a boomer conscience by lindayy


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									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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