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June 17, 2019

5/29/2019 10:23:00 PM
Musings - on the editor's mind

I was 12 in 1967 and 15 in 1970. I grew up watching the six o’clock news on a black and white TV. My family’s good TV then was a portable black and white, on a wheeled stand. It was in the room over the garage we called the porch: an exterior door led to it and the windows were opened by metal turn knobs.
I barely knew what or where Africa was, but I watched people in Biafra fighting for their own country, a revolutionary war.
I came into my teen years watching the Vietnam War unfold nightly on the news. I can’t remember if I saw the girl in flames running down the road, her clothes burned off by the jellied gasoline called napalm. I can’t remember if I watched the last load of Americans leaving by helicopter from the American embassy. I would have sen that in San Francisco in April 1975. I had hitchhiked out to California that January.
I do remember the near constant live coverage from Kent State in 1970. I grew up in Toledo, Ohio, 150 miles west. In those days local stations had news reporters. Cleveland, or perhaps the Kent station, was beaming reports as the story unfolded: students taking over the ROTC building, being chased by helicopters through town at night. Those kids were maybe five years older than me.
Until I was 50 years old, in 2005, I thought Vietnam would always shape our culture and our country’s decision making. I was wrong, of course. Whether my elders and peers died or not, Vietnam faded from the nation’s consciousness. It has faded from mine.
But not entirely, and so when an exhibit of Vietnam War photos came to the San Juan Islands Museum of Art, I went. I hope you will go, too. I try not to use the word should, but you should go. You have this weekend: it closes June 3. The museum is open Friday-Monday.
And bring your kids and your grandkids and for their sakes more than yours, remember and tell them what life was like in this country fifty years ago. That history lights our future. It always will, unless we forget about it. Don’t.

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• Ken Stern

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