Noilly Prattle: Looking Back: 25 – * “...a nation at war with itself”

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Looking Back: 25 – * “...a nation at war with itself”

     Neither MB nor I had enough credits to graduate at the end of the Spring term in May 1969. We both had to take some summer courses to earn 120 credits to graduate, so we extended the lease on our apartment to the end of summer. We were out riding on M's motorcycle one day in the early summer and, unfortunately, I was not an experienced rider in those days. I was riding pinion when we leaned into a curve in the road and I (feeling that we were going to topple over) leaned in the opposite direction. Since I was heavier than M, he was unable to compensate for my weight and couldn't negotiate the curve thanks to my stupidity and we flew off the road. I went flying about 10 feet through the air, landed on my right side and broke my right wrist and arm. M broke his collarbone. To my shamefaced relief, M was unbelievably generous and forgiving as we rode in an ambulance to the hospital. His motorcycle, miraculously, wasn't badly damaged. It was comical how we managed to get to classes in my VW for a while. I could steer the car but couldn't shift with my right arm and wrist in a cast and sling. M's collarbone was broken on the right side, but he could shift with his left hand while I manipulated the clutch and accelerator. We got pretty well coordinated in a very short time and we both learned to write with our left hands.

original poster for the
Woodstock Music Festival
the scene at Woodstock
       It was in August of that memorable summer of 1969 that the Woodstock Festival was held, famously, in a dairy farmer's pasture in Bethel, in upstate New York. Woodstock was the defining moment of the counterculture revolution in 1960s America. All of the best aspects of the movement came together at Woodstock, especially its emphasis on community, opposition to the Vietnam War and its ideology of peace and love and good music and dope. The festival is, of course, legendary for living up to its ideals. M, being more attuned to the hippie movement, went to Bethel with some other friends and attended the festival. Neither I nor my other friends did, we went to the beach in Rockport instead. Hearing from M about the weather and mud conditions that actually occurred at the festival we were rather glad that we hadn't gone. (That was before it had become legendary, of course.)

       In May 1970, the turmoil over the Vietnam War and the recent political assassinations came to a head in Ohio at Kent State University. As a result of the killing of four and wounding of nine other students on the Kent State campus by the Ohio National Guard rioting broke on campuses all over the country and spread to the capitol in Washington DC. President Nixon was taken to Camp David for his safety.  * “The 82nd Airborne was in the basement of the executive office building, […] they're lying on the floor leaning on their packs and their helmets and their cartridge belts and their rifles cocked and you're thinking, 'This can't be the United States of America. This is not the greatest free democracy in the world. This is a nation at war with itself.'” 

       Can a nation so divided against itself stand as a free and open society, I wondered?

* Counsel to the President, Charles Colson.

To be continued...

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