Fortune

    My wife and I watched the Robert Redford movie, "The Company You Keep," in which a former member of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) turns herself in to the FBI after thirty years on the run; the story unfolds from there. The film is an American history lesson that occurred during our era of the 1960s and 1970s. The geo-political issues of war and inequality, the violence that accompanied the protests nation-wide, generated action from a few aggressive groups seeking to affect change. The dialogue in the movie articulates exactly the angst of so many of my generation. I remembered I felt the same way. 
    I didn't go through a period of 'enlightenment' until I moved from Iowa (and if one recalls all the jokes about Iowa and being Iowan, enlightenment is exactly what happens when you leave it) but that being said, I didn't live in a vacuum either. It was difficult to hide your head in the sand during that time with all the newspapers and television newscasts graphically covering the stories about the war in Viet Nam, race riots, protest marches, clashes with riot police nationwide dominated the everyday; it was the last thing you saw when you went to bed and the first thing you saw when you got up in the morning. It eroded my sensibilities, made me callous, angry.
    The church I attended was the Church of The Brethren, a 'peace church,' similar to the Quakers. Several of the congregation, I learned much later, had been conscientious objectors in World War Two and suffered their conviction by either serving as unarmed medics during wartime or serving prison sentences. My uncle Dave was one. As I approached draft age, the minister of the church came to our house to encourage me to apply for CO status, to which I immediately refused, telling him in no uncertain terms that I would willingly serve and make the military, a career. I thought I could be a combat soldier, given the times. I thought I was angry enough to do whatever needed to be done- - until I talked to a few returning veterans, learned more about the war, the history of Viet Nam, what didn't make sense, what did. Viet Nam wasn't worthy enough. My attitude about being a soldier for life started to change. I was fortuitous that that change occurred at home, than on the battlefield as it happened for many others; the many others who returned home in a box or traumatized for the rest of their lives.
 
 

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