Maybe We Were so Vain

In January 1973, President Nixon announced a halt to all U.S. offensive action against North Vietnam. A couple of weeks later, the draft officially ended. By March, the withdrawal of all U.S. troops, and release of the 590 U.S. prisoners of war held by communist forces in South Vietnam was complete.

It should be no surprise then that the 1973 pop music chart topper was Tony Orlando and Dawn’s Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree, which won an American Music Award the following year.

Past double digits, and not yet a teenager, I had a whole life ahead that I foolishly believed would no longer include war. My life to that point had included the backdrop of the war in Vietnam and the incessant drum beat of potential global annihilation, so I had an idyllic sense of hope that this would be the last. It did not escape my attention that we could become victims of “the button” at any time and that all was not right between Israel and Syria.

Maybe it was political; ridding the world of communism, maybe it was like the song Money from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album…

Money

It’s a crime

Share it fairly

But don’t take a slice of my pie

Money

So they say

Is the root of all evil today

Perhaps it has always been about power or vanity —about who’s in charge. I never understood war then and I am no closer to understanding it now.

In April that year, the ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the World Trade Center in New York. I first saw the twin towers as I stood on the sidewalk alongside them in 1976 while on a field trip to New York City, but I didn’t get the opportunity to go inside until late spring of 1993 only a few months after the bombing there.

The sidewalk, closed for repairs made the surrounding block much more crowded, even for New York. I admit it was unnerving to step into the place that I knew had been a target before.

Our group went to the mezzanine and at some point took a high-speed elevator to the top. I have a photo of myself taken atop the observation deck; a 3×5 piece of history. I cannot begin to wrap my head around the colossal loss of those structures, any more that I can fathom the enormous loss of innocent lives.  Maybe we were just so vain to believe we were invincible.

Then what happened?

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2 thoughts on “Maybe We Were so Vain

  1. Hi Kimberly,

    Thanks for following my blog – I just did likewise 🙂

    I’m liking these posts on 70s albums. Pink Floyd were the first band I got properly into, about a decade ago now. I remember borrowing my Dad’s old LPs and listening to Dark Side of the Moon many times.

    RE Vietnam – was it “money” or “communism”? This excerpt from an extensive 1955 study sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and the National Planning Association gives some interesting insights into why U.S. elites were worried about “communism”:

    “The Soviet threat is total — military, political, economic and ideological. Four of its specific aspects are important for an understanding of present and prospective international economic problems. It has meant:

    (1) A serious reduction of the potential resource base and market opportunities of the West owing to the subtraction of the communist areas from the international economy and their economic transformation in ways which reduce their willingness and ability to complement the industrial economies of the West;

    (2) A planned disruption of the free world economies by means of Soviet foreign economic policy and subversive communist movements;

    (3) A long-term challenge to the economic per-eminence of the West arising from the much higher current rates of economic growth (particularly of heavy industry) in the Soviet system;

    (4) A source of major insecurity in the international economy due to the fact that Soviet communism threatens not merely the political and economic institutions of the West but the continued existence of human freedom and humane society everywhere.”

    Reason 1 is the most revealing in my view – it openly states that “communism” can imply independent national development – and this simply cannot be allowed. Vietnam is not recognised as a sovereign nation – it exists merely to “complement the industrial economies of the West”. Reason 2 is as obviously hypocritical justification for intervention. Reason 3 is amusing – expressing the fear that “communism” might out-compete “capitalism”. Reason 4 (“the continued existence of human freedom and humane society”) is a hugely ironic justification for turning half of indochina into a moonscape.

  2. Your observations of each of the four reasons are compelling. Reason 4, as you state, seems the most egregious, if not ironic. Sadly, it is too often that we as humans justify wanton destruction as a means to promote our peaceful, better-world agenda.

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