John Lennon, meet Johnny Warchinski 

It was Memorial Day weekend, and my lady and I were heading to the beach. We had a couple of Virgin Bloody Mary’s going for the ride, with the John Lennon collection on the CD player.

“All we are saying is give peace a chance,” was John’s lament. It was a protest song during the Vietnam War that seems just as relevant today. Hearing it again after so long brought back so many horrific memories of those times.

The mood of the country, the polarization between the hardhats and hippies, the senseless slaughter of our boys who were sent to a faraway land for bogus reasons with no concrete plans for a solution or a withdrawal.

Sound familiar?

These same soldiers were shunned and despised by this wonderful society we call America on their return to the states. We transferred our shame for our mistakes upon the very people who we sent to do our dirty work.

Thankfully, I don’t see that nowadays. Now we just hide their deaths and mutilations behind a shroud that has become our flag.

I grew up in a small town, and mine was a neighborhood where you were expected to “take it.” What happened on the streets was supposed to stay on the streets. If you cried to one’s parents, you were a tattletale, and their most likely response would be “why don’t you fight your own battles?”

Johnny Warchinski was a bully. His kid brother Kenny and I were friends, and I can remember all too well the times he beat Kenny and made him cry.

Johnny had that kind of punch that you felt all the way to the bone and it would instantly bring tears to your eyes. I know, because I was often the recipient of his residual rage.

We got a parking place three steps from the beach; we have our chairs, and a cooler full of beer. The water is calm and warm, and I am in and out of it all day. My girl is determined to finish her book, and between her occasional snoozes, she seems to be making some progress.

The last time I saw Johnny Warchinski was back in the early ‘70s at a little gin mill called the Oval Bar. I had recently dropped out of college, and had half a load on.

He had what appeared to be a full load on, and apparently had dropped out of life. Back from “‘Nam” a broken and defeated man, he was a bully no more.

I looked down the beach and saw a lone American flag planted in the sand by a couple’s chair. It gave me chills on this Memorial Day year 2005. It was a poignant reminder of everything that is good and bad about our country, and the significance of this day.

I want peace! I want us to leave Iraq! I want us to be the country we think we are and to do the right thing. It is past time to bring these young men and women home, and admit the error of our ways. They do not deserve this war anymore than the boys we sent to Vietnam did.

I am so utterly fed up with the jingoistic display of yellow ribbons and our American flag in what is nothing more than a shameless propaganda campaign waged by the current administration. I am sick to death of the “you’re with us or against us” patriotism they espouse.

It did not work during the Viet Nam war, and it is not working now. The Iraq War is a manufactured farce that has alienated us from the rest of the world, and has turned our children into cannon fodder, all in the name of profit.

A year after I’d last seen him, they found Johnny Warchinski on the side of the road dead. Trackmarks were on his arms from the heroin he had tried to escape to. His “friends” had thrown him from a vehicle.

Yet this one flag on the beach seemed so genuine in its individuality that I was moved. It was a beautiful sight blowing in the wind.

The ride home is slow because of traffic, but Karen is driving, so I’ve got my eyes closed and am listening to John Lennon.

His final thoughts were.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.”

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