Tin solders and Nixon coming. They were talking about it again this week because of the 40th anniversary. I was just a kid then and haven’t thought about that stuff in long time.
What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground, terrifying.
To me bad guys were some external force, others. Our people, our country, the grown ups, parents & authorities, they were the ones taking care of us, the good guys. But then we heard about bad things in Vietnam, shocking revelations of assaults and killings committed by Americans, not on the bad guys but on women & children. I mean I never even knew what rape was until I heard of our guys doing it to those itty bitty women with those round straw hats you saw on TV, they seemed so vulnerable. And we saw the picture of that burned up little girl, and heard about Mai Lai. You couldn't help but wonder who the bad guys really were. We saw it almost everyday after school, on TV. They were running through jungles, jumping into or out of choppers, shooting dudes and getting shot, blowing junk up and bleeding. I can’t believe they even put that stuff on back then, its nasty shit.
You can see why Bush and his butchers hid the corpses from his disgusting run of wasted life; the bad guys are getting smarter and (is it possible?) worse… How could he do it again? Didn't he see the same stuff we all saw back then? . . . How many more?
Now they were shooting people here, students; kids. The girl in the Detroit riots was like four or five years old, she “accidentally” got shot by a tank, the grown ups said it was an accident. Shut Up. I mean who could believe in 'em after that. Even a child knows that's ludicrous. What kind of drooling idiots would they have to be to think you can blast a building with a tank without collateral damage? Couldn’t they help that little girl? Didn’t they care? We looked at the TV, we saw all that bad stuff and ya know, kids know what’s bad. But I was a kid and they were looking out for me, right? So what am I gonna say? And time goes by, but this time, damn, our guys took out their rifles and deliberately shot at unarmed citizens, our people, students. Ready . . . aim . . . four dead in Ohio.
I felt vulnerable and frightened, mostly the grown ups around me were saying stuff like "good riddance", or, "I say line 'em up and shoot em all", shoulda been done long ago . . .
Of course what's really scary is that the solders weren't much different than the kids on the other end of the guns, but you couldn’t tell on TV, why did they do it? We saw scary looking men, monsters in gruesome masks spewing death. Almost a decade later when I saw Bakshi's Wizards I knew where the inspiration for his mutant storm troopers came from. My little kid’s minds eye had seen those same guys, not as individuals but manifestations of my increasingly dark image of the masters of the universe.
It was like I was suddenly and rudely woken, it dawned on me I was unprotected. The authorities, the grown ups, I knew they expected me be like them, "what do you want to be when you grow up kid"? But I mean how could they be like them? I couldn’t be like them, I was becoming afraid of them. Were they even seeing the same things I was? "Shoot them all"? They were students, like me, those kids were going to school for crisssakes. They were killed because they were against killing, some of ‘em were just walking to class. Gotta get down to it, solders are cutting us down.
I was already afraid of going to the war. Not like cowardice precisely, sure I didn’t want to die but more, I didn’t want to kill. So I’d have to choose, the good guys or the bad guys and decide who was who. It wasn’t far from Flint to Canada, you could be there in like an hour and people went back and forth all the time with no passport. I knew they liked Americans then and gave draft resisters sanctuary, and I knew I'd never register. Any Selective Service obligation for me would be several years off but it didn’t seem like they war was ever gonna end. How can you run when you know?
That’s why they were marching I knew, the war was getting bigger, longer. It seemed pretty clear, the people with the flowers in their hair and the beads, the gentle ones, they were the good guys. War is bad and they wanted to end one I had no intention of participating in, they had neato signs that said peaches, love and free granola, or whatever. Obviously the cats with the scary masks and guns were the bad guys; they were the others, the ones shooting us. After that I rapidly developed a political awareness. I wasn’t radicalized but I was changed. We’re finally on our own . . .
The seeds of the worldview that shaped me were sown that summer when I stopped trusting authority. As it turned out I didn’t have to choose at all, I just knew which side I was on.