A little anecdote: Forty-seven years ago, the Viet Nam War was raging, America was seriously split between the hard hats and the hippies. And much like the Civil War, the split went right down to the family level, brother against brother, father against son. My family was no different. In college, it would seem I was a commie, pinko-liberal hippie piece of shit.
But then, a sudden and miraculous transformation took place… I shaved my beard, drove down to Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas, to begin OTS, Officer Training School, where they also shaved my head and gave me a uniform to wear. Suddenly, Dad was proud of me, though what was going on between my ears hadn’t changed all that much. Oddly, the same thing continued in pilot training. Turns out my fellow pilots weren’t wild-eyed with blood dripping from their teeth. We were people doing an incredibly serious job.
One weekend after hours, my buddy, Joe Zumpf and I (we were both scheduled to go to pilot training) went down to the River Walk in San Antonio. Still in uniform with scalps that registered the slightest breeze, we decided to go to the rock musical, Hair, that was playing. But a funny thing happened as we got close to the theater. There was a small demonstration going on, the hippies vs. the hard hats. Showing up in uniform, was like tossing gas on a bonfire. We took a whole lotta crap, though ironically, about a month before we would have visually fit right in.
And then things escalated and an American Flag suddenly appeared and someone was holding a can of lighter fluid. For what it’s worth, Joe and I were outnumbered about 20 to 1. One skinny guy in bell-bottoms and hair about as long as mine had been seemed to be the leader. He was a bit frothy and wild-eyed and he confronted the two of us. He said, “Ya know what we’re gonna do, don’tcha?”
I said, “Yup. You’re gonna burn the flag.” “Well, what are ya gonna do about it?” I looked at him and there was a moment… I said, “Joe and I are joining the Air Force, where we’re probably gonna get killed. And you know why we’re fighting? So that you and anyone else in this country can protest…do whatever crap things you want to do, and not get put up against a wall and shot. America is about freedom…all kinds of freedom, even freedom to be a dumb shit, which I think you are.” (I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it.) And those were pretty rough times in Viet Nam and America. The truth was…and is…that when push-comes-to-shove, I believe that 95% of us in America are in a whole lot greyer area than you think.
Scroll ahead to, uhmm…this past week. Last week I wrote a column right here in defense of America, the country I pledged to support and, strangely, now I have continued to do so. It was about basics: protecting your wife and family against sexual abuse, honoring the Constitution of the United States…and even the Pledge of Allegiance. If you were reading last week, you know. What you don’t know, was the invisible behind-the-scenes story. For the record, this past article was the most reacted-to article since I’ve been writing these hundreds of articles since 2012. And they fell into a perfectly sharp pattern. Those who applauded the difficulty now in being an American and a handful of ranting, raving, pretty damn nasty and threatening insults. Who knew that standing up for the Constitution and the Pledge of Allegiance could be so divisive?
The story continues. I’ve been contacted by many, many people plus old friends and new. To a person, their prime concern is the same: FREEDOM of SPEECH. It’s the very first pillar of what makes America…America. It reminded me heavily of finding myself in a position as an officer defending the right of someone to burn the flag that I love and would willingly die for. But that’s the point: That’s the exact point: Fighting and defending the right of Americans to exercise their freedom of speech, no matter how pissy, and annoying and nauseating that may be. THAT is what it’s all about.
What concerns me and a very large majority of the country is attempts that are being made to silence freedom of speech.
A Little Lesson in History: Know what the first rule of war and of fighting is? It goes back to close to 500 years before Christ was born. Divide and Conquer. They taught it then. They teach it now, in the Army, the Marines, the Air Force and the Navy. When there’s an enemy, the first goal is to break them up. BUT, here’s the kicker:
When someone is attacking America, when their goal is to divide America and make it WEAKER, know what the first rule is? It’s the same. Right now, we Americans are being driven apart with each news cycle. With each new pronouncement …and they are flowing hot & heavy now. Think and really listen to the words: Who is trying to split the country into small “easily digestible” pieces, and who is trying to heal the country? The people of America must not be split, not from the left, not from the right, not from some foreign power, and not from some small group of people.
Go back to your history books. America is a Republic…always has been, and it is a FREE LAND with FREEDOM of SPEECH, governed by LAWS that have been hammered out over a hundred years, not the whim of the moment.
A little whisper in your ear. If you think, standing up and saying your piece is easy…it ain’t and right now it can be downright dangerous. Last night, before going to sleep, Pam and I discussed just “taking a pass” this week, taking the easy way out. It sure as hell would have been easier. But a line from a poem written in 1914 in Europe flashed into my mind. It’s as pertinent today as it was in pre-war Europe back then. It was a protest poem written by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men.
Right now, it’s vitally important that we, the millions of “little Amercans” living in suburbia, the cities, the tiny country roads, the “fly-over states,” we need to never forget that WE are the fabric of what is good about America. Don’t turn on your neighbor. Don’t fall into the easy mistake of thinking all of any group is bad or stupid or arrogant. We are under a very sophisticated attack from many sides. The way to fight back? Talk to your neighbor. And remember, not that long ago we were all on the same side.
God Bless America!
Well said Henry. It is my fervent hope that our country can stand together, to protect the rights of all humans. I think the one good thing, for me, is that the present political atmosphere has spurred me to become an activist. I’ve signed up with my local election board, I’m making an effort to be more informed, with real facts and I am protesting. I am protesting for what I believe is right and just. I won’t argue with anyone who doesn’t share my views (it’s a waste of my time) but I will continue to use my voice to support what I believe. Btw, there is a certain group of old men at my job, and you know who they are, got blasted by me last week. When they started wishing someone dead I stood up and reminded them how vile it is to wish anyone dead, especially considering how old they are LOL! <3 to you and Pam.
First off, a BIG hug from Pam and me! We think of you often…and I seem to remember (vividly) the old farts who keep making lewd comments about the women walking by.
For what it’s worth, I think you’re handling all this…just right. We, of all people, the hippy-dips from back then who wanted peace and love and maybe a bit of happiness…and freedom, well, guess what: Those things are just as important now as they were before. Brava to you for standing up for what is most precious in America. FREEDOM.
Brava, my dear!
Brilliant as always!
Thanks for your kindness. I’m pretty sure I’m not brilliant…but on this topic, I really care a LOT and maybe that’s what’s coming through.
I hope others will take a moment to read … puts in perspective and gives hope.
Hi Patricia. You put your finger right on it: Perspective.
One of the benefits of being on the planet for decades is you begin to see the patterns, the things setting up just like before. And with that, you can, maybe dodge a bullet this time instead of getting slammed in the head. America is our wonderful Mom, and we all must protect her from overt attacks, plus the more subtle ones.
This may be your best one yet.
Thank you for reading. America is under attack right now, and from many angles. We the people are the ones who can protect her now.
Very interesting to hear what it was like during the Vietnam War…. seems like a lot of similarities are emerging these days. Definitely need to be open and keep talking to those with different opinions and perspectives. Great blog Henry.
Hi Melissa! Thanks for writing in. For what it’s worth, there was a line in the sand back then between me and my father. When the National Guard went on Kent State’s campus and shot and killed teenage boys and girls who were protesting, often trying to stick a daisy in the barrel of the gun pointed at them, there was a pivotal moment in my life and in the country’s awareness., My father said, “Good! They should kill the sons of bitches.” I said to him, “Go fuck yourself.” And things very similar were occurring all over the country. Teenage college girls…and boys didn’t deserve to be shot in the head, for protesting what turned out to be a HUGE mistake……..Viet Nam.
You gave me a lot to think over in your post.Emotions tend to over power rational though. Balance seems to me to be the key I need.
Balance and maybe a bit of graciousness. We can all disagree. That’s what’s wonderful about America. It isn’t necessary to degrade or threaten or name-call. Thanks Ike!
Vietnam vets still not respected and though not their decision chose to serve, die and for some be permanently affected…….
Soldiers from every era, right up to this moment, have put their lives on the line for their country and their fellow men. When they return, with arms and legs shot off…they DESERVE to get the BEST we can give them, in artificial limbs, in psychological assistance in any damn thing they need. 20 soldiers kill themselves every day due to P’TSD, Post Traumatic Shock Syndrome. It isn’t bullshit. It isn’t made up. These sons and brothers and fathers are leaving the planet cuz they can’t take it anymore. Some senators and congressmen argue that those artificial limbs are very expensive…………………………………….
This is a great read written by a grade school thru HS friend of mine. Thanks Henry R. Harvey for more thought provoking words…
Hi Charlie! Hi Liz! Thank ya kindly! I think you and I probably stood within a few feet of each other for…YEARS, saying the Pledge of Allegiance, not really thinking about how important those words really are. You still have a permanent invitation to c’mon over and visit. We have the guest house set up and operational, and…we now have a huge “Pterodactyl’s Nest” at the entrance to the property with five eggs the size of footballs. We have terrifically nice folks stop by on and off, pretty much all day, shootin’ the breeze. Still am absolutely enamored and awed by the graciousness of the folks down here. Never ever been happier. Thanks for writing, “old” friend(s)
Henry and Pam
One of the reasons freedom of speech is necessary is to allow the populace to have the information necessary to make informed decisions regarding their future. In the mess of the last month or so, a decreased access to information is happening; but its getting mostly buried by the equally legitimate concerns over who is going to be running the government. The public access portions of government websites seem to be being shutdown one by one. The latest example being the portion of the USDA website devoted to listing USDA rulings concerning both animal cruelty and animal mistreatment that also have very real consequences for the quality of the food supply. The already weakened inspections are actually one of the reasons for the increased availability of Kosher and Halal meats in supermarkets.These dietary rules require a higher level of inspection and include rules concerning humane treatment of animals. As a New York area hot dog commercial goes, “We answer to a higher power.”
The USDA website restrictions are buried by some revelations concerning the past of the Supreme court nominee while a high school student. A lot of that debate is hinging on whether or not you should be judged by your actions back in high school.Its a valid point, but again speaks to the need for both free speech and access to information. A personal example being my high school class president. I’ve never forgotten that he liked to exploit simmering tensions between students to watch the fights that developed. What is he doing today? He’s on AM Talk radio in southern Arizona doing the same thing with people concerning the border. At least back in high school they weren’t carrying assault rifles. He’s been the subject of an ABC investigative report.His writings and broadcasts and actions helped set in motion a chain of events that led to the maiming of a member of Congress at a meeting with constituents which you would immediately recognize if I replaced all these pronouns with identifying proper nouns. If the public had access to information about charges brought against him back in Pennsylvania, he might not have been in a position to cause so much harm in Arizona. Basically his free speech needed to placed in the context of information.
Thank you for what is, once again, a thoughtful and well-composed point-of-view. Your point is well-made (not hard to connect the dots on the Arizona anecdote) and it brings to light the eternal question, “Does Freedom of Speech include the right to yell “Fire!!” in an auditorium?” It does not. But that shouldn’t open the door to quashing anything that we don’t agree with. It’s complicated and a question that will probably never be completely solved.
I think, as was the case just yesterday, that when you suggest that student protesters in colleges…..or anywhere else for that matter, be treated like the Kent State students (shot and killed) then you’ve crossed into a form of Sociopathic Insanity. That’s a line that should never ever even be considered. Once again, thanks for your articulate perspective!
I like your sentiment and we certainly are a divided country now but I’m not clear on who it is you think is dividing us to conquer us .
Stephen, I’m not being coy with you when I say, “Good!” You can take it to the bank that that extremists on either side are not going to be swayed by 15 or 20 paragraphs, no matter how much time went into them. I would say, that, like all wars, or fist fights, or attack at any level, once the fists are flying, there’s damage done by both sides. You have waaay more than enough evidence to form your own conclusion…which I’m pretty sure you already have. One thing I hope we can agree upon. I’d rather keep Vladimir Putin out of America’s decision-making process. Putin used to be the head of the KGB, which was the USSR’s “defense” cabinet, plus carried out the hits both inside and outside the Soviet Union.
Love the sentiment Henry. You and I will always speak freely as we agree we need ideas to share as we don’t know everything, yet. But man I’ll tell you here in Central Texas most uber Baptist gun toting Ted Nugent types blood lust good citizens have gone into a tailspin of hurling insults from their 2t duelly diesel sucking oil drilling tobacco spitting littering Sunday Christians. It seems they are taking the lead from the trailer trash for stuck on stupid.
Doing right is so blaise it seems so our once wonderful country is being torn apart by our egos once again. To me showing strength dosen’t mean taking over governments because we can. World population is out of control. South of the border there is a 3-1 ratio to ours. Arab countries 6-1. I believe China had it right on this one. Too many folks competing for food. No jobs. No home. No education. No future. Now they the internet and see how much further behind they really are. Faced with that prospect I would most likely behave the same. What I’m saying, is I feel it is way too late and it’s time to buddy up to Elon Musk and hop a ride to Mars. This is not going to be pretty.
Hello my friend!
Hey, you’re a pretty darned good stringer-together-of cool-words! What’s even harder, is stringing them together so they make sense and your e-mail accomplished that masterfully.
BTW, we have our own Jimmy GMC pick-ups down here, usually black or red, jacked seven feet off the ground and you can literally hear ’em coming two miles away, Confederate flags a wavin’. Freedom of Speech, man, though sometimes I’d like to stick a potato up those exhaust pipes so I can listen to the Beach Boys.
I think, the only country I know of that has complete unity in it’s political and civil population is North Korea…the reason being, if you disagree, you are quietly dragged away and shot. Not looking for that in America. Looking for discussion, hammering out laws that serve the people, a sense of fairness…man-o-man, misogyny is NOT the route for any man to follow. A world without women is my definition of Hell. Let’s not make it our #1 priority to piss off women or try and make them second class citizens. Looks like you’re startin’ some truly excellent work over there in Texas. I haven’t been keeping up…is that still a state or is it it’s own country now? :o)
As usual, well thought out – and of course, well said! Thank you for not taking the easy way out; if ever we can reach people with logic, it is incumbent upon us to try. I will say there were a few lines that sounded quite “Obama-ish” – which I mean as a tremendous compliment! Many never understood his genuine convictions or his pragmatism.
Be well, and stay safe!
Thank you for what is, indeed, a tremendous compliment. To tell you the truth, I learned a whole lot watching none other than West Wing. Aaron Sorkin at his best plus an all-star cast at their best. Many of then stories in WW have since played-out in real life.
Speaking of concepts, I would love to see how everything that Obama did and said would have played out if you had simply made him white…and even Republican. That old color-of-the-skin thing goes a whole lot deeper in the country than anyone cares to admit.
I hope you are well, Laura. And if the fates allow, love to have you come and stay at Dragonfly our new “digs” in NC.
Big hug, my dear!
But, you left out my favorite name a military person in uniform was called in their own country during the Vietnam War………………”Baby Killer!”
Of course, this is said to you with love from one ex-military to another.
All the best.
Great to hear from you, old friend!!!
Yes, I remember the term well, though I never quite understood it. I know I’ll (probably) never convince you to come down and see what it’s all about down here, but on that off-chance your ears are tuned-in, we are happier here than anywhere of all the places we’ve lived. And no, it’s not what you might think. Savvy people who are gracious and love to laugh. I asked Pam what it’d take to get her back in Bucks, this week. No amount. Not 50 million bucks. Wouldn’t be worth what we’ve discovered. If you’d ever like to challenge this statement, come on down and stay a week…or a month at our guest house. We’ve never been happier and….the taxes are 1/10th, the house prices are 1/3rd, the heating bills one eighth, etc. etc. etc. We’ve met over 30 superb folks down here this year. It took 30 years to accomplish that up north….and never got above eight or ten in that time. Seriously, if you’d like to call my “bluff” c’mon down and vacation a week.
Henry and Pam
I missed the story about the students. It brings to mind the time a California governor named Reagan sent National Guard troops onto U of C campuses. They behaved better than their counterparts did in Ohio, but Reagan’s rhetoric was very similar and could have made things very ugly had it been interpreted as some sort of coded order. Concerning the borders, the current climate has had an effect on Derby Line, Vermont and Rock Island, Quebec. They face each other across the Canadian border. In the nineteenth century they purposely built what would now be called a Community Center astride the International border. Funded by a wealthy Vermonter, its run by a board of directors drawn from the two towns with Derby Line having a one seat majority.The public entrance is in Vermont, the library is in both countries with the border marked by a painted line across a reading room floor. It has a theatre in both countries: the public enters the seating area in Vermont; the seats lie in an open group in both Vermont and Quebec; the stage facilities are in Quebec; and the stage door is in Quebec. Things are changing however. Vermonters and Quebecois can still mingle freely in the building. However, Vermonters must now use only the front entrance; Quebecois must now only use the stage door. If you emerge from the building in the opposite country, you must immediately report to Customs. ‘And so it starts. Scott Blake
Truly fascinating, and something I’d never heard about.
Soooo…tell me, what’s the back story? You’re articulate and to the point…and actually have something to say…a rare combination of attributes. Writer? Artist? Reporter? Columnist? There’s a story here.
I saw just this thing happen when I was in High Scool. A freind joined the marines, after basic he came home and a bunch of us went to eat, waiting in line he dropped some coins and an older man scrambled to pick them up, of course we thanked him, but looked at each other and said, a month ago he would have kicked the coins away be cause we were no good hippies! The thing to remember when all this bellyaching is going on, is to ask yourself what are they really up to? Go to the government websites, seek out what is really going on, because plenty is, don’t succumb to fuzzy thinking and turn off the GDTV!