What Were You Doing in 1965?

Posted on April 8, 2022


What Were You Doing in 1965?

Over the past few months, I have read a lot of newspaper articles—most on the front pages—about the marches from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. In fact, I didn’t read much more in my local newspaper other than articles celebrating Black History Month. Which is fine. This is, after all, history and we need to remember it all.

I think last month, March, 2022, was Women’s History Month. I don’t know what April and May have in store. LGBTQ’s History Month to make sure we don’t miss any minorities in this country? Surely an Indigenous Persons Month is in the works for us, and, as a Hispanic, I would hope a Hispanic History Month is also planned.

You can take LatinX and stuff it. Who concocted such a term? My guess is someone who doesn’t have enough honest work to keep them occupied. LatinX? It sounds like a laxative for Latinos.

After reading almost every day about race and civil rights–a near total immersion in the marchers and cops and shouts and even explosions of the era–I felt like a bit of an outsider. Where was I when the marchers, like Jesse Jackson who is a near contemporary of mine, walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on his way to Montgomery to challenge the wrongs of slavery, segregation, lynchings that so marked the South after the Civil War.

About this time in 1965, unlike the bridge walkers, I was on a cruise in the Caribbean. But not your cruise ship of today plying people with booze and food. Alas, my ship was built during the Second World War to carry Marines and storm beaches. In April of 1965 we were in Charlotte Amalie, the port of the Virgin Island of St. Thomas in the Caribbean, picking up a UDT (Underwater Demolition Team), the predecessor of the SEALS of today.

Ok, let’s stop for a pause here. I am not black, I wasn’t involved in the civil rights movement, and I didn’t live in Alabama. I am white, I was in the Navy between 1964 and 1966 doing my service which men in my family have been doing in one form or another since the American Revolution. I was, in the largest way of interpreting U. S. history, protecting your rights. Those include your right to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge for example and change the course of American life largely in the Deep South to reflect the liberties and rights we embraced as a nation in the late eighteenth century with the American Revolution.

And, as I think about it, why not a Veterans History Month? I know we have a Memorial Day and a Veterans Day, but these guys and gals deserve more, at least as much as various minorities based on race, sex, ethnic origins, etc. We wouldn’t be marching and claiming your rights if our grandfathers and grandmothers, great grandfathers, and going back didn’t take up arms to define and defend our rights and liberties.

This country even fought a huge war, the most destructive in dead and wounded, in our history between 1861 and 1865, which resulted in –among other ends—the end of slavery in the United States and the preeminence of the “United” over the “States” in the distribution of powers in our country.

And then in the First World War, the 167th Alabama Regiment distinguished itself in the battles to defeat the German war machine and win the war for freedom and democracy.

And in the Second World War, the 94th Aero Pursuit squadron flew fighters over the skies of German occupied Europe as the U. S. and its allies ground the German Nazis to their knees and surrender. The 167th was all white; the 94th was all black. And in Vietnam blacks and whites and women all fought together in a war that we lost, but not because of sailors, soldiers, and airmen. That’s another story but my generation took it on the chin.

Above is a picture of a good friend of mine, Jim Egan, an officer in the Marine Corps, in Chu Lai, Vietnam. He was killed January 1965. That’s him on the left.

My point is that we are a big country, with millions of people from all walks of life, all races, all ethnic groups, a diversity of people if there ever was one on earth. All you news makers, mavens, editors, virtual and print, don’t narrow your vision to just one group fighting for their rights.

Once you have pounded away in the news on how minorities for example have achieved legal parity within the Constitutional and legislative framework of our great nation, then move on to how one becomes truly free and independent, self-reliant, a contributor to the nation not just to your race, ethnic group, sexual preference. Focus for a while on what binds us together as a nation, on the themes, strengths, and liberties which unify rather than divide us.

Published as “What were you doing in 1965” in The Tuscaloosa News, April 2, 2022

Posted in: History