TCNJ Magazine Fall 2018

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13 FALL 2018 U.S. role in the war expanded. Eventually, a peace accord was achieved in 1973, but fighting continued until the fall of Saigon to North Vietnamese troops in 1975. Today, some describe 1968 as the year that shaped a generation. Call me credulous, but I thought my generation could make all the difference in the world: That we would make room for multiple points of view and, even in the midst of disagreements, manage to live together or at least reach an uneasy truce. Sadly, we seem to have beaten a path to polarization, venerating a past that was not without sham or shame. Recently, the phrase "America, Love It or Leave It" — a frequent response to dissent during the Vietnam era — has been resur- rected. That epithet, a reminder that the past is still with us, suggests that disagreement and protest are unacceptable; that a lock-step approach to governing is the basis of democracy; that diversity is fine as long as old white men continue to call the shots. The world is still sadly flawed, a dangerous place, just like the Vietnam vets on campus told us 50 years ago. Nevertheless, my semester at the University of Copenhagen made me a lifelong learner, committed to understand- ing the world as it is and determined to find ways to make it better. ■ Constance Alexander is an award-winning journalist based in Murray, Kentucky. against the Nazis as a teenager. To orient us to the world beyond Denmark, the study-abroad program arranged trips to other countries. A weekend in Berlin was an eye- opener. In East Germany, soldiers goose-stepped, Nazi-style. Citizens could not speak to foreigners, and tourists were restricted to shops and restaurants that accepted only foreign currencies. At the University of Copenhagen, weekend social life centered on the International Students Club. Young people from every continent congregated to dance, chat, and complain about the cost of cigarettes and Carlsberg beer. We were asked difficult questions about the United States. One night, I was approached by a student from Ethiopia who, without rancor, started a conversa- tion by saying, "In America, I hear they hang black people from trees." Another time, a Danish woman threw a drink into an American student's face as she argued against the U.S. role in Vietnam. Speechless, I realized there were U.S. policies I had ignored because I did not directly suffer their conse- quences. Our government was taking actions that were indefensi- ble and contradictory to the values we espoused. SPRING 1968 presented more harsh realities. Days after Lyndon Johnson announced he would not run for re-election, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Civil unrest and racial hopelessness fueled more violence in America. Demonstrations against the war in Vietnam sprang up in Copenhagen and other cities across Europe. At the end of the semester, my travel included stops in Ireland, Scotland, and England. At a bed- and-breakfast in London, a radio newscast reported that Robert Kennedy died from an assassin's bullet. Instead of heading home in time for graduation, I stayed in London and went to the U.S. Embassy to sign the register and offer condolences. " Vietnam veterans were on campus in increasing numbers. They said that the world was a dangerous place, but we didn't believe them." I WAS BACK HOME IN TIME for the Democratic Convention where Chicago police took action against mostly peaceful demonstrators who supported the U.S. withdrawal of troops in Vietnam. Mayor Richard J. Daley deployed 12,000 police and called in another 15,000 state and federal officers to contain the protests. The situation spiraled out of control; the drama played out live on television. After that, more Americans publicly opposed the war, but with the election of Richard Nixon as president, the

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