Vietnam: A Cultural Change

February 9, 2010
Seated across the oak table from my grandmother, Margaret Capone, I looked down at the blank sheet of paper. I didn’t know what I wanted to ask her, and honestly, I didn’t know if there even was anything to ask. After all, I was slightly skeptical as to what she had experienced and the things she had witnessed. I consider my grandma as one of the most fascinating people I’ll ever know. She’s traveled all over the world, done so many things, and seen so many things. But what has she experienced in America? What has she seen here? I raised my head and looked across the table to where she was sitting. Her chin was propped onto her fist as she cautiously studied the Scrabble board – our favorite game. I waited until she looked up. I’ll start with a general question. I thought.

“What was the greatest event that changed the nation’s culture?”

She narrowed her eyes and said hesitantly, “Well, it was called… oh, what was it called?”

I waited, unconsciously tapping my fingers against the table. I was surprised when she suddenly said decidedly, “There were three things that took place during the Vietnam War. The first was the introduction of the drug culture, or the Hippie Movement. At the same time there was a revival called the Jesus Movement. Many of the hippies got saved during that time. Another interesting thing that happened during that same period was called the Messianic Jews Movement where many Jews came to Christ and believed that Jesus was the Messiah.”

I looked at her in surprise. I wasn’t expecting such an immediate and decided response. “So how did each of these events coincide to change the culture?”

“Well, they didn’t work together. They were just going on at the same time,” she replied, “The youth were rebelling against the current culture. They were protesting the war, and they were searching for answers which led many into the Jesus Movement.”

I was glad the interview was taking such an interesting turn. “What differences did you notice after these events began to take place?”

“With the drug culture and the protest of the army [were] demonstrations, riots, and sit-ins (Sit-ins occurred when students would go sit in their college president’s office and actually demand certain things). It was a traumatic time for the whole nation. Many of the young people got into drugs, what was called “free love,” the occult, and the New Age Movement. They threw off the mores of their fathers and made their own. The Jesus Movement began at Duquesne University, a Catholic college in Pittsburg, PA. It spread to every denomination. That introduced into the Christian community new forms of worship in music and dance, expanded revelatory teaching, and an equmism.”

I quickly jotted down her thoughts in short hand. Although I was eager to hear more of what she was saying, I stopped her to ask, “Were you at Duquesne during the Jesus Movement?”

She looked pleased, and nodded her head, smiling as she remembered, “I was at Duquesne every summer for about four or five years. People got healed, saved, and set free – it was wonderful.”

My thoughts returned to one of her original comments. “You said this all took place during the Vietnam War. When the soldiers came back, did they notice a change in the culture?”

“Oh, absolutely – a huge change in the way they were received when they came home. They were spit on, they were called names, and they were totally rejected for having served their country by the hippies.” She paused before explaining, “It was very difficult because we didn’t win the war; we just got out.”

“Do you think there would have been a different response if we had won the war?”

Sadly she replied, “I don’t think so. Not by those that were protesting the war.”

“Other than the religious and cultural changes, did you notice a political change? Did the government begin to deal with things differently?”

“The political changes were very gradual as those intellectuals in the protest movement moved into government positions. When the intellectuals of that period moved into government positions, we gradually moved towards a more socialistic government. Now there was also a cultural change in terms of race going on at that time.”

I interrupted her train of thought to ask, “Were those changes influenced by the war?”

“No,” she answered, “The cultural changes in terms of race were drastically influenced when the Supreme Court struck down separation of races in the schools and schools had to integrate. There were riots, murders, marches, protests, etc. Martin Luther King was the leader of the black movement. He followed the philosophy of Gandhi which was to change things through peace. They did it, and it worked. There were major changes as schools integrated. Black children were taunted and called names. Universities in the south had instances where their school’s president would stand in the doorway to prevent the black students from entering, but the U.S. government sent the National Guard to allow the students to enter. Martin Luther King was assassinated, but he had been so successful in leading his people peacefully that changes took place. We were saved from major conflict and civil war because of his bravery. He will be known as one of the greats gone down in our history.”

I thought about what she had said for a minute before asking, “Do you think all of the changes that took place strengthened the nation?”

She hesitated, trying to find the right way to explain it to me. “There was a saying in one of Hemingway’s books that said, ‘It was the best of times, and the worst of times.’ Two things were happening at once. In the overall culture wealth increased, families fell apart with divorce, rape increased, and living outside of marriage also increased which was a total shame when I grew up. In the Christian community has been progressive revelation and understanding of God’s purposes, but at the same time a big divide between liberal and conservative Christianity. The heart of it all is that we have moved away from the foundations of our nation.”

I looked at my grandma with a new respect. I marveled at the things she had told me, the things she had seen and experienced.

“Are we done with the interview?” she asked. I nodded, but looked at her thinking of all the questions I would be asking her in the future.





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Jenn said...
Jun. 9, 2010 at 4:15 pm
You have an amazing style:  precise and unpretentious diction that flows easily through a well-organized piece.  Great job!
 
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