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Victories Come in All Sizes

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I was electrified, and my own trajectory in life changed, by the antiwar movement of the 1960s and early 1970s.  That experience, those years, mobilized me.  They shocked me -- quite literally -- about what my country was capable of.  They destroyed my rather idealistic urge to be a part of the government.  I had long dreamed of becoming a diplomat, and at one point in the 1960s even applied for a job at the United States Information Agency.  In the years when I was growing up, the thought that I should and could find some way to represent my country proudly to the world was a powerful and motivating one for me.  In it lay a citizenly urge to serve.  What I learned in the anti-Vietnam movement stripped me of that urge or, at least, of the urge to apply it to the U.S. government.

Even when that movement died out and great effort in the popular sphere went into turning the dismal, disastrous, and deeply destructive war that called it up into a "noble cause" and the movement I had been a part of into so many "hippies" who "spit on" the returning troops, I never forgot.  Nor, by the way, did I, or anyone I knew in those years, ever see any antiwar activist spit on returning troops.  My life then had, in fact, been thoroughly entangled with Vietnam vets who had come back from the war in a state of protest and G.I.s still in the military who were antiwar and happy to say so.

Even in the decades after, when I demobilized and my most active work was simply putting good books into the world as an editor at the edge of mainstream publishing, I remained a changed person, primed for I had no idea what.  After 9/11, the urge to serve manifested itself powerfully once again and what the antiwar movement had taught me decades earlier helped organize and mobilize me to create TomDispatch.com, which has been the obsession of my later life.  Today, I feel that, thanks to what a movement now half-forgotten did to my life and sense of self, I do in some modest way finally represent my country -- the best of it and the worst of it -- to the world (and to us as well).  


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