Anti-War Games in '68
By Gary Beck

Editor's Note: While I feel the following fictional contribution is a little condescending toward the Peace Movement as a whole, I do feel it has great merit in illustrating something that Country Joe has been trying to tell us for years and years: "Blaming the solider for war is like blaming the firemen for fire." For that purpose, I think this piece offers a look at the complexity of what it means to call for peace, to support your troops by wanting them home alive, and to start modeling what safe conflict resolution looks like so that we might keep our "freedoms" without resorting to violence.


Roy Cafferty, an anti-war activist, and his girl friend Tanya, an up and coming actress, went to the Cafi Wha. Roy hadn't been there for almost a year and the atmosphere had changed considerably. The relaxed casual, arty bohemianism was gone. Now it had a tense, suburban hippie, artificial cool attitude. Carefully costumed folk singers shrilled anti-war and anti-establishment folk songs. Roy, with his long blond hair and Salvation Army green corduroy suit, seemed to fit in. Tanya, sexy, glamorous and 'in', could fit in anywhere. The patrons, many of whom were stoned or tripping, were babbling loud, overly
sincere, slightly hysteric claims to despise America and all it stood for. Roy had heard the same conversations from the radical SDS many times. But at least they took action once they finished droning on. Not like these ineffectual lipmongers. After an evening of safe flirtation with the fringe group that they pretended to admire, they would go home to the
comfortable suburbs.

Roy ignored his growing irritation with the cafi and avoided locking glances with one of the local machos, who was looking for a collision. Tanya listened sympathetically when he explained that he left the anti-war movement when the group wanted to bomb government buildings. They agreed he had no other choice and she said hopefully: "Maybe they'll become more sensible and you can rejoin the movement next year." "That's another chapter of my life that's over," Roy said. Then he asked about her health. Tanya had been plagued by some sort of fatigue syndrome that her doctor couldn't identify. She brought Roy up to date on her medical treatment, which was not going well, but she didn't want to talk about it. Instead, she told him about her new film project. "We start shooting in April. I play an innocent student who gets seduced by a criminal. He turns me into his ccomplice
and we both get killed in a police chase. Roy laughed. "Talk about type casting." She slapped him playfully, which drew attention to them. Tanya was already a minor celebrity and some people at nearby tables recognized her. Then they tried to be cool, pretending
not to notice her.

The evening would have ended pleasantly, except for an incident that started with the entrance of a young Marine with a girl. They quietly made their way to a table, drawing some hostile stares from the anti-war weekend hippies. They sat down and immersed themselves in a tense discussion. Mr. macho, who had been unable to find another target, called out in a loud voice. "Look at the baby-killer." The baby killer in question was at most seventeen years old, as innocent looking as Bambi, fresh out of boot camp and gawky in his new uniform. Only a few people heard mr. macho's comment, so he repeated loudly. "Look at the baby-killer." This attracted more attention and a few comments from
others. "How many kids did you kill today?" "Napalm any gooks lately?" One righteous girl in an expensive cashmere sweater walked to his table and spit at the Marine. "I hope the Viet Cong kill you." He was completely bewildered at the venemous assault. But the
girl he was with burst into tears, jumped up and yelled. "He didn't hurt you. Leave my boy friend alone." She took his hand and started for the door. Roy was surprised at the vehemence of the coffee shop extremists against the baby-face Marine. Roy could
understand hostility when demonstrators faced soldiers, but this was senseless bullying, aimed at a kid in a coffee shop.

There was a silent moment and the confrontation seemed to be over. But once again, mr. macho couldn't keep his big mouth shut. "Are you gonna bayonet a kid for LBJ, before you go to bed?" Then he started chanting "Baby killer, Baby killer." Others joined him, until a dozen people were chanting "Baby killer." The hapless, baby faced Marine froze in the headlights of accusation. His girl friend tugged at his arm to get him to leave, but he remained rooted in place from their scorn. mr. macho sensed his vulnerability and grew bolder. He stood up and yelled. "Let's strip off his uniform and burn it." He looked around the room, eagerly seeking supporters to join the lynch mob. But he had misjudged the bravery of the coffee shop warriors, who just sat there and looked the other way. They were willing enough, hiding in the safety of the crowd, to make derogatory remarks. But there was no way they would get up and attack someone; no way they would risk their comfortable skins. The incident would have ended right then, but some stoned idiot said:
"Yeah. Let's burn it." supporting mr. macho.

Roy had been watching the situation with mixed feelings. He recognized the anti-war sentiments that he had in his very small way helped build in his anti-war activities. But he hated the bullying of a young kid and the contempt shown for the uniform that his father had worn. Roy stood up abruptly. His chair fell over with a crash that drew all eyes to him. He addressed the room. "This has gone far enough." Then he turned to mr. macho. "You are inciting people to assault and public riot. You better sit down and cool off." Mr. macho desperately looked around for help, but none was forthcoming. He tried bluster. "Oh, yeah? Are you a cop? Where's your badge?" All eyes shifted to Roy. He assumed a bored attitude and answered calmly. "If I have to reach in my pocket for ID, we'll both continue this talk at the nearest precinct and you'll stay there when I go home." Roy stared at mr. macho until he wilted and sat down. Then he spoke to the Marine and his girl friend. "I don't think anyone'll bother you now." But they were too afraid to move.

Roy threw some money on the table, motioned to Tanya that they were leaving, walked to the Marine and gently ushered him out. Tanya and his girl friend followed. Roy couldn't resist a farewell address to the crowd and paused at the door. "Make love, not war, folks." When they got outside, Tanya was giggling, the girl friend was embarrassed and the Marine was confused. He turned to Roy. "Thanks officer. I don't know what happened in there. One minute we were drinking coffee, the next minute this mob wanted to burn me. I didn't know what to do. Thanks again." Roy said paternally to the Marine, who was only a few months younger. "That's all right, son. Next time pick another neighborhood when you're in uniform." His girl friend was still crying. "I told him not to enlist. Everybody hates the Marines." Roy was kind, but firm. "Not everybody, Miss. Now why don't you two run along and have a good evening." The girl friend took the Bambi Marine's arm and turned to go. "Thank, mister. What's your name?" Before Roy could answer, Tanya chimed in. "It's Officer Muldoon, and I'm Mrs. Muldoon."

Roy and Tanya watched the shaken couple walk away. Roy exaggeratedly offered Tanya his arm and asked: "Shall we go, Mrs. Muldoon?" "And it's a fine thing you did for them youngsters, Muldoon darlin'," she answered in a thick brogue. "I hate bullies," he said vehemently. "I couldn't sit there and watch that punk stir up a mob against that kid. A lot of members of my family wore that uniform." "And where did you learn crowd control, Officer Muldoon?" She asked teasingly. Roy grinned from ear to ear. "Did you like my cop
performance? You never know when I'll get a chance to play one again." "I know your head will meet their night sticks again." Tanya said fatalistically. "Now let's get out of here before your friends come out to play. Come stay at my place tonight. I don't want to be alone."

Gary Beck's plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes, and Sophocles have been produced Off-Broadway. He is a writer/director of award-winning social issue video documentaries. His poetry has appeared in dozens of literary magazines. Excerpts from his recent unpublished novel of the '60's, 'On Brightest Days', appeared in 3AM Magazine, Fullosia Press and Nuvein Magazine and will appear in EWG Presents. His most recent fiction publication is in The Vincent Brothers Review.


Loss  | Vashon | Services | Art | Poetry | Store | Contact

© 1999 KotaPress All rights reserved.  ISSN 1534-1410
Please direct comments regarding this web site to