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Weekend round-up ... Wars of varying sorts ... won and lost

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Hunter S. Thompson and George McGovern chit-chat on the '72 campaign trail.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – It’s Earth Day and my “Earth” flag is flapping in the breeze of a beautiful spring day. So, are you ready to pay 60 bucks for the new LED light bulb? It’s being unveiled on this 42nd Earth Day and it’s unlikely a guy struggling to pay his electric bill to begin with is going to get excited about a six Hamiltons for a freakin’ bulb. I'm fine with recycling, though.

Former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern, who also served as a senator from his home state of South Dakota, was in Norman the other night, speaking to students about war, the folly of “corporate personhood” and the greatness of America.

“I’ve visited, for better or worse, just about every country,” the frail McGovern told the OU audience. “And not one has a government as useful as the U.S. federal government. I’d rather be a citizen of the U.S. than any other country on earth.”

An old-school liberal if there ever was one, McGovern still believes that America can be great again. He has seen the ups-and-downs of this country, serving in Washington, more than most. Here's what Andy Rieger of The Norman Transcript said about McGovern's visit - a visit that was "worth the wait."

Talking about his service in WWII: "I developed a full appreciation of the sacrifices of war. We never should do that unless we are sure that it is a conflict that justifices the sacrifices of our sons and grandsons." Added McGovern," I literally weep for the young men who died in Vietnam." Imagine Tricky Dick making such a statement.

Is anybody still waiting for Henry Kissinger to make good on his plan to visit OU? He canceled at the last minute. War criminals tend to be paranoid sorts.

McGovern, as you may recall, was defeated by incumbent President Richard M. Nixon in the fall of 1972, despite his sensible platform of pulling American troops out of Vietnam and giving amnesty to draft dodgers in the first election year where the voting age had been lowered to 18. McGovern believed in going to war when it is clear there is a threat to the country. He did not feel that way during the latter years of the Vietnam War.

As reported in The Oklahoma Daily, “I opposed the war in Vietnam, but I fully believed what we did in World War II was just. In World War II I developed a full appreciation of the sacrifices made by young soldiers when we send them off to war. War is a deadly business, and something we should never enter in lightly.”

Gonzo journalist (and personal hero) Hunter S. Thompson was big on McGovern and befriended the candidate, as noted in his “incomparable” political book Fear & Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72.

Thompson was keen on McGovern and his liberal policies as much as what McGovern could achieve were he to defeat his archenemy Nixon that year. Thompson utterly despised Nixon and would write after the ex-president’s death in 1994: “He was the real thing – a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family.” Noting that Pres. Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon, Thompson wrote: “Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, had told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that ‘I know I will got hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon.’”

But before Nixon would bafflingly win re-election and later resign in disgrace, Thompson recognized how the anti-war candidate was resonating with the youth, as Obama would in 2008. Too bad Hunter wasn’t here in ’08 to give us his biting perspective on that campaign – young, professorial “community organizer” versus cranky ol’ warhorse John McCain (a POW who would be released from the “Hanoi Hilton,” after a five-year, on-and-off-again stay, in early ’73).

Suggested Thompson in the summer of ‘72: “…I suggested that McGovern could pick up a million or so votes by inviting the wire-service photographers to come out and snap him lounging on the beach with a can of beer in his hand and wearing my Grateful Dead T-shirt.”

Maybe Hunter was on to something. Or maybe too many young men were worried more about getting drafted than voting, guys like Gary Young who played drums in the 90’s indie-rock band Pavement. He did too many drugs, as I discovered last night, reading Perfect Sound Forever: The Story of Pavement by Ron Jovanovic. Young, much older than the other members of Pavement, was a bit of a hippie burnout who was still great on drums but the drugs did a real number on him. Why? Here’s how he explains it (and the mentality of many of his generation) “My mother thinks the Vietnam War had a major effect on (his excessive drug use). We sat in a high school parking lot for the draft, and they actually picked numbers out of a hat – ‘May 3rd, you go.’ This was pretty scary, and if you’re gonna die anyway, you might as well die from drugs. I’m sure this had something to do with it. We were out shooting heroin in a f***ing high school parking lot. I mean, what kind of people do s*** like this? ITat’s f***ing insane.”

And so what did that sneaky bastard Nixon do? He saw to it that the “war on drugs” was kicked off, a war that has lasted for four decades and one that some-time coke and pot user Barack Obama (aka Barry Soetoro) is vigorously continuing. Don’t think that war is ending any time soon. It’s too profitable for the prison-industrial complex that gives a lot to political campaigns.

And now McGovern turns 90 this year and is still bringing his message of peace and common sense to young audiences. Perhaps these young people will listen to an old man like McGovern. They could certainly learn something, since their parents certainly haven't.

Interestingly, another “dirty trickster” and old nemesis of Thompson’s from the old days, Charles “Chuck” Colson, died at the age of 80 yesterday. Colson was the ruthless and calculating hatchet man for Nixon who got caught up in the Watergate scandal and served hard time in prison for it. Equally interesting is that Colson would become a hardline, evangelical Christian and use his “road to redemption” story to help the public hate him less as the years went by. Cozying up to Jesus is a long tradition in American politics.

As Thompson eloquently put it during the Watergate scandal: "(Colson) should be tied by his testicles behind an Olds 88 and dragged down Pennsylvania Avenue." We miss ya, Hunter!

Someone pretty much everyone loved, Levon Helm, drummer for The Band and a native of Arkansas, has died at the age of 71. Just days after the false-flag, government-sponsored bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building here in OKC in late April '95, I got to finally see The Band play a gig in Helm’s homestate of Arkansas at a venue in Fayetteville. I was mesmerized by Helm’s unique drumming style. I had never seen anything like it. The man was a musical genius and just oozed Americana. He will be sorely missed.

As The New York Times quoted Bob Dylan as saying about Helm: "He was my bosom buddy friend to the end, one of the last true great spirits of my or any other generation. "

Copyright 2012 West Marie Media

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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