Words matter, who says them, their context, their connotations. That’s why veterans of the Vietnam era now have to write their memoirs to reclaim the story line that the right wing has twisted. But that also was a lesson we learned during the Vietnam era. And so that’s why we had to create our own media to end the war.
That media was called the underground press.
The underground press was the antiwar press, the non-corporate press, the dissident press. Underground papers were everywhere. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of them. They were published and read in high schools, in college communities, in big cities and small, in expatriate communities of Canada, and overseas.
There were over 400 papers published by or directed to members of the military, all branches, at bases in the U.S. and around the world. When the right wing said “Support the troops” even as they sent soldiers overseas to die needlessly and then spit on them by cutting the education benefits of those who survived, these were the troops I most supported.
Underground papers were unanimous in their opposition to the war but they spoke to their own unique audiences. Papers in my four-volume Voices from the Underground Series represent the gay, lesbian, feminist, Black, Puerto Rican, Native American, Asian-American, military, prisoners’ rights, psychedelic, rank-and-file, Southern consciousness, new age, and other voices of the what was known as the counterculture.
When an earlier version of Voices from the Underground first found print in 1993, the stories were met with rave reviews from those in the media who understood that the U.S. had been the bad guy in Vietnam. But the country overall was not ready to accept any U.S. image other than that created by the “greatest generation” during World War II.
Today, after a string of invasions of one form or another that include Panama, Grenada, Nicaragua, Chile, Iraq, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, our image is sadly but deservedly tarnished and patroits are looking again for lessons from Vietnam.
So, soon after a review copy of volume 1 arrived at the Chicago Tribune in late January, I received an invitation from the organizer of the Chicago Tribune Printers Row Literary Fest to speak at this year’s event. I’m deeply honored and excited about the opportunity to share stories, re-unite with old friends, meet veterans and students of the period, and answer questions.
If you’re from Chicago or anywhere nearby, I hope you can make it. I’ll be appearing twice:
Saturday, 6/4/2011, 10 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.
Program: Ken Wachsberger in conversation with Bill Ayers
Location: Hotel Blake
Sunday, 6/5/2011, 1 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.
Program: Panel Discussion: Matthew Carlson, Matthew Ehrlich, and Ken Wachsberger moderated by Alison Cuddy, to be broadcast on C-SPAN
Location: University Center/Lake Room
If you missed the period, this will be a major adventure for you, and a good time.
After my talk Saturday and before my talk Sunday, I’ll be hanging out with my friends from the Chicago chapter of the National Writers Union at Table 247, located on Dearborn Street between Harrison and Polk Streets.
I look forward to seeing you there. If you can’t make it but are interested in purchasing the book, you can order it through my website.