My last post drew a comment from Jim about the death of our mutual boyhood friend Brian "Moose" Conlan in Viet Nam in 1966. It drew a few other responses as well. All of which leads me to add this PS to that last post:
I got out of a four-year hitch in the service in '66 and got back East in time to see my mother pass. I ended up in Iowa, with my wife Lee where I went to college on the GI Bill and heard about Moose's death in Viet Nam. I had already lost buddies in the service over there. Moose's passing hit me hard. I remember getting the message over the phone and seeing his handsome face with his little ironic smile and felt pretty angry and upset at policies that led us into such a morass (and at Moose's father's macho posturing and pushing Moose to emulate that).
It contributed to my becoming radicalized at the time. Unfortunately a lot of what I and my fellow radicals attempted to do to bring about change sometimes only added to more of the same or worse, ala dismissing both major political parties and thereby contributing to Nixon's win in '68 and the subsequent escalation of the war in Nam and the hundreds of thousands, millions, of deaths that might have been avoided had the Democratic candidate Humphrey won, despite his loyalty to LBJ as VP and what looked like his status quo pronouncements, at least as spread by the major media of the time.
My experience with idealism that in the long run (and sometimes the short, like the election of '68) contributed to the growth of a rightwing reaction and a rightwing takeover of much of the federal government for the next several decades, with a few exceptions, has led me to my present perspective of seeing things as they really are and looking for the best practical as well as possible outcome in otherwise miserable and tragic situations, whether domestic or international.
My sense so far is that Obama is coming from a similar place, possibly because of his unique upbringing and experiences as a mixed-race child brought up by a white mother and white grandparents in locations most "American" kids don't even know exist let alone where they might be and what life there might be like (Indonesia, etc.). He didn't go through the experiences of the 1960s, including the idealistic radicalism that led so many into the streets and the rightwing reactions that polarized the nation and lent support to Nixon and the rightwing Republican machine's tactics to exploit those divisions and any others they could create to their advantage, which they continue to do through the use of the big lie (i.e. healthcare will bankrupt and kill you, Obama isn't a "real American" etc.). But he seems to have studied and learned from the mistakes we made.
I would love to see him push more progressive policies and play harder ball with the rightwing Republicans and the more rightwing Dems in Congress, but his approach may in the end be more productive and create more change than the one I'd like to see him take might do (ala Bill Clinton's first weeks and months in office where his push for the acceptance of "gays" in the military and healthcare reform were attempted to be pushed through by a guy who could definitely play hardball with the rightwing Republicans and yet those major progressive policy changes failed. Obama has obviously learned from this as well).