a boomer conscience Many things happened to the Boomer Generation that could only be remembered as positive, productive and genuinely enlightening. We were liberated by the Beatles in the mid 60s and in turn we liberated a very conservative society. Freedom of thought, speech, censorship, literature are to name a few changes that are accredited to us. So why would I suffer from a guilty conscience every Anzac Day? In one word- conscription. The Liberal Government of the day had introduced conscription to help boost the numbers in the Armed Forces, as we were heavily involved in the Vietnam War at the time. Our regular Armed Forces had served with distinction throughout the 60s but more soldiers were needed as the war dragged on. The Vietnam War was a Civil war between North and South Vietnam (much like the American Civil war a century before where the ideology of the South and the slave trade was completely different from the industrialised North). Civil wars are always frustrating as family verse family and brother can ﬁght brother and in Vietnam's case, it was the Capitalism of the South against the Communist views of the North and in the end they would have solved it locally without outside intervention. Australia decided to “go all the way with LBJ”, Lyndon Johnson that is, who was the American President at the time, and Prime Ministers' Menzies, Holt and Gorton after him gave the Americans total support in their efforts to stop Communism taking over this small South-East Asian country. I cannot remember what or who was my greatest inﬂuence at the time but I felt I was totally against the war to my very core as were many of my peers. Once I was liberated by the freethinking of the late 60s, I began to demonstrate against the war, nothing too heavy mind you, just the odd march and anti-war demonstration. Jo Bjelke Petersen was the Qld Premier at the time and he had zero tolerance for demonstrators and indeed encouraged his police to stop the demonstrations with force if necessary. During one late evening demo at Qld Uni, the police arrived and as we (the demonstrators) chanted our anti-war slogans, they gathered menacingly opposite us. Without warning they charged and I was dragged down an alley behind the Chemistry Building and assaulted by two police ofﬁcers. In hindsight, we had been chanting ʻpigs out' or some such derogatory remark so I probably deserved the belt in the eye but I was indignant at the time and it only hardened my stance against the war. Ironically though, I was part of the establishment and in training as a Police Cadet but these were strange times and our society was deeply divided over the issue. I witnessed one police ofﬁcer take off his hat and join the demonstrators during one of these confrontations. Everyone had an opinion on the war. We were receiving the casualty reports fairly regularly now and many Aussies were dying. The Western Press had begun to turn against the war but particularly after they witnessed the outrageous casualties on the civilian population inﬂicted by napalm bombing. Thousands more died from shooting by friendly soldiers who really could not tell the difference between friend and foe when ﬁghting the enemy soldier, as they all looked the same. The draw for conscription was run like today's lotto when marbles were placed in a barrel and rolled. Some days from each month were draw out and if your birth date was one of them then you were in the Armed Forces for 2 years. Now ʻMurphy was an optimist' so I probably should have expected it to happen and been more prepared but, much to my surprise and disappointment, my marble was drawn from the barrel for my birth year. Two months later I was standing in front of a Magistrate as I had registered as a Conscientious Objector soon after the ʻlucky' draw as I wanted to ﬁght against my conscription in Court on the grounds that I was a PACIFIST. It was a hugely stressful event fronting Court but my father, a high-ranking Union Ofﬁcial of the day, decided to accompany me. He did not use the anti-war argument expected of him and that was part of the Labour ideology of the day but instead he spoke as a father. He stated that he had two sons who were older than me who, if conscripted, would have gladly served. There, beside him, stood his longhaired rebel son who was totally against the war and, as he had fought in World War 2 so that I could make that choice in a free society, then he did not want me to serve in the Armed Forces if I did not wish to do so. The Magistrate was obviously affected by his argument and I added my reasons for not wanting to go to this civil war, because it had nothing to do with Australia and its future. I almost blew it when the prosecutor asked me if I would ﬁght an enemy if they came up the Brisbane River. I answered ʻyes, I would', because I would be protecting my family and homeland. I was granted a release from active service on the grounds that I was a paciﬁst and did not have to join the Armed Services much to everyone's surprise. A few years later, the North overran Saigon the capital of the South and the Americans ﬂed. The war ended and the people of Vietnam became one again. I continued with my life but the whole episode will be locked into my mind forever. Each Anzac Day, I watch guys like Normie Rowe, a pop idol of the time, who served with pride and who marches proudly with his mates and I have tremendous respect for all of them. They did what they thought was right and they remember today some of the conscripts and regulars who served with them and who lost their lives in that foreign land. I feel some Boomer guilt all these years later but I know that, given the chance, I would do the same thing again. In reality, it was our newly found Boomer liberation at the time that allowed me the chance to say no and gave them the chance to serve with honour. I am proud of our Boomer generation and this is one example of how we changed the culture of Australia by standing up for our beliefs, no matter how polarised they were, and knowing that we could do so without persecution.
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