The Collective Unconscious was Smoldering

 

I was born in rural Pennsylvania in 1946. By 1964, I learned all the social mores of the day. The Beatles had taken over America by storm. There were rising stars everywhere, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and old stars, Pete Seeger, and Woody Guthrie. Martin Luther King was making waves by getting arrested for being outspoken about civil rights and human dignity. Andy Warhol and Simon and Garfunkle, Jefferson Airplane and the Velvet Undergound were speaking to the collective unconscious of a generation. Women rising up and burning their bras in public! How could I not be a part of that? Germain Greer, Metgar Evers, Norman Mailer and Leonard Cohen and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Eldridge Cleaver, Jerry Rubin and Abbey Hoffman. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. The collective unconscious was smoldering and about to become blazingly aware.

Lyndon Johnson was pulling us deeper and deeper into the Vietnam war. Conscription became mandatory. In the news, it became evident that the governors and lawmakers of the land were not listening. Young men were being shipped home in boxes from a war no one understood, or cared about, on the other side of the world. Socio-political protest was on the rise.

I was not old enough to vote, yet was forced by law to register for the draft. We found out much later that rich kids like George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, were exempted by various expensive schemes while we, the rank and file, were shipped out to Vietnam more and more frequently, wave after wave.

Some of my friends and I decided to be the voice of the people, the voice of the America. We went to what started out as peaceful protests. In Harrisburg, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. York, and Lancaster. It was not enough to watch this from the sidelines; I became an activist, and wrote open letters to several newspapers. On one occasion, I was thrown across the hood of a police cruiser and spent a night in jail. Some of my classmates wound up wounded, or dead. These were very dark times.

In anger, I stormed into my Selective Service Office and told them I would not bear arms and promptly ripped up my draft card and threw it on the floor. They sent me another one. I burned it very publicly along with about 50 others that day, at an anti-war rally. By this time, I was being tailed by the FBI. They were doing an inquiry on me because I had applied for conscientious objector status. (Though I could have easily claimed my Mennonite heritage, this was about personal conscience and not religion.)

In April 1968, I realized that rather than spend a possible five years in jail, I could go to Canada!

About seventy-two hours later, just ahead of receiving my draft notice, I was in Toronto! There was soon a bench warrant out for my arrest in the US. I had left my bewildered family and all my friends behind. Rough start, but in 1974 I became a Canadian citizen.

In the ensuing years, I learned that Peace is a personal process. Through some long and sometimes arduous hours of inner soul searching, the anger subsided. Canada had taught me about true humanity; tolerance, good will, honesty, integrity, and service. About the triumphs of love over hate.

Though I may have started out with good intentions, I have learned that I had been anything but peaceful. In Canada. I've tried to live a principled life, learning that true peace comes from within and expresses itself in everyday life through little acts of generosity, kindness and sometimes, sacrifice. And that these actions, as well as being effective, are their own rewards, and embellish the lives of those who practice them.

I am forever grateful.

 

By: Ron Martin

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