There was just something about Henry Kissinger. Even as a 10-year-old, I understood this one man to be the person who could get people—well countries, to talk to each other.
From my point of view, even as Russia and the United States were in a full on tit-for-tat nuclear test race and I feared that Russia might attack at nearly any time, Kissinger seemed impervious to it all. Perhaps it was his accent. Maybe, I thought, he gets along so well with others on America’s behalf precisely because he doesn’t “sound” American. Maybe people elsewhere hear an American accent and collectively roll their eyes with that attitude that says, “Yeah, what is it this time?”
Kissinger booked off to China in early July and next thing we knew, Nixon announced he was on his way as well. For any American to visit China at the time, was simply some sort of miracle and even a shock. 1971 China was, in my unworldly estimation, a closed society of people, brainwashed by their government to believe that their way of thinking was the best for everyone. Our democratic ways were conversely enormously better.
Even as the U.S. continued to experience race riots and protests against the Vietnam War, which the Vietnamese refer to as the American War, this was a clear sign that something had changed.
I never understood racial prejudice. It was then and is now simply illogical. The television movie “Brian’s Song,” so talked-about among my school friends, addressed racial sensitivities of the time by exposing the real-life friendship and loss of football teammates Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers. I cried my eyes out.
By year’s end, Don McLean released American Pie, a song that defined where America had been. Author Jim Fann writes in his piece, Understanding American Pie, “Coming as it did near the end of this turbulent era, American Pie seemed to be speaking to the precarious position we found ourselves in, as the grand social experiments of the 1960s began collapsing under the weight of their own unrealized utopian dreams, while the quieter, hopeful world we grew up in receded into memory. And as 1970 came to a close and the world this generation had envisioned no longer seemed viable, a sense of disillusion and loss fell over us; we weren’t the people we once were. But we couldn’t go home again either, having challenged the assumptions of that older order. The black and white days were over.
Bye bye, Miss American Pie.”