheer while another part of me didn't know how or what to feel. Was the Vietnam Conflict for real? Or was it a "real" tryst for our nation and companies to ship thousands of young men to this horror-of-horrors called the Vietnam Conflict to simply justify the millions the U.S. companies had already invested in Vietnam for their own business interests. I'm telling you that for us 17-year-old's, we were a mixed up bunch. Not mixed up on drugs or booze, but not really knowing which side of the line to stand--for Defending our Nation or Peaceful Protesting for America to Stop the War and Bring Home Our Boys.
It was a dilemma for us here, the rural people in my neck of the woods. Sure, I will admit it. Many of us did not know how to think in terms of Vietnam like those of higher education thought. To us where I live, we resembled herds of dumb sheep following every strong, patriotic voice that was the loudest. And there were a lot of those loud-talkers: Jerry Rubin, Abby Hoffman, to name two Anti-War activists. And Nolan Satterwhite, and John Wilson, two of my high school classmates who graduated with me. These two were stubborn enough to stand firm for America's presence in the War. While other "sheep" never got involved verbally or socially.
Not to make light of a heart-serious topic such as the Vietnam Conflict, I had a personal struggle that until now . . .no one has ever known of what I am about to say. I am going to be coarse, honest, and not pulling any targeted punches. There were a big number in my (high school) Class of 1972, Hamilton, Ala., High School, who joined Satterwhite and Wilson in growing more and more determined to make a showing against the Fed's--although they yearned to throw what caution they had to the wind, these friends of mine wanted to stage an Anti-War protest in front of God and everyone on the main street of Hamilton, Alabama. What a sight that would be.
And again, I am still on "my" personal struggle about Vietnam and it was not the Army, the Draft, the blood and gore that some pirated news gangs flew out of Vietnam who filmed (and broadcast) events that prior to the signing of the Peace Agenda, should have never be put on film. One was Lt. William Calley's decision to do away with an entire village of adults, children and even babies. It was CBS News who reluctantly showed the waste of man and material and tried to back-track and be the middle man of Calley's superiors who gave him a set of direct orders to secure (this) objective no matter the cost--and it cost, buddy. It cost more than a few Court Martials. That was only part of my personal struggle about Vietnam.w
Simply put, neither I or anyone of those who were "for" America winning the war, did not really know how to stage a peaceful protest. Our 9th grade History teacher, Mr. Neal Childers, one of the straightest shooters I have ever known, taught us the value of a Peaceful Assembly that was guaranteed in the U.S. Bill of Rights. That was cool. We really didn't want any fist-a-cuff's with any Pro-Vietnam War advocates in Hamilton much less fighting the police officers who might have charged the Anti-War protesters in Chicago when The Democratic Party Convention was held in 1968--with hundreds jailed and a lot of protesters killed by police and a Police Commissioner was killed in the fray.
Don't laugh. I did not have the right clothing to wear in a Peaceful Anti-War Protest. My mom would not let me tie-die any of my blue jeans or red tee-shirts to wear in an event such as what we were planning to do--march silently with arms locked across the street marching in as much rhythm as possible--not saying anything that might antagonize the police of Pro-America fans who were (we assume) going to stand on each side of the street and yell obscene words at us all with the police never lifting a finger to tell them that we were not the problem. And FYI, slandering an innocent, permit-carrying Anti-War protester was and is against the law.
My final reason for not wanting to be a part of our own "Hamilton High School Anti-War Protest," was I was not into fighting with my fists. A few of my buddies lived for the night time. Sitting on their butts on the waxed hoods of their souped-up cars drinking cold suds and using any excuse to either start or finish a good fist fight. And some loved to fight anytime--in school or at anywhere else including the front yards of many residents of Hamilton who had long since retired. The latter group just thrived on violence. It was in their blood. Delinquents, never getting to school on time, and sometimes being arrested by local police and their grieving parents having to throw their bail to take them home.
Then, and even with what little planning we invested in our "Hamilton High Anti-Vietnam War Protest," we hit a snag. Although a small snag, but probably the biggest snag of all: you see? We who were getting excited about our Anti-War Protest, were all 17 years of age, and then it hit us. We were all minors. And the law stated that no minor(s) could participate in any peaceful assembly in a pro or con atmosphere--without strict parental consent.
Can you just imagine us, the brave, the gutsy 17-year-old's who were involved with planning such an important event as our "Hamilton High Anti-Vietnam War Protest" having to bring our parents along to make it all legal? What a laugh. Even the late political satirist, Mort Saul would have gotten plenty of mileage from us, some rural teens of a rural northwest Alabama town, dressed in anti-War clothes--tie dyed jeans and tee shirts, wearing red head bands, marching down main street of Hamilton, Ala., with our parents on the sidewalks fielding ugly words spewed by Pro-Vietnam War advocates would have filmed a 90-minute special for CBS guest starring the Smothers Brothers, who were early pioneers of "Tele-Protesting" against the Vietnam Conflict.
And who would have been our spokesman? A number of those of celebrity status instantly pop to mind--"Capt. Kangaroo," "Bozo, The Clown," . . .nope. Red Skelton. Sensitive, funny, and never too busy to participate in a peaceful demonstration against such a blood happening as the Vietnam Conflict. And besides, who would dare start up something against Red Skelton?
© 2017 Kenneth Avery