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I wasn’t a 60s radical. I wasn’t even politically conscious. In fact, I was essentially out to lunch regarding social and political issues. I missed the marches, the sit-ins, the banners, the demands for change, the chanting in front of the White House. Even Woodstock passed me by. “Clueless” was pretty much my M. O.

That produced unintended consequences, as choices always do. One of them was related to the Viet Nam War in ways that I could not have predicted.

President Lyndon Johnson had raised the deployment of American troops to that country to over half a million by the time I was a senior in college, with my 2S draft deferment on really short, shaky legs. I came home on winter break from college to have a most serious talk with my father. He was a WW II veteran and a hater of war, with a rock solid sense of responsibility of service to America. I inherited that sense of service from him and I knew I had a duty to serve, especially at a time of war, a time of national need.

On the other hand, that war was an abomination from the start. It was, in fact, being fought by the North Vietnamese first against the French and then against American troops by people trying to liberate their country from outside aggressors. That is to say, they wanted to be free and we were on the wrong side of that David and Goliath story, and my sense of morality and justice would not let me participate.

That produced a tug-of-war between duty to serve and duty to morality and it is what brought me to that discussion with my father. For the first time in my life I did not know right from wrong, so I asked him what was the right thing for me to do. In my mind’s eye I can still see him walking up to me and putting his hand on my shoulder and saying, “You’ll have to figure that out for yourself.”

That wasn’t the answer I wanted, yet it surely was the right answer and I thank him to this day for the wisdom he offered me with his words and for giving me the space and the imperative to grow up.

I did not serve due to a medical technicality, but the avoidance of service left a hollow place in me that should have been filled by service to America. That has stayed with me for decades and it is the unintended consequence of my choices.

Things have changed and I’ve grown up just a little more and have found a way to serve my country. It is through these blogs and the discussions they spawn. It is through my presentations of Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want* to groups around the country. Its purpose is to educate and motivate Americans to action in order to change what is happening, as big money and corporations having he same rights as people continue to muscle our country away from us.

Perhaps you remember the scene in Star Wars where Obi Wan and Luke are talking and a hologram of Princes Leia pops out of R2D2. She implores Obi Wan to help her home planet of Alderaan and she finishes by saying, “Help us, Obi Wan. You’re our only hope.”

Obi Wan then says to Luke, “We must go to Alderaan.” Luke protests, listing his reasons and excuses to avoid going, to which Obi Wan replies, “But, Luke, she needs our help.” That was all the reason Obi Wan needed.

America needs our help right how. She has enormous problems that grow greater each day and the dream of Madison and Jefferson, Lincoln and King and the millions of refugees from other countries – your ancestors – is in peril.

Perhaps you were and have been politically active. Perhaps you were disengaged, as I was. Regardless, the imperative of service remains and its call is in the air right now.

You are Obi Wan and America is Princess Leia: Help us Obi Wan. You’re our only hope.


* Invite me to present to your group. I promise an hour and fifteen minutes that will educate, entertain and, if all goes well, motivate people to service. Besides, the program is a freebie. That’s my service to country, my give-back, my pay-it-forward to a country that has been so very good to me. Please help me to serve, Obi Wan.


Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2024 by Jack Altschuler
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2 Responses to Confession
  1. Todd R. VonOhlen Reply

    I was against the Vietnam war from the beginning. I registered for the draft as a conscientious objector. My high school history teacher wrote a letter of support for me. Because I was not member of a church that had a history of objection(I was a Lutheran), my request for objector status was denied. I filed a protest and requested a hearing. After a year of paper work, they instituted the lottery, and my birthday got 235, high enough to not have to go. I never pursued my case any further, but many of my friends went, and some did not come back. My father served in WWII, he volunteered before he got drafted. He was awarded a bronze star for his efforts. My dad fully supported my objector application. I still believe that there are many other solutions to aggression than to send in troops and drop bombs. What if we went into Syria or Iraq and offered a way for everyone who wanted to, to leave. Now there is no one to conquer! Of course there is the issue of oil, but if we had pursued solar energy along the course that Jimmy Carter set, we wouldn’t care! Just a few thoughts,

  2. Frank Levy Reply

    Thank you for your very insightful, and even more personal article. I was very moved.

    In the 60’s many of us considered ourselves part of a revolution fighting for freedom, equal rights, voting rights, women’s rights, and against war, to save America from the prejudice, bigotry, the old ideas of the past, and the military industrial complex. In retrospect those days may have been only a minor skirmish in a much longer and much more serious battle to save the Constitution, this great American experiment in democracy, and the real American dream of equality, freedom and opportunity for all.

    The real terrorist threat to America is not ISIS, or other external terrorists; it is the Koch Brothers and their allies – terrorists in business suits, it is the Conservative Right, it is the Roberts Court, it is those that fight to suppress free and open elections, it is “people of faith” that think it is more important to ban birth control and fight marriage equality than feed hungry children, provide high quality public education, and provide medical care and coverage for everyone that are the real terrorists threatening America.

    Jack, thank you for reminding me, for reminding us, how serious, and real the current threats to America and our democracy are. More than that, thank you for reminding me, us, that we cannot count on others to accomplish what can only be accomplished if all of us, each of us, take these threats by the Conservative Right seriously. Thank you for reminding me, us, that if we want to save America, it can only happen if each of us answers Princess Leia’s call to fight these internal, home grown, Right Wing terrorists! Count me in. Battleground Texas!