Tuesday, August 07, 2007

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Peter, Paul and Mary in more recent years. They continue to perform this song at antiwar rallies and peace events. Photo: Wolf Trap.
When Will We Ever Learn?

Those of us who experienced the 60s, though we may bore younger generations with reminicences, also tend to forget that these generations didn't go through them, especially emotionally. This was brought home to me recently by a diary at Daily Kos called "Where Have All the Flowers Gone"by Whiskey Sam.

I'm going to reproduce much of that diary here, though if you follow the link you'll get the full version as well as video renditions of the song. But of course the diary is only partly about the song--it's about what we learned, and what has not quite been passed on.

There was a comment to the diary I responded to which I'll also include here--on the matter of reviving the draft as a kind of antiwar tactic. It's ironic to me that in a diary about learning one lesson--to smell out an unjust and immoral war--there's added a proposal for something else we should have learned is pernicious: the draft.

Here are large excerpts from the diary itself:

I found myself thinking back about this war in Iraq and about how much things have changed. Back in 2002/03, the conventional wisdom was that Saddam had WMD's and he would sell them to the first Tom, Dick, or Harry who wanted them. We heard it all around, and the majority of the country believed it. I didn't, many of us on this forum smelled out the bullshit when it was being presented for us.

This diary is about how right the liberal community was on this issue, and how damn disgusting it is that we were. But it's also about how right, how MUCH MORE right, the older Vietnam generation was about this war and how some of the Gen X / Y liberals failed to realize the gravity of their warning.

In early 2003, when war became the obvious conclusion to Bush's 6 months of rhetoric, I was sitting at my UU Church in Raleigh North Carolina. The minister at the church was simply a hero in leading her congregation against the coming war. Every single sermon included talk about the distruction and the needlessness of the actions that would be taken in our names.
I remember it well. I remember also thinking it was a bit over dramatic. I found myself feeling that way often about the "Vietnam era" anti-war people. After all, it couldn't be nearly as bad as those old timers were making sound like it would be.

I was wrong, they were very much right.
One Sunday our minister began by passing out lyrics to an old Pete Seeger song, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone". Being young and dumb, I hadn't ever heard of the song. The "Vietnam People" in the room all instantly teared up. God this was all so overly draamtic!!! Even if Bush gets his war, I thought, there's NO WAY it'll last for years. How could it?
Still, I mumbled through the lyrics

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?

OK OK, I get the point... Vietnam was bad, and your friends got drafted and died, but that's not what's going to happen here. JESUS people, if we overplay our hand, if we over dramatize this situation then we look like a bunch of kooks!!!! Pass the tin foil!

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers every one When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

nice song, by this point the "Vietnam people" were flat out crying. This is before a single American was wounded in Iraq. Come ON folks, less than 200 American soldiers died in the first Gulf War -- we're going to hit our targets and the country will roll over!!!

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone? Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?
Where have all the graveyards gone?

Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone? Long time ago
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one
When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?

Almost five years later I know now why the "Vietnam people" were so moved by this song. I know now what I need to know for the next time a group of warmongers deceive our country into a war that destroys generations of our finest men and women. I know now what the "Vietnam people" knew when they used to sing this song.

They were right. My god they were right. They weren't being overly dramatic, they saw what was going to happen and they were doing everything in their power to warn people like me about the gathering storm. "

The comments included this one:

"with the hippies (4+ / 0-)
this time things are gloomy, the right has won by depressing us all. The old peace movement was filled with college kids who were against not just war but the lottery that could make them fight in one. That touched everyone, and it's why we need the draft back, so that everyone will be watching, if not for everyone's kids, for their own. If we as a nation claim the right to 'protect' ourselves with soldiers, we need to shoulder the responsibility. Our nation is so powerful that citizens need to be involved personally in the decisions our leaders make in our name. "

This is my reply to the comment:

two evils don't make a right (2+ / 0-)
unless they make it a rabid right--because the draft is as evil as the war. I am one of those "Vietnam people" who knew how bad this was going to be, and I can tell you from experience that a draft will not help, it will only ruin the lives of even more young people. First of all, the highest draft calls of the war were before the lottery was instituted, so when you turned 18 or lost your college deferement, you were facing being drafted, and basically, you were on your own. Nobody but you understood what it meant. Parents, family, women, friends were all conflicted, because the choice was to go and possibly die and/or kill, or bring shame to your family, ruin your life, flee to Canada, go to jail, etc. to resist it. Unless your family had the money and connections to buy you out of it with pull or doctors, and that believe me would not change if the draft began again. Trying to force people to go kill other people or die trying is immoral. Even slaves weren't forced to do that, and slavery is unconstitutional as well as immoral.

I'm sure you, like many others making this proposal, are well-meaning, but that's what's most upsetting to me. At least some of the people who got us into this war were well-meaning. Just wrong. They didn't see the Bushite lies and how they were going to use this war for their own ends. Those are exactly the same people who would be running the draft. If there's a war that has to be fought, Americans will fight it, without being forced. "

And another poster added:

"No draft--ever
I absolutely agree about the draft. We will institute a new draft over the dead bodies of many of the Vietnam generation who experienced it. Since I'm female, I didn't have to worry, but my brother did. So we all worried. I hate to tell you what happened to the kids I knew who were drafted. They were scarred for life though some were killed and some are still MIA. One is insane and has been since he was in Vietnam. All of them were forced to serve in the military. I will never support a draft. I agree that if we really need to fight a war, people will volunteer. We didn't really need to fight in Iraq or Vietnam. War is horrible beyond description. We should avoid war if possible and never be the aggressors."