In 1966, at the beginning of my senior year, my dad took a job with Air Asia in Taiwan. We were living in San Diego and my dad worked in the aerospace industry. In 1965 President Johnson had pressured the aerospace industry in San Diego to relocate to Houston, which devastated the San Diego economy and housing market. Instead of moving to Texas my dad took the job in Taiwan instead. At that time Air Asia joined with Air America (CIA) and was running President Johnson’s secret war in Laos out of Taiwan, which Nixon was eventually blamed for.
In 1966 Taiwan was a country ruled with the iron fist of Chiang Kai-shek, who was forced out of China during World War II by Mao Tse Tung. I quickly learned how free America was compared to Asia. For pocket money I taught English in the YMCA. When I would bring up politics, my students would shut up with a fearful look. From that young age I was being educated to appreciate our First Amendment Rights under our Constitution.
In the spring of 1967 I visited Hong Kong with my parents. Mao Tse Tung had instituted the Cultural Revolution and was burning all the books and slaughtering the bourgeoisie (the middle class) throughout China. He was also creating havoc and terrorism in British-owned Hong Kong. Terrorists were indiscriminately bombing Western institutions while splashing red paint on buildings and plastering Mao posters all over the place.
While visiting the brother of one of my students we narrowly missed being blown up at a Tram station by Red terrorists. A day later my parents and I saw a human body floating in Hong Kong Harbor while taking a sight-seeing boat ride. Bodies were frequently floating down the river out of China into the harbor of Hong Kong due to the insanity taking place across the border in China.
A couple days later the Bank of America building next door to our hotel was bombed. That’s when my World War II veteran and Bronze Medal winning dad said “we’re outta here.”
Prior to leaving, I walked into a bar and struck up a conversation with some soldiers on R&R from Vietnam. They said straight up to do anything I could to avoid going to Vietnam, saying it was a bloody nightmare.
From that visiting week and thereafter I was very much against the war and being caught up in Asian misery and death. Unfortunately my high school in Taiwan was unaccredited. I lost my entire senior year so at age 17 and 13,000 miles from my parents I returned to San Diego to finish my senior year.
While watching Archie Bunker one night, all three television stations cut away to televise the first draft lottery. Vietnam was raging and the nightly news was not good. The recent Christmas Tet Offensive had just escalated the Vietnam War exponentially. Times were scary. Every young man had the military draft hanging over their heads. I surely was hoping for a high draft number but wasn’t so lucky. My birthdate (lottery number) came up No. 19. I tried to stay in college as long as possible but my young wife was pregnant and in those days you paid out of pocket for maternity. I lost my school deferment when I left school and worked full time to pay the medical bills. It didn’t take long to be drafted on of all days Sept. 11, 1971.
Two weeks before the end of my basic training President Nixon cut off all new troops to Vietnam while my wife and our 3-month-old daughter ran off with a fireman. Because of that experience I feel for all the young men in the military today with pretty and young wives at home. No one likes getting those “Jody” letters. Nevertheless, I ended up completing my tour of duty at Fort Hood Texas.
After my military stint was up I went to UC Santa Barbara. Anti-war rallies were common and I actively participated. From my Asian experience, political science became an interest so my first BA came in Political Science. I was taught by truly liberal professors of whom I was in total agreement. But after completing my required number of units I was short of graduating so I double-majored and earned a second degree in Business Economics. That was another culture shock for me. Economics was being taught by conservative professors (yes, they really existed on UC campuses in the ‘70s).
After graduation I built one of the country’s first skateboard parks and then eventually moved into real estate development. I was being pulled by my environmental liberal side and yet also by my conservative property-rights side. The projects I eventually developed combined both philosophies by having ample undeveloped open space for the critters.
I have lived on both sides of the political spectrum and it bothers me that this country is so polarized that liberals and conservatives can no longer sit down and work together. This last week I was hammered by my liberal readers who believe me to be McCarthy reincarnate. It’s ironic how the current IRS scandal just drips of McCarthyism yet it wasn’t the conservatives that set that mess into motion.
Nonetheless, I still get pulled by the high points of both sides of the political spectrum. Sometimes experiencing life outside our confined borders can stimulate both sides of the political mind. Don’t we all just want peace? Sometimes it just takes swallowing your pride and respecting your “neighbor.”