I used to love when we would go back to school the day after Labor Day. A fresh, new path of learning, and getting to be with our friends. We’d been with a few of them all summer, riding bikes, playing “Bonanza,” and going to the library.
We were all big fans of the western that was very popular when we were kids. Yes, my friends Peggy and Karen will tell you I always had to have “Little Joe” be my boyfriend, Peggy liked “Adam,” and I don’t remember who that left for Karen. We’d spend hours, pretending to ride the Ponderosa, in search of cattle rustlers, gold miners, and wagon trains who crossed our land with sheep. Any cattle farmer will tell you sheep totally destroy the grass the cattle feed on. Or at least that’s what they said on “Bonanza.”
I see those shows now and think how very hard minorities had it in those times. The Chinese in California and the like were all laundry workers, maybe miner cooks, but servants nonetheless. We won’t talk about how the Native Americans were treated, much less described as savages. Horrible!
Whether you rode on the Wagon Train, drove cattle on Rawhide, or were a thrice-widowed rancher like on Bonanza, there were nuances of only white people should have this vast land and all it’s riches. I’m so glad we finally understand we are all created equally, and God’s earth is meant for all of us. We messed up with our assumption of superiority.
Yes, folks will disagree that we’re still not “there” and I know we’re not. We need to move ahead, not backwards. I was a high school kid in the late 60’s and know what racial tension is. I also know what the war protesters brought about. No war is a “good” war; we need to quit referring to it as “that awful war, blah, blah, blah.”
The damage our Veterans experienced lasts today; I’ve heard many stories from Veterans who were hurt mentally and spat upon. Talk about trying to adjust to society and life at home! The Babe has told me he was sent home alone. No de-briefing, no group going home. Him, alone on a commercial flight. They didn’t give you money or a ticket back then. He didn’t even know if he had enough money to buy a ticket. It hit him; for the last 11 months and 29 days, he was so focused on trying to stay alive on the DMZ in Vietnam, he knew next to nothing about life as a citizen of the United States of America. Frightening.
Lots of flashbacks, lots of bad dreams. I believe this led not only to his alcoholism but many alcoholics from Vietnam, Korea, WWII, and WWI. Morphine during or after surgery makes the nightmares start again, it’s on his list of meds he’s allergic to. Nearly every combat veteran I know who saw “Saving Private Ryan” had nightmares for awhile. It’s human nature. It’s in our need to survive. He stopped drinking over 25 years ago, and is a good man, full of love. Lucky me. He and Sandy, the mother of his kids, became friends after the kids were grown, she and I had a wonderful friendship, too. Again, lucky me. Cancer took her over ten years ago. So sad.
As you picnic, party, water ski, swim, and gather this Labor Day weekend, remember:
America was built on the working man and woman; celebrate their incredible achievements. And as you do that, remember:
It was a Veteran who fought for the privileges we have: Holidays to celebrate, freedom to gather, freedom to worship, freedom to declare all of us to be equal. We have a way to go, yes; we’ll get there faster since we are free to make changes to our society. Have a beautiful start to your weekend, and we’ll see each other tomorrow.