Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Remember When

I remember when gas was 25 cents a gallon, and during vacation road trips it could be 20 cents a gallon because of "gas wars." A time when "filling stations" cleaned windshields, checked the dipstick, put air in a tire and lowered the pump price just to get your business from the filling station across the street or around the corner or down the road. I remember when bread was 20 cents a loaf, and free on Tuesday, if you waited outside the bread factory as the workers always brought out overruns on Tuesday. Dozens and dozens of loaves of unsliced fresh baked bread. Folks would take a stick of real butter and wait in line to fill the biggest brown paper bag they could find. I remember when a bottle of cold Coke was 6 cents. We bitched and cussed for months when the price eventually went to 8 cents a bottle. And a candy bar or bag of peanuts was 5 cents, but peanuts tasted better with Pepsi. Saturday matinee was 25 cents. I had to sneak out of the house in my bell-bottom hip huggers, or sneak a mini skirt under a regular skirt. Back then I wouldn't be caught dead in a pair of jeans but wearing a sweatshirt that said "69 Breakfast of Champions" was cool.

I remember when JFK was murdered at around high noon in the land of oil. I remember endless days of constant replay - Oswald, Jacob Rubenstein, basement, riderless horse, caisson, John John salutes, Oswald, Ruby, basement, horse, caisson, John John, Oswald, Ruby, basement, horse, caisson, John John, Oswald…over and over grinding into the mind until a person had a headache. And at the time I was more interested in boys and blue eye shadow but I remember the adults in the family in low voices talking about Oswald being a patsy, cover-ups. Most folks avoided the subject of how it could happen in America. It had to be a lone crazed gunman. The media icons avoided any inquiry or question. Case closed.

I remember being hit with a brick in a Civil Rights march. Sometimes it was rotten produce and bloated fish. I remember the white men/boys standing on corners talking loud about how it was "them uppity Northern niggas coming down here makin' trouble." As if heartland niggas had never thought of civil rights. I was a high school sophomore the first year schools were integrated. For all the blustering the white men did over the upheaval in their world there were no problems that September. Everyone had their clique as they always have in high school. The boys were thinking of going to or getting out of Vietnam. Thinking of travel to exotic places or taking on a cause, the Peace Corp, going to college or shotgun weddings.

I remember there was more terror in the 60s than any time since. Who would be assassinated next. The nightly news was death and mayhem and body counts, theirs, ours. It was cities burning. Riots and protests and dead students. Americans open fire on Americans. It was high school and college friends coming home in coffins or with missing limbs or minds. Orderly chaos that ended with the awful '70s, what a relief. Gas lines of gas guzzling cars, layoffs, wage and price controls, Watergate, and watching Gerald Ford to see if he tripped again. The awful songs of Karen Carpenter. The even more awful Love Story with Ryan O'Neal. A time when movie characters smoked dope in "funky" scenes wearing god-awful leisure suits propositioning flat-chested women with long stringy hair, and the Odd Couple were two straight guys. New Orleans jazz. Kung fu, Foxy Brown, Blacula. Block parties. Playing spades. Tube tops.

I remember one of LBJ's speeches. From Jan.1969 LBJ : "Urban unrest, poverty, pressures on welfare, education of our people, law enforcement and law and order, the continuing crisis in the Middle East, the conflict in Vietnam, the dangers of nuclear war, the great difficulties of dealing with the Communist powers, all have this much in common: They and their causes--the causes that gave rise to them--all of these have existed with us for many years. Several Presidents have already sought to try to deal with them. One or more Presidents will try to resolve them or try to contain them in the years that are ahead of us.

This much is certain: No one man or group of men made these commitments alone. Congress and the executive branch, with their checks and balances, reasoned together and finally wrote them into the law of the land. They now have all the moral force that the American political system can summon when it acts as one.

The quest for peace tonight continues in Vietnam, and in the Paris talks.

The North Vietnamese know that they cannot achieve their aggressive purposes by force. There may be hard fighting before a settlement is reached; but, I can assure you, it will yield no victory to the Communist cause.

I cannot speak to you tonight about Vietnam without paying a very personal tribute to the men who have carried the battle out there for all of us. I have been honored to be their Commander in Chief. The Nation owes them its unstinting support while the battle continues--and its enduring gratitude when their service is done.

Finally, the quest for stable peace in the Middle East goes on in many capitals tonight. America fully supports the unanimous resolution of the U.N. Security Council which points the way.

There must be a settlement of the armed hostility that exists in that region of the world today. It is a threat not only to Israel and to all the Arab States, but it is a threat to every one of us and to the entire world as well.

President-elect Nixon, in the days ahead, is going to need your understanding, just as I did. And he is entitled to have it. I hope every Member will remember that the burdens he will bear as our President, will be borne for all of us. Each of us should try not to increase these burdens for the sake of narrow personal or partisan advantage."

How sad. It only takes one generation and the blood and death costs seem of little relevance other than perhaps an extra hollow-day off work, a ceremonial observance in a city or two, a commemorative stamp. I can see GWB mouthing LBJ's speech in January 2009. He need only change the zone of war and a couple of words in this 40 year old farewell and it would sound as presidentially appropriate, as urgent, as superficial. I remember the old adage: "The more things change, the more they remain the same." Everything but the bread and peanuts.

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