Thursday, August 13, 2009

Woodstock Revisited

"I'm goin' down to Yasgur's farm
Gonna join in a rock 'n' roll band
Got to get back to the land
And set my soul free."

Joni Mitchell

The Woodstock Festival did not take place in Woodstock, New York but in the town of Bethel which is sixty-seven miles due west. The second day of that mythic, three-day concert coincided with my eleventh birthday (I am going to be fifty-one on Sunday. Yikes! Where did the time go?). I remember quite clearly my friend Tom Finkle and I riding our bikes up to the bridge on South Street that overlooks Route 17 - a four lane highway which snakes its way into Sullivan County where the great event took place. It looked like a long and narrow parking lot. The New York State Thruway had been shut down. To the best of my knowledge, that had never happened before and has not happened since.

To say that it was an exciting time to be alive almost sounds redundant. Less than four weeks earlier, two human beings had walked on the surface of the moon, a technological feat that will probably outshine every other event of the twentieth century in the history books that will be written a thousand years from now. As future decades unwind, it is a certainty that the photographic image of half a million kids, partying and dancing in the mud, will not continue to sustain the cultural significance that it does for us today. The years will pass by, the people who were lucky enough to be there will one day be no more, and the Woodstock Festival will be erased from living memory; a mere footnote to a very crowded century. But what a freaking party, baby!

This weekend I'll be listening to my copy of the Woodstock Soundtrack LP - on vinyl, of course. The very thought of listening to it on a compact disc seems somehow sacrilegious. Although I could have done without Sha-Na-Na's version of At The Hop, all in all it's a pretty good collection of tunes. I have always envied my cousin, the noted falconer Tom Cullen, who was a witness to Jimi Hendrix's rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Can you imagine? Canned Heat's performance of Going Up The Country is one of the great moments in rock history; and for the last forty years, whenever I heard Joan Baez singing Joe Hill, I have had to pause whatever I was doing at the moment and concentrate on it - It is one of the most moving pieces ever recorded on tape.
From San Diego up to Maine
In every mine and mill
Where working men defend their rights
It's there you'll find Joe Hill
It's there you'll find Joe Hill....

Here is a little bit of historical trivia for you: Joe Hill was Edward R. Murrow's favorite song. Bless him, I'm not surprised by that!

"If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution."

Emma Goldman 1869-1940

I often wonder what Lady Emma might have thought about the so-called "sixties revolution". There certainly was a lot to dance to, that's for sure. But in the final analysis, I imagine she might have been just a bit disappointed with the Woodstock Generation. To be honest with you, I have always been a bit cynical on the subject of the Baby Boomers. The dirty little secret that no one (as far as I know) has yet dared to write about is that the youth revolt of the 1960s was born of out of the fact that the sons-of-privilege believed that the Vietnam War should have been fought by everyone and anyone but themselves

Two years after Lyndon Johnson escalated the war with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the overwhelming majority of American college students were indifferent to what was going on in Vietnam - if they were aware of it at all. Credit belongs to visionaries like the Trappist Monk Thomas Merton, who condemned American involvement in South East Asia as far back as the Eisenhower administration. In 1959 Merton was - as he would remain throughout his life - one of the small numbers of voices-of-reason in a military-obsessed wilderness. The only thing his abhorrence of war ever got him was an FBI file.

As today, there was a noticeable class division in the young men who were fighting and dying - and not fighting and dying - in Vietnam. President Johnson, to his credit, believed that the sons-of-bankers had the same obligation as the sons-of-butchers. It was only when he ended the college deferments that the country exploded and the anti-war movement began to flourish. Can you ponder what might have happened if this situation existed today? The war against Iraq would not have lasted a day.

There were a few ways to avoid fighting in Vietnam without going to prison as a draft evader. If you were lucky enough to be the half-witted son of a certain congressman from Texas named Bush, you got a much-sought-after placement in an elite National Guard unit - despite your utter lack of qualifications. If in the course of your "service" you decided to go AWOL - no problemo! Some people were a little more politically connected than others, you know what I mean?

Many of the upper class young men who partook in "the revolution" of the 1960s did so only because they believed in their hearts something that only a few of them have admitted to date: that fighting the war in Vietnam - or any war for that matter - was beneath them. Leave that nasty little chore to the minorities and the poor white guys.

When the nightmare that was Vietnam finally ended in the Spring of 1975; when the draft was abolished and they were out of danger - the scenario would be drastically altered as you can imagine. The peace sign would eventually give way to the dollar sign; marijuana was overtaken by the three-martini lunch. Uber radical Jerry Rubin would end his life working for Wall Street.

Many of the guys you can see in the film, Woodstock - smoking dope under the stars, dancing in a torrential downpour, and grooving to The Who - would end up as prostitutes for Corporate America - buying BMWs and voting for Ronald Reagan. The mantle of "Peace and Love" was, I believe, merely a convenient front. As balding, middle-aged men, most of them would gleefully support their nation's illegal invasion of Iraq a generation later. By that time, these assholes weren't the ones who would have to do the fighting and dying.

I'm not trying to say that they were wrong not to support American involvement in Vietnam. They were absolutely correct. If only they had shown a little more consistency. They - WE - are the phoniest, most hypocritical generation in the history of the world.

But, damn! Their music was good!

The last time I looked at my videocassette of Woodstock (which was well over a decade ago) I wondered about the fates of the half-a-million gathered on the fields of Max Yasgur's farm in Sullivan County on that distant weekend. The passage of four decades decrees that a third or more of them have passed on. The average age of the attendees was about twenty-two. Today would find them approaching their mid-sixties; the age many of their grandparents were in 1969!

To be sure, some of them were sincere in their desire to make the world a better place for all. There are many good people of that generation who have kept the spirit of the sixties alive - or have tried to anyway. America is not the same country it was forty years ago. 2009 finds us even more polarized than we were during the age of Richard Nixon.

It is no longer merely a "generation gap" that is tearing America apart. The gaps today are almost too numerous to catalog: the political gap; the health insurance gap; the employment gap; the racial gap; the education gap; the class and income gaps. The world is a lot more troubled and sadder than it was in that long ago, magical summer of 1969. Sometimes I feel like a hostage to time. The truth is, for all the technological wonders of the twenty-first century, I just don't like being here.

NOTE TO MY FRIENDS: No, I'm not going to kill myself. Chill.

Where I come from, Woodstock has a special meaning to people because it happened here - or close enough to count. From where I now sit, Bethel is a mere forty-two miles northwest. According to this morning's local paper, seventy-five media outlets from all over the world will be covering the events commemorating the anniversary this weekend. That's enough of a reason for me to stay the hell away. I'm not as crowd-friendly as I once was. Besides, I would have preferred to attend the real thing forty years ago. That would have been too cool for words!

Nostalgia is a permanent human condition. Each generation is nostalgic for the last. It absolutely boggles the mind to think that the year 2049 will find those of us who survive looking back on these hideous times with tender longing. Given our silly human quirks, that will probably be the case. Still, it's hard not to reflect on the hope that was prevalent in the summer of Woodstock. We want to believe that there is a magical future where, as John Lennon once imagined, there are no countries; nothing to kill or die for. Maybe we will one day arrive at that wondrous place.


We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion-year-old carbon
And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden....

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Suggested viewing or listening:

WOODSTOCK - the film or the album, man!


At 11:49 AM, Anonymous sharon in nh said...

I was 18 in 1969, old enough to know what was going on, but too wrapped up in myself to really pay attention. I wasn't subject to the draft, but if I had been, my draft number on 12/1/1969 would have been 215, so I would have been pretty safe. All by way of saying that I felt helpless to do anything in 1969--I grew up in Texas, which was a far more conservative place than it is even now, and all I could think about was getting out, which I did. I often regret missing out on some of the most important issues of my lifetime, and that's what makes it doubly frustrating now, to watch the same patterns of military and corporate power playing themselves out yet again, as if We The People have not learned anything at all.

At 12:06 PM, Blogger Ellis D., Esq. said...

Tom, though I was only 12 yrs. old in 1969 I never got the impression that the " privileged " were not against war but only against their forced participation in war. I might have been one of the younger hippies back then but I thought ALL war was wrong and unnecessary. Humans are intelligent enough to settle their differences PEACEFULLY and CIVILLY. Maybe it was only the enlightened hippies that possessed this intelligence ?? My biggest beef about our generation is just as you mentioned......the SELL OUTS who became one of them. Well you losers, look at the mess we are in as a result of your abandoning " the bus ". Had you stayed the course, we might have a much better world today... BUT NO you took your little piece of the pie and copped out on the real values we knew were right. In this sense Tom is totally right....our generation fumbled the ball and let the opponents run it back for a touchdown. What a blown opportunity to change the world. We are going to Bethel on Saturday to enjoy some great music and rally the troops. This ain't over yet...........

At 8:40 PM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Tom, being of the same generation and in high school at the time, and not living forty-two miles away as you, I didn't have the opportunity to attend. As reminisced by Jeanne McManus in this morning's Washington Post, our generation was there for some time after. We all may not have physically been in Bethel on August 15th in 1969, but "...pieces of Woodstock's own crazy world broke off and spun their way into a larger world, especially the one in which I dutifully participated; for about 10 years after Woodstock, its atmospherics were infectious." It was a time of great hope, not only in ourselves but also our country's future. We were upending the hold of the establishment, and the establishment was listening. It was a great time to be young. The pursuit of truth, and equality for all, seemed unstoppable.

Something changed in later years. I'm not sure whether it was the trauma of the assassinations and war in the '60s, or the disillusionment of a president leaving office in disgrace in the early '70s, or all of the above...or none. There's no denying the fact that the Boomer generation betrayed itself. It became self-indulgent and hooked on the '80's prevailing falsehoods of free markets, trickle-down economics, and unwarranted prestige. It became spiritually empty and has since attempted to fill the void through evangelical Christian communities that play on its worst fears. It succumbed to the lure of the almighty dollar, and birthed and raised a generation of malcontents and misfits. We belong to the generation that started out with high hopes. Our legacy may end being the torch-bearers of economic ruin.

By the way, I have the album sitting on the shelf next to me. The cover's a little tattered and worn (like me!), but the vinyl inside sounds as beautiful as the day I bought it.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

At 10:15 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Great posting, Mr. Frank! I, too, shall be listening to my copy of Woodstock this weekend.



Tom Degan

At 12:54 AM, Blogger Dearest Friend said...

Okay - I admit to being way too young for this one - being 5 years and well, 8 days younger then you but I do remember those days, of course. The hippie who lived with his lady just up the street from us who Mom under her breath told us NOT to talk to the first time she saw him. I couldn't understand why then...and I'm still not sure now!

I have no idea if he went to Woodstock or any of that but it wouldn't surprise me! He was the classic hippie.

After a while, she realized like I had before that that he was one of th best neighbors we had...also the coolest - hey! He had a green VW Beetle, "long beautiful hair,"
fringed suede boots and well, he was just cool. On clear days, he was usually outside either working in his garden or washing the VW. Perfectly harmless...always asked me how I was and actually listened when I told him. A lot of adults dont' REALLY listen to 5 year olds!

On the other side of the coin, one of my favorite people in life is the guy I call "my fake cousin" Frank...he came home from Vietnam that summer. A medic...saw it all...and then some. He's never talked about his experiences much but I know he's proud to have served but at the same time, there's something haunted about the boy that went away and the man that came back. I give him a big hug and a thank you every time I see him. He must've saved many lives over there...I have no idea.

Didn't know much about what was going on - but I knew my Aunt Helen cried when he left...and cried when he came home all in one piece. I remember running up to my room, slamming the door and crying my eyes out the day he left! All I knew about Vietnam at that time was that young man went and died there! My kindergarten classmate's brother died there so it just made sense that Frank wasn't coming home either. Thankfully, he did...

I will celebrate by singing along with CSNY this weekend and playing the 60s songs I love so much even if I was born a little late!

"The New York Thruway is closed,man, can you dig that?"

Yes, yes, I can...

At 2:30 PM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

By the way, today (August 14th) is the 68th birthday of David Crosby. He was really just a kid that weekend. A scared kid, who as a member of CSN/CSN&Y, came to personify Woodstock. Grace Slick, who was there with Jefferson Airplane that weekend, said "They represented the Woodstock sound, whatever that was or is."

I wholeheartedly agree.

At 11:33 AM, Anonymous Luis Hipolito @ The Blogger said...

Hello Tom!

I am a brazilian blogger and I publish The Blogger (english,spanish,french and italian).

You did an excellent comments on my blog.

I am happy to know someone who participated in Woodstock Festival.

The world has changed much but the festival will always be remembered with a symbol of hope in a better world.


At 11:43 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Thank you for the kink words, Luis! I came across your site quite by accident accident and I couldn't resist posting.

A happy accident indeed!

All the best,

Tom Degan

At 12:02 PM, Blogger antoine de cicereux said...

Hi, Tom. I responded to your comment on the article I posted on Suzie-Q.

I'm going to change the title to We are Golden, We are Stardust, with the real location, date etc., as a subtitle.

BTW, may I post your comments as an article on Suzie-Q, acknowledged of course and linked to "The Rant"?

At 12:04 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...


I would be very honored.

Thank you so much!

All the best,

Tom Degan

At 12:44 PM, Anonymous Sharon/Baby Boomer Queen said...

Hello Tom...

Thank you for leaving your post on BBAC. I truly enjoyed it.

I was working and saving money to go to college and even if I wasn't...the chances of my parents letting me go to Woodstock would have been about the same as them allowing me to go to a prostitutes convention in Las Vegas...

Nothing against the working girls. Just an example of a possibility of me getting to go.

I wish you didn't have your own blogs to worry about, as I would love to have you as a guest writer on BBAC.

I have book marked your page and hope I have the time to return again soon.

You are a great writer and an enjoyable read. See ya' in the funny papers...

Southern smiles and world peace,
~The Baby Boomer Queen~

At 1:19 PM, Blogger Joyce said...

Enjoyed reading your Woodstock Revisited and thanks for visiting my blog. Going back to read more of your blog.

At 4:06 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Dear Joyce,

'Twas a pleasure. Your blog is excellent!

All the best,

Tom Degan

At 9:13 PM, Anonymous Maontin Man said...

I find it curious that you feel we are more polarized today than in 1969. Here I go, I will polarize this blog.

I was old enough to have been at Bethel, but was not close enough to that part of the culture, having finished my stint at an ivy league prep school, finishing high school at the government school at home. However, my intent is to remain with the foundational ideas expressed by the "hippies" of 1969 - to my way of thinking.

I agree with you regarding our country today in that it does not seem to be making a good memory for us. However, my concern with today is that we are not polarized enough. We are all too much alike to see the value of diversity, we are all conformed to one image - again, as you said, it is all about the almighty. The almighty price, the almighty dollar. None of us gives a flying f*** about any issues today, much less our neighbors in this land - we can pay less money purchasing things from a country with a cold war government, because of the almighty price issue, rather than a concern or ability to put our neighbors in this country to work making things in USA. And then, we have the almighty dollar to worship also. We want more money for all our excessives, ignoring the reality that when we put our self interests above the interests of the people with whom we live and work we break this potential cohesive union to pieces. Where is the Thomas Paine of today's country? Where is the minutemen of today's country? These guys all worked in a manner that was fundamentally polarizing, not uniformitarian - but we love to hear their story on July 4 each year.

One of your next blogs ought to address the issues of diversity and uniformity. I offer another polarizing idea in a realm in which we are uniform: We don't need federalized health care, we need an explosion of the concepts of insurance - then prices (again the almighty that we each worship these days) might achieve a level that would annihilate the need for any federal intrusion. Additionally, where is the basis for federal involvement in this type of enterprise? - there are foundational documents that should rule, or are we NOT a nation of laws? Back to you, Tom... this is my first time at your blog, I enjoyed reading about Bethel, 1969.

At 2:24 PM, Blogger PetitPoix said...

Have you ever had long hair Tom? By the way, happy birthday. Hope I´m not too late.

At 5:50 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

"A revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having." - V For Vendetta

Thanks for the reminiscence of Woodstock, Tom. I'll be linking to this in my blog roundup later tonight. I was 10 years old, myself (happy birthday, btw) and I don't have any direct recollections of Woodstock or Stonewall. In fact, my only recollection of 1969 is the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

For me, one of the best moments of Woodstock, aside from, of course, my man Jimi's set, was Alvin Lee and Ten Years After tearing up Max's farm with that sweet 10 minute rendition of "I'm Goin' Home". I played it for my fiancee on Youtube this morning (yeah, I know that's a sacrilege but my fucking ex stepson stole and fenced every record in my collection, including both my Woodstock albums).

At 7:53 AM, Blogger Jeanne said...

I loved your post
Thanks for your visit


At 1:22 PM, Blogger antoine de cicereux said...

Hi Tom!

One of the contributors to Suzie-Q has written an article very critical of your statement that the sons of the priviledged were not against the war but against their involvement in it.

I think you need to read it and deal with some of the points raised.

At 2:06 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Thank you Antoine...

I went there and left a comment in defense of what I wrote. Thanks for the tip!

All the best,

Tom Degan

At 2:14 PM, Blogger DrBOP said...

Made it to most of the Sixties festivals, but missed Woodstock for a reason that some of your readers may have shared...all the posters west of the Miss River had a black and white drawing of a long-haired hippy with a forest trail behind him, with the wording very small and indistinct..leaving many of my West coastfriends and myself dismissing it as just another "Jesus Freak" meeting someplace in the boonies...and by the time we got the real message on the Thursday before the show it was too late to mount a road trip! Not quite as bad as missing Hendrix at Monterey because Otis Redding had blown us totally away, and the crowd was starting to get a bit rangy...Ahhhh, the Sixties, flyin' on a wing and a prayer!!!

At 5:05 PM, Anonymous Rady said...

tommy, can you hear me?

I must've piqued you... all this great stuff and no more on coto2

my memory from post-woodstock is the song...

And it's 1, 2, 3 what're we fighting for?

Don't ask me cuz I don't give a damn

Next stop is Viet Nam

At 10:00 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Hi, folks....

I just received this e-mail from Mary Rose Weckerle. Very timely:

Hi Tom-
Just read your page on the Bethel celebration.
sorry I have forgotten my blogger user name,etc .. thought I'd just send mail.

Yes- I was there in '69......and last weekend my DH consented to driving 10 hours from MI so I could have my nostalgic fix. I am SO glad to have been there then and last weekend. I wanted to invite you to join us- but we didn't finally decide to go until the Tues prior.
Just wanted to say what the Difference is/was. In 1969 any alcohol that made it to the farm was gone by the end of day one. Ergo- NO alcohol for the rest of the weekend: no fights, no rapes, no theft, no violence. Lots of Sharing.
No Alcohol= No "altamont".
In 2009- most of the younger crowd was so drunk it was absolutely "mind blowing".
And then they were all going to drive back to mostly NY,PA and NJ. We saw one plate from Ontario. "Borrowing " an unoccupied lawn chair from a couple of youngsters seemed to have been a large faux pas to these people. Oh- excuse me.
Don't get me wrong- I was happy to see the elders, such as ourselves. having a wonderful time- but the revelation, to me, was the absence/presence of booze.
You have my permission to share this insight, with
acknowledgment, as I believe it is crucial to the story.
Thanks- oh- and witnessing the traffic on 17 B in '69 put you at the scene,too.

Mary Rose

At 7:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the word on the street is your gay

At 7:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are a flamer

At 7:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are a homosexual gay little turd

At 7:31 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Again, let me lend you a hand on your atrocious grammar:

"the word on the street is your gay".

The correct spelling should be:

"The word on the street is that you're gay".

Thanks again for your enlightened discourse. You're the gift that keeps giving.


Tom Degan

At 10:02 AM, Blogger Ellis D., Esq. said...

We were at the " event " in Bethel also. I wasn't there in 1969 but have heard stories through the yrs. and saw the movie in 1974 while on acid. Mary Rose is right about the crowd. Alcohol was the predominate drug and there was pathetically little illegal drug use, which to me personally was disappointing to see. On the West Coast old hippies still get this event not much pot smoking at all !! I thought the crowd was quite lame which of course doesn't help the music any. As for young people driving home drunk......that's what happens when there is no overnight camping and people are forced to leave the venue. All in all we had a great time but it was a totally commercial scene with very little if any social consequence. Gimme an " F " !!!

At 1:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

F !

At 5:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Ellis,

yes. One thing I was hoping for and felt was worth the
trip: the reading of the VN, Gulf, Iraq, Afghan war dead from Sullivan county-

I wish Country Joe had included the whole State of New York- that would have included the many who attended Woodstock '69.

This audience needed a Bigger Reminder of why we were all there
in the first place. Peace.

At 7:58 AM, Blogger W.D. Shirley said...

I was in Haight Ashbury that summer and a friend of mine invited me along for a road trip to upstate New York where there was going to be a 3 day rock concert. I elected to stay where things were "happening", in part to avoid the risks involved in taking to the road in a VW van painted with flowers and slogans and filled with long haired hippy weirdos. I had just had a trooper lay a sawed off shotgun across the top of his patrol car door and tell me he was going to blow my fucking head off. So, no, I had no interest in driving through redneck country with a bunch of hippies, just to see a rock concert. Instead I got to see a riot in Berkeley, breathe tear and pepper gas, and watch four cops kicking the snot out of an old priest for the crime of allowing hippies sanctuary in his church.

At 1:47 AM, Anonymous Nancy Schimmel said...

My memories are of the West Coast sixties: the Be-In at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, dances at the Fillmore, the Diggers, the peace marches. I've blogged about it beginning at
I and most of my friends were, as they say now "Already against the next war" and still are.

At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hay Tom go jump in the lake

At 8:37 AM, Anonymous Ken Mynatt said...

You know Tom they are doing wonderful things in mental institutions these days. I could set up a meet and greet for you. Or maybe you could start breaking your prozacs in half. So unfortunate you were able to dodge serving in the Vietnam War. Had you served you might have become a self respecting individual instead of the ignorant, weak, and factually challeged jack ass you've become. I truly feel sorry for you. How many times a day does your inner voice try to get you to kill yourself? I'm sure it's hard to win those internal battles day after day. To quote a song from your generation "Don't fear the reaper" because suicide is painless.

At 8:45 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Dear Ken,

Thank you for your contribution to "The Rant". I've always been a firm believer in the thought that vigorous, healthy debate is what makes living in a free society such a....wait a minute....ignorant, weak, and factually challenged jack ass???...WHY YOU....


Tom Degan

At 1:41 AM, Blogger Bruce said...

Funny. Someone who was not there so vitriolically expressing his abject disappointment with those who were. We were not there to change the world. We were there to listen to music, smoke some pot, do the green and blue and brown acid, the mescaline, listen to the music, and say we didn't want to fight a war. Did we want other people to fight the war for us? Hold it. Read my lips. We didn't want to fight the war. We were simple. We were young. We were naive. But we were certain. We did not want to fight no damn war, and when Country Joe said if we don't want to fight the fuicking war we got to sing louder, then we sang louder.
And what is the idea that somehow everything has to change in a generation. This was the first generation to seriously - as children of the middle and upper classes - take to the streets to oppose war. Did you see that in the Civil War. Did you see that in the War of the Roses? Did you see that in the Trojan War? And that ethic has been maintained. Everuyone assumes it is just natural and cool to oppose and march to oppose the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars - it is now, but it was not before 1969....
Don't put the need to alter the nature of humanity on a single generation. But by the same token admit when a generation has taken a step - small though it may be - in the right direction. I grew up in the fifties. Throwing litter out the window, spewing crap from industrial factories, both parents massive smokers, America kicking out the jams and screw the world. That was only fifty years ago. And the sixties began to change it. It is continuing to change.

Embrace the direction. Don't shoot the messengers....


At 7:24 PM, Blogger The New York Crank said...

I was 29 in 1969, and safe from the draft by virtue of having done national guard duty. All the same, I and many friends in similar positions hated and protested the war. Mind you, I do not believe all wars are bad. What would you have done, for example, as Hitler swept across Europe? But I certainly feel the Viet Nam War was a bad war conducted for no coherent reason. Except maybe to try to reassure General DeGaulle that we'd keep his former French colony from going over to the communists while he wasted his own nation's blood and treasure in Algeria.

Our participation in the Viet Nam war, I suspect, mostly grew out of the conviction of some pig headed, then-middle-aged men that Communism was a monolith, and that Viet Nam was the next domino in a row that would eventually bring down Australia if we didn't stop it in its tracks.

In fact, Viet Nam and China have no love for one another. Viet Nam, whether communist, capitalist, democratic, or a monarchy was a buffer against Chinese expansionism. Moreover, our intervention in that area provoked resentment among most of the Vietnamese. Just as you might be resentful if Russia, or China, or anybody else invaded the United States to side with the Republicans against the Democrats or vice-versa. But all that was too complicated a thought for some of the dummies in government, who saw only two colors, black and white.

Come to think of it, Iraq, too, was a buffer — against Iran. Yes, Saddam Hussein was a shit, but he was a useful shit. So we hanged him. Trust the United States never to learn from history.

Peace, love and crankiness,
The New York Crank


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