Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Does Anybody Know There's a War Going On!


By Richard E. Noble

I think it was 1968. I was at what would today be called a "Sports Bar." There were large TVs elevated on every wall. The place was packed. The bar which was in the center of three large rooms was full. People were lined up to get a round of beers or mixed drinks. There were two bartenders that doubled as waiters but they were swamped. The back room was filled with older people and families. The placed served great sandwiches. The nightly news was on all the TVs. The news was all about Vietnam. It seemed as if it was the same news every night over and over.
Three young men came in the front door. They looked to be around 18 or 20 years old. One of them looked up at the Vietnam news on one of the TVs and then looked around the packed restaurant. Suddenly he screamed, "Does anybody here know there's a war going on?"
The whole place went quiet. Everybody turned and stared at the guys standing at the door. I was playing cards with some of my friends at a table. The card game stopped as all my friends turned.
After a few moments, the two guys who were with the boy who yelled grabbed him by the arms and hustled him back out the door.
In a moment or two the rumble of the crowd resumed. People returned to their sandwiches and beer and their conversations. No one at my table mentioned the incident. I don't think that anybody mentioned it.
I know that the two bartenders were World War II veterans. One of them had a boy who was in the Airborne. He was jumping out of planes and was at that moment in Asia someplace.
I know that there were a couple of Korean War veterans sitting in the family room with their wives having sandwiches.
I was pretty young myself. I was wondering what everybody else was thinking. One really couldn't tell by just observing the faces. Nobody looked angry or upset. They had all just stopped and stared.
A few months later Lyndon Johnson announced that he would not run again for President. Then the Democratic convention in Chicago broke out. When I saw that on TV, I remember thinking that America was over. It was a horror story.
The polls at the time said that 80% of the American people were against the war and they wanted out. This was the worst period in America's history in my lifetime.
The Democrats were not popular, they had started this war. Richard Nixon, a Republican, promised that he would end it. The war went on until 1977. Nixon got thrown out of office because despite his claims to the contrary, he was a crook. According to the memoirs of Gerald Ford, admitting his criminal guilt was a mandatory condition of his pardon. He supposedly signed a document admitting his guilt.
The war ended during Gerald Ford's administration, but Gerald Ford did not end it. The legislature ended it by refusing to allocate more finances. I imagine that was a first in American History. We had another first. We had a president and a vice president who were both appointed by congress and not elected by the people. Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller, of all people, was the vice president.
Some attributed the end of the war to the massive protests, and the college students. Others claim it was the press and the media.
Interestingly enough Mr. Hoffer, former owner of the Franklin Chronicle, who was a staunch Vietnam veteran, and a media fanatic, disagreed with both of the above mentioned causes. I was rather surprised. I asked him what stopped the war in his opinion. He said that it was the thousands of returning Vietnam veterans who year after year after year reported to their friends and families what was happening over there. The press simply did what it was supposed to do, he said and the college students were yelling and screaming to no avail for years. But when the veterans came home and told their moms and dads and their friends and relatives what a horror and disaster the whole thing was, that is what roused the negative support of the nation; that is what got all the voting parents and adults writing to their Congressmen and Senators; that is what ended the war, he told me.
I don't know what really ended the Vietnam War but I do think that I know what those people were thinking in that sports bar that evening.
Yes, everybody in that room knew that there was a war going on. It was on everybody's mind day and night. They were all well aware that there was a war going on. They knew how many were dying - they got a body count every evening. Everybody knew that there was a war going on. Some were rebellious, some were angry, some were worried, some just cried - but they all knew. And today everybody knows that there is a war going on. And as in 1968 most have no idea what to do about it - but don't you worry, they know!