Reconciliation–1968

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As editor of this blog, with Reva Rasmussen, I promise I won’t “hijack” the blog and take the focus away from where the groups who post here want to take it.

At the same time, I’m a member of the Peace Team, and, so I’d like to put my “two cents” in for a subject I have recently developed some strong feelings about–the events of 1968 to 1974, and the need for reconciliation between pro- and anti-Vietnam war Americans.

I am reading Rick Perstein’s Nixonland (Scribner). When I first heard about the book, I thought I pretty well knew what it was about–Nixon was a fascist, and he is to blame for all of our problems today.

What I found out was quite different. There’s no doubt that Perlstein’s description of Nixon is over the top, sometimes. At the same time, Perlstein makes it very clear that Nixon and his minions posed a definite threat to the freedoms of this country.

At the same time, there is another side of the story. I really started to see this different side, when I started reading about hard-hat riots on Wall Street in 1969 and 1970. Anti-war protestors jammed into Wall Street. They grabbed flag poles, tore down the US flag, and hoisted the Viet Cong flag. At the same time, hard hats were kicking the bejeezus out of war protestors.

There were provacateurs on both sides. Disgraceful things were done on both sides. No one’s hands are clean.

It’s interesting, because, I was 18 years old in 1968. I watched the Democratic National Convention riots, sitting next to me good friend and 9th grade civics teacher, Joel Frank. I helped shut down the University of Minnesota in 1970, during the Cambodian invasion. I thought I was pretty in tune with what was going on. I either chose not to see the dark, violent side of the anti-war protests, or we didn’t hear about it. In fact, Perlstein makes that very point–many times the hundreds of violent incidents happening in the 60s were never reported on, because of the fear of the network news leaders that they would lose their licenses.

Reading Perlstein’s book has really helped me see the need for reconciliation for this country. One of the major points of Perlstein’s book is that, we are the inheritors of the violent clashes of the 60s. Forty years after the Chicago riots, people still see the Democrats as the party of chaos and disorder. Forty years later, liberals still see pro-war people in the same light we saw them in 1968.

In my efforts at political activism, here in Farmington, I’ve seen many veterans who still harbor deep, deep grudges from the 60s.

I don’t believe our country can really move forward, until we reconcile these two points of view. As Lincoln said, during the Civil War, “We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

We have been “enthralled” with the hippie vs. straight, war protestor vs. hard hat conflict for forty years. We need to move on. Once again, as Lincoln said, “The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.”

The South Africans had their Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Perhaps it’s time we had a similar effort. I’m not sure we need a formal commission, but we need the same kind of dialogue and honest heart-felt discussion, to bring out into the open the deep wounds of the 60s and 70s. In this way, we will disenthrall ourselves–break the spell of the old, dark magic–and save our country.

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2 Responses to “Reconciliation–1968”

  1. Joan Haan Says:

    Much of Paul’s words resonate with me. The point that I would like to underscore is the need for nonviolence in all protests. We have an opportunity to practice nonviolence this September as the National Republican Convention arrives in our back yard. I invite Pilgrims to consider how they might support peace as nonviolent marchers for peace or as non-partisan, non-political Peaceful Presence at Central Presbyterian Church praying for peace (contact Judy jzwolff@msn.com ) or as a trained member of Peace Team, nonviolent accompaniment and nonviolent presence (contact Katherine@deltove.com).

  2. Allen Zumach Says:

    If we work to have reconciliation among those who have wounds from the 60s and 70s, will this have any impact on those who have wounds from the 80s, 90s, 2000s and today? Or, do we tackle wounds from each era (such as the 60s and 70s) separately, using a different healing process for more recent wounds? Or, are the underlying dynamics of the wounding process the same for all eras so a generic reconciliation process will work for everyone?

    On another point, could Lincoln’s words- The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present – be applied to religions and faiths? For example, could it be that Christian (or Judaism or Islam or Hinduism or …) dogma is inadequate to the diverse present?

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