It wasn't that long ago - not really. Thousands of us singing "All we are saying, is give peace a chance" on the Mall in Washington. It all started when Sam Brown, David Hawk, David Mixner, Marge Sklenkar, John Gage and other peace luminaries, many of whom were veterans of the failed McCarthy and Kennedy campaigns, decided to call a "moratorium on the war in Vietnam" and ask everyone to come to Washington to support it. It was a great idea: a kind of strike against the war, but with manners.
And 250,000 came, followed by at least 500,000 exactly a month later, during the November Moratorium that followed. But on this day, a manageable and peaceful crew assembled. My memories of the day are scattered. I worked for CBS News by then and my job was to keep track of the march, marchers and plans for all the peace activity going on in the capital. There was plenty, in a wide spectrum of militancy and affect.
I wish I could describe for you some of the more radical "peace houses" I visited; collectives with tie died cloth covering the windows and mattresses on the floor - working for a much tougher way to oppose the war.
Organizers and participants in this march , though, slept in church basements and the homes of local people who made room for them. Everyone who lived in Washington didn't have a spare bed or couch - or inch of space on the floor. You know this, but just to remind you, listen to what the BBC says about that time "in context:
American combat troops had been fighting the Communist Viet Cong in Vietnam since 1965.
Some 45,000 Americans had already been killed by the end of 1969. Almost half a million US men and women were deployed in the conflict, and opposition to the war was growing.
The Moratorium for the first time brought out America's middle class and middle-aged voters, in large numbers. Other demonstrations followed in its wake.
I guess that song is what I remember most - that, and members of the Chicago 7, out on bail as they awaited trial, addressing the crowd and pulling off wigs to show how their jailers had cut off all their hair. For some reason, I can still see that - it felt to me like such a violation. A less than friendly observer asked me later "How did you like what they did to "your friends" huh? They weren't my friends; I barely knew them, but the question was a punch in the gut. So many things stood for other things then. Long hair on men meant rebellion and outlier.
Anyway, it's yet another 40 year anniversary and I didn't feel that I could let it go un-noted.
If you have never heard the Lennon song "Give Peace a Chance" here are John and Yoko singing it with a crew of friends during a peace "bed in" in, I believe, Amsterdam. Happy Anniversaryobject width="370" height="299">