Seventy years ago today, on September 2, 1945, the Japanese formally surrendered, ending World War II. On the same day, Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam’s independence from France. The Cold War essentially began the day the hot war ended. The world chose up sides, The US and England supporting the French in Indochina, with Russia and China, the emerging Communist powers, our allies of convenience during the war, becoming our bitter enemies in its aftermath.
For many of us baby boomers born in the years just after the end of WWII, the United States’ involvement in Vietnam became the defining political struggle of our lives as young adults. The anti-war and draft-resistance movements, along with the criminal excesses of the Nixon administration, made a permanent impression on us, informing our politics for the rest of our lives.
Negro soldiers who had fought valiantly for this country returned in 1945 to an America still unwilling to grant them full rights as citizens, and the Civil Rights movement was born, in part, from their frustration. There was a natural affinity between those of us who opposed the war in Vietnam and those fighting for equality here, and for many of us the two movements were inseparable.
One of my goals in the Sleeper Ave. stories is to weave together the various social and political threads that made this nation, and its people, what and who we are today. Perhaps it’s a conceit of all humans to presume that their era in history is defining, but I have to believe that the end of WWII marked a new beginning for America, and that my generation grew up in a world so changed that we had to fundamentally reinvent our relationship to it.
I’m not posting a new story today, but I’ll be back next week with another one.