By Louise R. Shaw
I won’t buy it. I can’t. No matter how cute and colorful, no matter if the pattern features one big one or dozens of small ones, no matter that it’s the only design available on the racks, I won’t buy my grandchildren pajamas with peace symbols on them.
Just like I haven’t been able to buy anything tie-dyed despite the resurgence of that fad.
It’s because I grew up 50 years ago and was old enough to watch when the peace symbol and the tie-dying first became popular.
And as I remember it, it was not a peaceful time.
If it’s been 50 years since John F. Kennedy was assassinated, I was six years old when it happened.
Five years later we saw his brother, Robert, and Martin Luther King Jr., fall from the bullets of assassins.
That King’s efforts to bring about necessary change were non-violent, made his assassination all the more terrible. And riots followed.
In the next years, as the Vietnam War ratcheted up, I watched as kids my own age started rebelling: challenging long-held morals, experimenting with dangerous substances, protesting on college campuses, leaving the country because they didn’t want to serve it because it meant going against their beliefs.
That was when the peace sign was everywhere.
That is why it reminds me of anything but.
While there is turmoil in the country and the world now, it seemed to me to be especially awful during those years.
Perhaps it was my youth, but more likely it was the internal conflict that seemed so charged Р having one generation of Americans challenge another.
When talk of war began after the tragedy of 9/11, my worries stemmed not only from the obvious lack of WMD evidence and a strong belief that our country should help others out of war but not start them, my worries stemmed from a fear that the angst of the 70s would return. I was afraid the nation’s youth would rise up and challenge their leaders and there would be violence on campuses and an internal struggle again.
I’m so grateful that didn’t happen.
And I’m so grateful that, unlike in the Vietnam War, those who put their lives on the line and meet a need their government has put before them, are now respected.
I’ve seen people clap for our service men and women in airports where once, one told me, even after surrepticiously changing out of their uniforms, returning military personnel were spit on.
We’ve got troubles, yes, but we’ve got to stick together to work them out.
Even though we disagree on how best to spend our money Р or rather, how best to spend the money we don’t have, even though we disagree on where oil pipelines should or shouldn’t go or how best to ensure medical needs are met or when to pull out of difficult wars, we’re talking about it.
While varied generations may be rolling their eyes about some efforts, we’re working really hard Р mostly together Р and peace remains the goal.
Things are different than they were 50 years ago.
Worse in some ways, yes, but better in others.
Still, let’s don’t go back.