Way back in the olden days – 1968 – there was a nasty big war going on in a godforsaken little country in southeast Asia called Vietnam. In those days there wasn’t an “All Volunteer Force” full of high school dropouts, petty criminals who bought off jail time by enlisting, way too many hopeless kids from the rust belt and impoverished heartland with no other options, etc.
In those days we Baby Boomers, the largest chunk of humans ever to gift the planet with our presence, were enjoying our youth and our freedom immensely with what our parents who fought World War II at home and abroad were able to buy us with their rewards for suffering through decades of economic depression and war. We were the best educated generation ever, a huge percentage of us went to college because our parents were hell bent on giving us all the opportunities they never had.
So in order to have an ample rotating pool of millions of young men to fight their war, they had a system called “Selective Service.” Conscription. Now, this system and the Last Great Opium War it supported were not very popular with the young Boomers who got to be cannon fodder whether they wanted to or not. As resistance and protest against the war grew among the young and disrupted college campuses all over the country, the huge ‘bubble’ of humans that comprised my generation began looking really dangerous to the Powers That Be who like to run things from some basement in or near Washington, D.C.
The situation looked pretty grim to me too, though I tended to have a lot more faith in my generation than the wigs in D.C. did. I figured it would eventually come down to revolution, but I also figured we’d win. Sheer force of numbers. I joined the local NAACP Youth Council, thinking we were going to need the boomers who weren’t WASPs, as much or more than we needed boomers who were. We also had some luck recruiting Native American kids, which I considered a very hopeful sign. Our revolution would need us all, so I actively went to work rounding up as many “all” as I could find. It being Oklahoma (Muskogee, in fact), they weren’t hard to find.
My sister who was a year older had joined the SDS while away for her first year of college in Kalamazoo. She wasn’t at all shy of trying to recruit me into the fold every time she came home on holiday. She too was convinced that a revolution by our generation was inevitable, and despite serious inborn intellect (she was Valedictorian in high school, eventually got a PhD in plant physiology), seemed totally under some kind of spell cast by some older people – pre-WW2-born Beatnik generation – who were trying really hard to manage the great desire for change and a better world for their own purposes. By manipulating us.