I did everything I could not to fight in Vietnam. To be honest, it wasn’t really in the cards anyway. I was in grad school, married with a kid on the way. Besides, I was from the upper middle class. There were always ways out if my number came up, people to call.
Making war wasn’t for the likes of me. I was an intellectual, an artist — a liberal or even a leftist. I had read Bertrand Russell.
Was I a coward?
I should say not. (At least I didn’t think so at the time.) I thought of myself as an idealist, doing the right thing, maybe even a revolutionary of sorts. I protested the war every chance I got — while positioning myself safely, not too far, not too close, three or four rows from the police line — everywhere from Golden Gate Park to the Washington Mall to the UN to Los Angeles’ Century Plaza Hotel in June 1967 when LBJ was giving a fundraising dinner and the LAPD moved in on the demonstrators. (Yes, I was there — though far out of harm’s way). I also attended the requisite number of teach-ins and be-ins sponsored by, among others, the Mobilization Against the War and then New Mobe and then the New New Mobe (okay, kidding). I even spoke at some. I helped found some adolescent nonsense called the Peace and Freedom Party, which appears, for reasons unknown to man or beast, on the California ballot to this day. It got so I was chanting “Ho Ho, Ho, Chi Minh, Vietcong is going to win!” in my sleep.