Memoir of a War Resister—A Novel of the 1960s

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Chapter 15—"Blowing In The Wind"

Nine days later.

BE-IN. Bring your frisbees, bubbles, blankets, chalk, dancing shoes and friends. Music by the Unknowns. Box dinners served by Commons. Saturday, April 13. Sponsored by the Lake Forest College Students Against the War.

By 1:00 the platform was up outside of Commons. We strung cloth banners between trees. One was decorated with flowers and said, “War Is Not Healthy For Children Or Other Living Things.” One said, “Peace” next to a blue and gold peace sign. The third, “Make Love. Not War.” Jake didn’t like that one. He wanted something like, “Don’t Be Guilty Of The Complicity Of Silence.”

By 2:00 the Frisbee game began and across the sidewalk on the green, a softball game. I fell in love with softball on the Lake Forest College green. The green replaced Hixson Lounge and a bat replaced my guitar.

Hook leaned against a tree. “We could use one more in the field,” I called to him. He raised his hook and shook his head. I never thought of Hook as being incapable of doing anything. Most of the time I forgot he had a hook. So he leaned against the tree, the red bandana tied around his head, high fiving everyone who scored.

Blue-jeaned, bleary-eyed folks decorated sidewalks with colored chalk; a hopscotch game, flowers, a sun the entire width of one sidewalk square, peace slogans, peace signs. Soon the entire patio of Commons and all the sidewalks leading up to it from three directions were colored. Bubbles reflected rainbows, the faint scent of marijuana filled the air. Blankets were scattered throughout the lawn.

When the game was over Jake started to talk. “Hello Lake Forest College. Are you having fun?” We cheered. “Much as I like the music, dancing, frisbees and softball, we are here because of a deadly serious war. Every month this war goes by, more than five hundred of our troops lose their lives. And do you know the average age of the U.S. soldiers who die?” Jake paused. There was power in his pauses.

“Twenty years old. Look around. It’s you.” Jake pointed to the crowd. “And you and you and you.” I held Jeff tighter. What if he had to go to Vietnam? What if Marty had to go? What if my brothers had to go?

“Hell No We Won’t Go,” someone yelled from the crowd.

“That’s what I like to hear,” Jake said. “In 1967 more than 10,000 soldiers died in Vietnam. On January 31st, on that one day, more than two hundred and forty soldiers were killed. At that rate, we’ll break the record of deaths this year. Can we accept that from our government?”

In my mind I saw 10,000 black body bags, 10,000 white tags, 10,000 Michaels, Jameses, Andrews and Davids. 10,000 mothers, 10,000 fathers. A million tears.

1-2-3-4 we don’t want your fucking war. The chants started. Jake had us right where he wanted us. Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?

“Let’s end this war. Please sign the petitions circulating. We’re sending them to the President. Every day during lunch we have a table outside the dining room. Come help out. Whatever you do, speak out.”

He left the stage and the chanting increased. God, he was magical. With his passion and our energy we could stop this war. He walked away from the stage with Ginger, his arm draped around her shoulders. She wouldn’t lose him to Vietnam. His CO status assured that.

The band started playing and we danced long into the night. The next day the rain washed away the chalk flowers and rainbows. Only a memory remained.

U.S. Soldier Body Count: 26,133

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