A couple of days ago, I saw this piece in the Washington Post, and I wonder if the author has a clue of what year it is. It’s not really a look at current issues, but a history lesson.
My experience at a Confederate-named Army base shows why we need to rename them all — now
As Congress pushes to rename military installations bearing the names of Confederate generals — and as President Trump insists he won’t even consider it — I think about how overdue this conversation is. I think about why it is that, more than a century and a half after the Confederacy ended, we still haven’t swept away monuments and other emblems of slavery and black oppression. I think about the unacknowledged entitlement and ignorance among white people, including me, that have contributed to this legacy of pain and humiliation.
And I think about what my own experience at one of these installations should have taught me about racism in America, but didn’t. Until now.
In the fall of 1968, at the age of 23, I was drafted into the U.S. Army in one of the last big pushes to “win” the war in Vietnam. I was a reluctant soldier, to put it mildly, but I did what I was asked to do, along with the nearly 300,000 other men who were drafted in 1968. After basic training at Fort Lewis, Wash., I was shipped off for advanced training at Fort Gordon, just outside Augusta, Ga...
...The Fort Gordon I knew was anything but. It was a relic of the two world wars and ought to have been demolished long before 1968...
...There were about 40 of us there, sleeping in metal bunk beds with thin mattresses and one Army blanket. We were all colors and ethnicities, from all parts of the country. I used to think of the Army as a great equalizer. Until now.
We were in training six days a week, from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. We always looked forward to the brief time when we weren’t: the few hours every Saturday night when we could go into Augusta to drink and carouse like civilians. I was part of a tight group of a half-dozen guys who always went to town together. But one of us never did, and I hadn’t really thought about why. Until now.
His name was Max, an African American kid about 20 years old. I think he was from New Jersey. One Saturday night as our group was leaving for town, I pleaded with Max to join us. Max, as usual, was in his upper bunk reading a magazine. He stared at me for a moment, then just gently shook his head to say “no.”
For more than 51 years, I never gave much thought to why he wouldn’t go with us. Today, with what has been happening in our nation, I think I know. Max understood only too well that it wasn’t safe for a young African American man from New Jersey to be drinking and walking around downtown Augusta on a Saturday night. And it makes me wonder what Max felt while training to serve his country — and possibly die for it — surrounded by symbols glorifying men who betrayed their country to keep people like him enslaved...
Harry Anderson is a retired journalist and corporate communications executive based in Whidbey Island, Wash.
Harry, I see you and Max served your country when called, thank you both. Now, I must correct your opinion piece. It is not based in reality.
Harry, the year is now 2020. The United States stopped the draft in 1973, likely when you were out of the Army. But being a journalist, you should have noticed.
After the draft, the Army went from two-million men to 850 thousand, reorganized, and had to purge itself of two major issues. Narcotics, and racism. The former was handled mainly by urinalysis testing and zero tolerance for people who tested positive. You tested hot, you were out.
The latter was more challenging. The Army (actually all the armed forces) spent years and a fortune of money in group sessions, etc, to push as much bigotry as possible out. Harry, get ready for a shock, you can’t get rid of it all, but you can make men who must work together, sleep together, and fight together, tolerate each other. This is a slow, deliberate process. And it has succeeded. Perfect, no, but a major accomplishment.
Harry, your column has no relevance to issues today, but it is a history lesson. In case you missed it, the "racist" nation elected (twice) an incompetent black male to the highest office in the land. And libtards like you are working day and night to destroy this nation's history. I woke up this morning to see another Confederate statue removed. I wonder when the idiots who have destroyed the Confederate statues, what comes next? Washington? Jefferson? Lincoln?
God help us all.