History is Often Closer Than We ThinkBreaking News
tags: slavery, Yale, Vietnam War
The author was asked what he was worried about in the late 1960s. He responded:
...“OK,” I said. “Here you go: First, this illegal, immoral war! It’s killing lots of American boys and maybe millions of Vietnamese. We’ve been lied to, it’s unnecessary and it seems intractable.
“Worse, the American public is fighting mad; people are at each other’s throats. My father, who served in World War II, does not understand my antipathy towards the war in Vietnam. The ‘silent majority’ really hates liberals. The generation gap is very wide. The war, the riots, the violence, assassinations, the polarized politics… we feel that the country could crack up at any time.”
He looked down, reflecting on what I said. “You know, it’s very interesting,” he said, shaking his head slowly. “You see, when I graduated from Yale in 1909, I, too, served as a reunion clerk. We were on Old Campus for reunions back then — these residential colleges didn’t come until much later. I, too, was assigned to one of the old classes — not the 60th reunion like you, but the 50th reunion of the Class of 1859.”
He continued. “At one of the wine events, I asked one of the men from that class the same questions I just asked you… what concerned him when he graduated, what was on his mind. You know what he said?”
“He said, ‘We were worried about the terrible plight of the slaves. Many of us were studying for the ministry, and most of us were abolitionists. We didn’t know what we were going to do, but we knew we had to do something. The country was coming unglued, not just North and South, but city and country. And we turned out to be right, of course; the Civil War started just two years after we were graduated, and some in our class were killed.'”
The old man from 1909 continued, “I’ll make note that there was also an illegal war during his time as a student — the Mexican-American War.
“Isn’t it interesting that you are talking to a man, who talked to a man who was exactly your age, only 110 years ago? And that distant man faced and feared exactly the same challenges you face and fear: racism, injustice, violence, revolt and a country that was tearing itself apart, brother against brother in some cases.”
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