Gimme an "F"
By Stephen Sinsley
There I sat in front of the stage in that warm friendly bar in Milwaukee, gripping a cold beer (or maybe my fifth or sixth) and flashing back to a damp tent and sleeping bag in August of '69. I was 22 at the time and had hitchhiked up from Greenwich Village ... but that's another story.
That night in Milwaukee, Country Joe gave us a nice show, but never did give us more than an "F". He just used it as a teaser. Fucker. But here I was, sitting in a room full of my generation, still angry, still idealistic, and, most importantly still hopeful "after all these years." We have seen too many of our brothers and sisters drop out, burn out, or blow out.
But here we were, more wrinkles than we would want, more pounds than we would want, and more aches and pains than we deserve - but we were here. And we spoke of and drank to those members who were no longer with us. We were here to celebrate VVAW's 35th anniversary.
As José Martí once said, "I have lived in the belly of the monster, and I know its entrails, and my sling is that of David." The monster is big, the biggest empire yet to acknowledge its own imperialism, but so was the Roman Empire, and empires come and go. Back in the Sixties we used to hear people scream at us, "Our country, right or wrong!" They probably didn't know that the whole saying, by Carl Schurz, is: "Our country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right." That is where I believe we are all coming from. From our rude awakening in 'Nam, to Winter Soldier, to Dewey Canyon III, up to the present day.
I shared drinks and shot the shit with people I had known for a number of years, and with others I had just met. There were those who had driven in from their homes 10 minutes away, to my grueling 22 hour bus ride from PA, to those who flew in from the coast. Electricians, journalists, postal workers, photographers, musicians, the same eclectic blue collar/white collar mixture that stood up 35 years ago and yelled, "One, two, three, four, we don't want your fucking war." We gave 'em an "F"!
Steve Sinsley is a member of VVAW. This article first appeared in the Fall 2002 issue of The Veteran.