Sunday, June 14, 2009

Weekend Wordsmith - Protest

I was still kind of young during the sixties when thing really heated up in this country about the war in Viet Nam, and the civil rights movement. But thanks to my mother I was allowed to be informed.
In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. did his I had a dream speech in Washington. I suppose that being a third grader I didn't really understand what he meant. But it did make an impact on me.
When MLK marched from Selma to Montgomery, I was in fifth grade. I had a much better understanding. I watched a whole section of the city where I live burn to the ground that year.
My classmates in those turbulent 60's thought I was nuts I am sure. Not many of them new which draft numbers were up. They didn't know from day to day how many causalities there had been in Viet Nam. I doubt if they even know where Viet Nam was.
I tried to talk to them about draft cards being burnt, about American flags being burnt. How both of those were a part of free speech. They didn't understand why I thought it was such a big deal.
I wanted to go to Woodstock in 1969. Unfortunately, I was only in the ninth grade. I listened to war protest music. Country Joe and the Fish, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Pete Seeger, and Peter, Paul, and Mary. I am sure that my classmates were really into the likes of Tommy James and the Shondells.
I remember the 1970 Kent State Massacre. I cried, I swore, I screamed at how unjust it was. I was angry at the police. To this day I have a mistrust of the police. I tried to talk to classmates about all of this and I got a deer in the head light look as a response.
When I was in 9th grade I went to my first anti-war march/protest. I skipped school to go. It was at our state capital. I hitchhiked all the way there. But it was exhilarating. I felt so alive, so empowered. I even told my mom that night what I had done. However, she was not that much in favor of me knowing current events as to participate in them at the expense of school. Lesson learned.
I am proud to say that I have passed on my passion for our rights to my son. He knows my history because I saw no reason to hide it. He protested last year during the NRC. He called me from down there to tell me what he was doing and his reasons for it. It was one of my proudest moments.
There is nothing better than a citizen exercising their rights under our Constitution.

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