Rockin’ For Peace

We got the AARP Bulletin the other day and while normally happy to receive it, I was particularly delighted to see the old photo of John and Yoko during the Bed-In days.  That picture brought back a lot of memories of a time when innocence and wonder-though gravely tarnished through daily exposure to the battlefields of home and “over There”-was still possible…even on the front lines of a movement.

blog post photo

Sky Drum  by  rcw

     My first exposure to the social movement of the ’60s was a combination of absolute curiosity and outrageous good luck…at least to me.  My parents didn’t quite see it that way; ours was one of those Generation Gapped households. Not as bad as some though…we could actually get along if “certain subjects” were not discussed. But the whole Vietnam War, er excuse me….conflict….ummmm…..nope. I was right the first time; if it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck….if you get my drift.
     Anyway…the whole Vietnam War issue was tearing everybody apart. No matter where you were standing – the whole thing was such a breaking point for so many families…including the biggest family here-our nation. But on the local front,  it didn’t take a rocket scientist to sense that Mom and Dad were upset because The Draft was coming after their two coming-of-age sons. Heck, they were my brothers, too.

     Because of them, I started to become involved with the bigger world…I started hanging around one of the local church run Teen Coffee Houses that were operating near where we lived.  These were great places to go on a Friday or Saturday night (there were two in the area) if you didn’t want to hang out at the dance or up by The Tracks. The first one, St. Paul’s, was real folksie; wooden wire spindle tables, barrels, unmatched chairs and at least two sofas. It was low-lit …intimate, with candles, lava lamps and tapestries.  They served tea, sodas and doughnuts for a donation and had a sign up list for performers.

    My brother Jim sang there often…sometimes alone, sometimes with his band…sometimes he and I would do a few numbers together, too.  Heck, we’d been jammin’ since we were wee ones, so it was a natural. We also started going to Folk Club over at the public high school-which became our Alma mater when the Catholic School tuition got to be too much for our brood.   We didn’t travel around together a lot, just often ended up at the same places….weird but okay, ‘cos when the music came up and we were all sitting around adding our bit to the din, something magic happened. I liked being around people older than me…that must have been part of it, too.

    A lot of kids my age were being full fledged teeny boppers, and I’ll admit to a bit of it too. But I wasn’t obsessed, wasn’t going to slit my wrist if Davy Jones didn’t answer my latest tome.  Gawd!  

     Okay…okay, so I did have a PHENOMENAL Beatles collection, complete with original copies of Mersey Beat (!) and all sorts of other things that were given to me by someone who lost interest after being a bonified Beatle Fan Club Member since about day one!  Like many things of my childhood they got lost through the years…all that remains is the vinyl.  
     And of course the Monkees were up there on my list and I have the vinyl (and some neat experiences which I’ll talk about sometime) to prove it.

     But these things were, in the final analysis, just things….even back then-starting at the age of about nine or ten-I understood that there was more to life than things.  There was a world, a nation, a family…and my own intimate circle, being pulled in a million different directions…certainly that counted for more than what Sajid Khan (remember him?) had for breakfast!

     I knew people who went over to Vietnam…some were drafted, some enlisted, all were from around the neighborhood.  Some of them came back, many did not.
     We used to hold parties for the guys at St. Paul’s coffee house…some would go off to boot camp in the morning, others to a more northern climate. We weren’t there to judge which road they took…just to make sure they knew they would be missed, thought about and were loved. I used to sneak sandwiches from the house and bring them over to some of the fellows waiting for their rides to the train station.  They were all young, terribly young-only a few years older than me actually.  Many of them were frightened; some tried to be cavalier and put on a brave face but when they thought nobody was looking they’d talk about how they felt.  Maybe they thought I was too young to understand what they were saying, or that I was just a kid and wouldn’t laugh at them…I don’t know; but many of them opened up and told me what was going on inside. 

    Like many of our generation, I went to sit-ins, marches, moratorium events, rallies and religious services…not in condemnation of the men and women fighting on that foreign soil, but rather to show support and help bring about their safe return home.  Some of the guys made us promise to stand for them while they were in Vietnam or in Canada.  We did.

      Our treatment of the returning vets was an atrocity. The Love Generation was supposed to be about love, not hate…but how some of us treated those returning from the Jolly Green Jungle after putting their very lives on the line was an outrage. Yelling obscenities and accusations at them, shunning them…not hiring them… misplaced anger is the only excuse I can offer. Personally I didn’t participate in it; actually tried to help Vets then and now.

     In my work at the Patients’ Co-Op, we ran into a lot of Vietnam Vets.  PTSD is a major issue with many of them, making it difficult to cope and easy to fall through the cracks. We tried to help them.
     It’s important or vets land somewhere safely, get help with transitioning between life in “the field” and here on the home front…and we as a people need to commit ourselves to insuring our vets what they need.

     The same thoughts apply to service persons in our present day war scenarios. These men and women should be welcomed and treated as the heroes that they are.  Who among us could do what they’ve done…many of them returning to the front lines several times!  They deserve our love and support.

    John and Yoko were very much trying to work for peace, Bigger Picture kind of peace that included not only the War in Vietnam, but on every other venue as well. Their billboard project-War Is Over…If You Want It-was poo pooed at the time as a stupid ruse.  Who knew that they were light years ahead of everybody when they decided to sell the concept of Peace…If You Want It.*LMWn9GToMdpSot-r*bJdnIwFoYPpYmI1537LhPvhovT9dJGiqoZu8XLjPT8PyVzCif4*rbr1IvnS5F2SECLZX2ZG/johnyokowarisover1.jpg

    In their own way they were doing the first Infomercial, between the billboards and the Bed-Ins with the interviews – they were selling the idea of Peace.  Pretty far out for a couple of long-haired weirdoes, eh America?

    Well…I could go on but am starting to wind down…so for tonight, Rock On! 

So for today, Fifty Five is the New Rockin’ For Peace…memories of the old in the light of today.
Maybe someday we can all buy-in on the idea John and Yoko were peddling back then….





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