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

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Chapter 33—"Masters Of War"

My junior year began. I was assistant editor for the school paper and reported on anti-war events on campus. In addition, I edited articles, did lay-outs, and got the paper ready for printing each week. My life elevated and the war escalated. America the land of the free and the home of the brave continued to be the home of the grave.

Two hundred blue buttons saying “Work for Peace, October 15th” pinned to two hundred students and faculty filled the greyhound buses chartered to take us into Chicago for the October Moratorium. A nationwide protest demanding an end to the war. Hundreds of college campuses, churches, stores, restaurants, and businesses closed down for the day. By now more than fifty percent of the American people felt that the war was wrong. We had that power on our side. That’s all we had.

Marty stood in the front of the bus with the megaphone. “We’ve had enough of this war. We will not be silent.”

He continued. “Last night Nixon said he wasn’t going to be the first American President to lose a war. We already lost this war. More than 40,000 American soldiers dead. 50,000 South Vietnamese soldiers dead. A half million Viet Cong and North Vietnamese dead. More than 150,000 civilians dead. We destroyed rice fields and displaced millions of Vietnamese people. Nixon said it doesn’t matter what we do today, it wouldn’t affect him and his decision. Today we are telling Nixon that it matters. We will keep coming back until he listens. We have the power. Let’s end this war.”

I thought about what it meant to claim victory in this war. What is it that you win? Just what will you do when the victory bell tolls? Just what will you do when they turn out the lights?

Our college administration was sympathetic. “For the day of October 15, classes will be cancelled at Lake Forest College to allow students to express their concern about American involvement in Vietnam.”

We marched arm in arm. Ginger, Jake, Marty, Peter, Rick, me, 99,994 more protesting an illegal police action that the government refused to declare a war. Peace existed in Chicago that day. When one hundred doves found their way to freedom above the Civic Center, past the Picasso statue, the voices of 100,000 gave conviction that we would have peace if we yelled loud enough. What do we want? Peace. When do we want it? Now.

In Los Angeles. Denver. Boston. Milwaukee. Dallas. New York. Seattle. San Francisco. In front of the White House. Nixon didn’t listen. He hid away at Camp David plotting the seeds of his own destruction.

That night Abbie Hoffman spoke in Commons. Abbie was the voice of a disillusioned generation, arrested with seven others at the 1968 Democratic National Convention for conspiring to cross state lines and incite riot. One of the eight demanded a separate trial and Abbie became part of the Chicago 7. They were still waiting for the trial to begin.

He spoke that night of war, peace, the convention, the trial. “I’m not worried about Chicago at all. I never worry. Only mothers worry. We feel that there is a great conspiracy to try and put a few of us in prison for ten years in order to set an example to the protest movement in this country. It’s an absolute ridiculous strategy as they’ll see in Chicago. We’ve heard from at least forty or fifty high schools or colleges in Chicago who plan to strike on the opening day of our trial.” Famous for his theatrics he then told us that if “you convince them that you’re crazy enough to do anything, they won’t touch you.”

Abbie Hoffman spent the night at our place. “Whatever happened to Pigasus?” I asked him, remembering the sweet encounter I had with the pig in Chicago.

“That’s an interesting story,” Abbie said. “We nominated Pigasus for President and demanded Secret Service protection for him.”

“Did he get it?”

“No, they arrested him.”

I poured more wine in everyone’s glasses. “Arresting a pig? What happened?”

“They took Pigasus to an animal shelter and then moved him to a farm somewhere in Illinois. Haven’t heard from him since. He’s probably in the witness protection program.” Abbie lit up a joint and passed it around.

We lit incense, drank cheap wine, smoked dope, ate brown rice and Vanilla Wafers and plotted a November revolution. Two days of shutting down business as usual.

“There’s nothing to eat.” I stood in front of the refrigerator, door open, light on. Close the refrigerator door, I could almost hear my mom say. You’re wasting electricity. I wished my mom were here to change the toilet paper roll when it was empty.

Rick walked over to the refrigerator and pointed out the carrots, cabbage, celery, sprouts, apples, oranges.

I shut the refrigerator door. “I want food. Pie, crackers, a hunk of cheese, some luncheon meat, peanut butter and jelly.” I looked at the mason quart jars on the shelf above the sink, each filled with a different grain, seed or nut. Barley, sprouted wheat, alfalfa seeds, popcorn.

Damn sociology professors. I knew this would happen. Marty strolled into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door. “Great job shopping, Rick.”

U.S. Soldier Body Count: 45,935

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