Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Indiana Flashback

The news that the Hoosier State will be in the primary spotlight for the first time in decades triggers memories of forty years ago when celebrities went there to try to stop the war in Viet Nam.

Indiana in the spring of 1968 was our Agincourt. "We happy few" were gathered not to spill blood for Harry and England but to stop American bloodshed in Asia. I slept in spare rooms and on pullout couches to spend days being driven to meeting halls, suburban living rooms and farmhouses, asking people to vote for Eugene McCarthy in the Democratic presidential primary.

I told them I was a thousand miles from home with no political ambition, no other motive than to try to end a futile war. Some listened. In one living room, three nuns gave me their blessing.

In terminals and crossroads cafes, I ran across others--Paul Newman, Myrna Loy, Erich Fromm, Garry Moore, faces and names people would recognize and come to hear. We traded experiences and notes. I recalled a 1942 story by Irwin Shaw, "Preach on the Dusty Roads," about a man who, after seeing his son off to fight in World War II, was overwhelmed with remorse that he hadn't been out begging people everywhere to prevent it or stop it. We were in Indiana trying to save other people's children.

Years later I would run across someone from that time and we would talk like old comrades in arms, recalling how good we had felt about what we were doing.

It still does.

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