Your perspective will be quite valuable to the anthology. I look forward to getting your story.
Frankly, gathering stories is an unstructured process. Most contributors have felt comfortable answering a questionnaire that is followed up with additional questions to get details. If the process suits you, I will send you a questionnaire. If you want to do it some other way, that's OK, too.
I think the most valuable thing we have are anecdotes to share with future readers. We can talk on and on and on about why we opposed the war, but an anecdote explains everything. If you want to see an example, select: sample comments.
I think these stories capture the essence of the time. I'm sure you have LOTS of stories you could share.>
I'm going to ask a whole slew of questions. I hope that one or two of them "sets your mind to wandering," (as Paul McCartney said). If a few of them will trigger some free associations in your memory, please tell me about them. Your first reactions are usually the most powerful, so don't mull them over too carefully. Here goes:
I think it was an important rite of passage for our generation to come to terms with Vietnam. In many cases, it marked our first incursions into adulthood. I think an important aspect of the anthology is to indicate how each of us personally came to terms with a war that some of us claimed was grossly immoral, while others considered its support to be an expression of patriotism. I would like to learn more of your "existential journey" as you came to terms with Vietnam, or joined the antiwar movement.
"Joined" the antiwar movement... I think that is a very strange term. We didn't have to enlist or enroll or anything. If the antiwar movement wasn't "joined," one merely "became" a part of the movement as it evolved. Do you agree? How did it happen for you? When you first went to the antiwar moratoria, why did you go? Was it all to protest the war, or were there social considerations involved? I suppose you studied Thoreau and civil disobedience in high school. Did your studies influence your thinking in any way? I remember reading a lot of existentialist writers at the time -- people like Sartre and Kafka. Writers who portrayed a mad, upside-down society, where the only antidote for madness was for people to take control of the world and society and establish their own values of good and evil. The sixties seemed like a decade of madness to me. How did it look to you? If it got unstuck, when did it do so for you? Did society's madness influence your affiliation with the antiwar movement? Do you remember '68, with the Tet offensive, the assinations of RFK and MLK, the Chicago convention and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia? What did you think of when you watched those events unfold on the news? Do you think the madness started earlier, perhaps with the civil rights marches? With the JFK assassination?
And the demonstrations... did they seem more innocent and peaceful in the beginning? When did they get nastier? After Chicago in '68? After the Cambodian Invasion in '70? How did they get nastier? Was the rhetoric more polarized? How do you recall the proponents of the war behaving at antiwar rallies?
Now I'm thinking about Abbie Hoffman's "second American revolution." How did you feel about people who wanted to overthrow the government? What do you recall was the rationale of revolution? What do you think of the rhetoric that Jefferson expressed in the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government... [emphasis added]
Do you think there was any sound rationale then for a revolution?
I'm thinking about alienation of youth now. Did anyone ever harass you for being a hippie? A yippie? How did your parents feel about your antiwar sympathies? Were you regarded as a communist? A traitor? An anarchist? Did the police ever give you any grief -- drug searches and the like... did you feel alienated from the American culture? When Agnew gave his famous speech about "effete intellectual snobs," how did his remarks make you feel? How did it make the "silent majority" react to your opposition to the war? Did their words affect your behavior at subsequent demonstrations? Did they seem to behave any differently in subsequent demonstrations?
Now I'm thinking about the Pentagon Papers and the role of the free press. How did you feel when the Papers were published? Did it confirm your suspicions about Vietnam? Maybe betrayed? Maybe a little more cynical about the people in power? Did they affect your behavior at subsequent demonstrations?
I think it's important to learn how the antiwar movement came into being and how each of us felt during those difficult years. If we really want to "heal," we need to explore our feelings about those difficult years, and make our insights available for others to study. The evolution of the antiwar movement felt like an interesting process, something to explore in depth. Perhaps I've asked some leading questions... If I have, I'm sorry. If you have some other thoughts you would like to share with me regarding the antiwar movement, please feel free to say what you think is important. I really appreciate your help. Anything you say might turn my attentions to a new and very, very interesting area of concentration.
Phew!!! Those are the questions. Feel free to ask yourself some of your own, if you feel like it. It's important to write down everything that feels important to you.
Now... let me show you what I'm trying to do. I want to build your story from the email you will send me. You can select the sample interview to see how this is done.
Chicago '68 for anyone who went to demonstrate at the 1968 Democratic Convention.
Washington for anyone who went to demonstrate at the Washington rallies ('69 and '70).
Mayday for anyone who went to demonstrate Mayday in '71.
People's Park for anyone who went to demonstrate at People's Park in Berkeley in '69.
Other Events for anyone who went to demonstrate at other major events during the era.
Emigre's questions that explore the process involved in starting a new life.
The Underground Press questions explore how news was spread through the counterculture.
Radical groups explore the feelings of injdividuals who advocated overthrow of the US government.
If I have overlooked a category, please let me know.