Guilford, CT, USA
Although no one in my family or anyone else I knew had to serve in Vietnam, it was an inescapable and bizarre backdrop to my youth. Between the ages of 8 and 16, I believe I was profoundly affected by the media coverage. I was a thoughtful, sensitive, and very impressionable child, and I paid much attention to the newspaper, magazine, and TV portrayals of the war and related incidents. Our local paper had a regular feature on the front page that showed the cumulative US casualties. My older brother regularly engaged my father with heated anti-war arguments, and would rely on the TV news and magazine reports to stay informed. Vivid images from the war and war protests filled our living room almost daily.
And so from the beginning of the Tet Offensive to the bombing of Cambodia, I felt bombarded by the harrowing news. Because the violence never actually touched me or the people I knew personally, it was almost surreal. Yet the images are burned in my brain: the little girl running from a napalm attack, the point-blank execution of a Viet Cong prisoner, the graphic descriptions of My Lai, the kids lying dead at Kent State.
Vietnam was the feature film amidst the equally violent shorter flicks of the era: Charles Manson, Patricia Hearst, the King and Kennedy assasinations, nuclear tests, cold war prophets of doom, bloody civil rights demonstrations. I believe all of this, as experienced by me through the media, irrevocably shaped my youthful worldview: the world at large is a vile, dangerous place, and our leaders cannot be trusted to protect us from it. If it wasn't for the US Space Progam, and rock music, which gave me a glimmer of hope, I would have been a basket case. In my teen years I became apathetic to an extreme, with a dismal outlook about the future. I turned to drugs to soothe my fears. I languished in depression. It took the better part of the last 25 years for me to shake this pessimism. I am only now becoming involved in a positive way in my community and in the political realm. I will never forget the impact that the Vietnam era had on me.