Yellow RIbbons and Forgotten Lives

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic

My youth was a troubled time in America. It was a time when young men searched for purpose, for meaning, and self discovery.


By Al Garcia

My youth was a troubled time in America.  It was a time when young men searched for purpose, for meaning, and self?discovery.

The 1960’s was a turbulent period for those of us coming of age and in search of identity and acceptance.  This was my time, my America, my dilemma.  I was 18 years old and the world around me was exploding with changes that confused and astounded me.  There was discontent in the air and the unease and disquiet of the times consumed my every thought, while I masked my apprehension and anxieties inside my rapidly evolving and questioning mind. 

It was the era of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane and the Rolling Stones.  It was the epoch of my awakening as a young man in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, torn between being the Mexican-American son I was expected to be, or just being me, with no strings attached.  It was a time of long solitary walks and inter-exploration and scrutiny.  It was a time of self-realization, and at times painful insight into my very being.  And I was only 18.

How many other young men my age agonized like I did?  I thought it was only me.  In later years I found out that I was not alone.  It was the natural course of becoming the man I eventually became.  It was the changing of the times and the beginning of a life filled with new sights, new sounds, new people and new experiences.  It was my coming of age, and I broke free from my comfortable nest, where I had been nurtured and loved and found my wings and flew.  This was the beginning of my life.  Or so I thought.

At the age of 19, I experienced the life-altering test of everything I was or would ever be.  I was put into a situation where I saw men at their very best, and their very worst.  I became a part of an army of men, whose cruelty and shamelessness was without bounds.  It was haunting.  I found myself in Vietnam -- surrounded by other confused, bewildered, raw and untested young American men, encircled by Vietnamese people whose faces displayed their decades of torment, pain and grief, and their gait the look of defeat.  I was in a theatre of war.  A theatre of the absurd.  I was a scared young, naïve boy, just like so many others around me.  Puzzled as to why I was in the middle of a war, and bewildered by it all. 

That was so long ago, yet the memories so clear, so fresh, so painful at times.  That was the era when yellow ribbons began to appear “around the old oak trees,” telephone poles and mail boxes across the good old USofA for the prodigal sons who would be returning home from war.  Many in coffins, others mangled and broken, others with defeated spirits.  Yellow ribbons were supposed to make everything right.  They didn’t.

Today, I find myself again experiencing a life-altering test of everything I thought America was, or could be.  I am in a situation where I am seeing men and women at their very worst, who are exercising a cruelty and shamelessness without bounds, against their fellow citizens and their own country.  Once again, I find it haunting and frightening. 

What is even more frightening, is finding myself surrounded by other confused, bewildered, raw and untested Americans of all ages, whose faces display their utter dismay, torment, pain and grief, at seeing the dismantling of their democracy, bit, by bit.  The once powerful and great America, now just another third-rate theatre of the absurd.  And I am puzzled as to why this is happening, and bewildered by it all. 

Back in the 60s it was yellow ribbons to help make our troubles go away.  What color ribbon this time around?  What color for hopelessness?  What color will cover the hate, the arrogance, the greed, that has overtaken and overwhelmed the hearts and minds of a nation? 

I remember the era of yellow ribbons and forgotten lives.  I lived through it.  I was part of it. 

It never stops.  The insanity.  The insatiable hunger for power, for control.  The madness that destroys common sense, judgement, practicality, realism.  Even religion finds its way into the obsession with self-destruction, indifference and even greed.

And here I thought my youth was a troubled time in America, when young men and women searched for purpose, for meaning, and self?discovery.  Looking back, my youth was a cake walk, compared to what Americans are experiencing today.  Instead of having learned from our mistakes, and moving forward and upward toward greater heights and peaks, Americans have decided to close their minds, block their imaginations and obstruct their inspirations and aspirations.

Americans have decided to stop searching for purpose, for meaning, for truth, for self-discovery.  The less they know, the better. 

My era of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane and the Rolling Stones, now replaced by Trump, Bannon, McCarthy, McConnell, QAnon, Marjorie Green-Taylor.  Oh, how the times, they are a changing, and so too my America.  Once at the epoch of its awakening, now teetering on the edge of collapsing and falling.

America no longer hears the music.  It is no longer the music.  It has become a sad and dying figment of what it used to be.  And we, nothing more than pawns, to be moved and sacrificed by those who were never satisfied with simply being president or leaders, and not rulers or sovereigns over everything and everyone.

Yellow ribbons and forgotten lives.  It starts again.  This time, without the ribbons.

Submitted: October 06, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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