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Wednesday, 01 May 2013 22:36

The NATO Fleet Review

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In May 1969, exactly one years after the death of my mother, and after my return from the United States, I was living and working in Portsmouth on the South coast of England. In that month, the Ministry of Defense chose to celebrate the 2oth Anniversary of the NATO Alliance with a Review of the NATO Fleet at Spithead, in the Solent, off Portsmouth, by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It was a time of rising anti-war sentiment. A year earlier in March 1968 I had been involved in the battle with police outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square. That had been followed by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in April, then, in May, by the death of my mother, the assassination of Robert Kennedy. In Berkeley and San Francisco I had witnessed the rising tide of anti-war feelings. These had come into high relief once again at the Democratic Party Convention in Chicago, where Mayor Daley's police thugs had brutalised peaceful demonstrators on live TV. The French had crushed the student revolt and the Russians had suppressed the Prage Spring. It was a mad and heavily charged time.My return to the UK in June saw me becoming increasinngly more politically active.
 
This May, 1969, the sailors from the combined forces were to be found everywhere, walking in small groups around the city  of Portsmouth and Southsea, and drinking in the pubs. I saw it as a unique opportunity to engage in some anti-war propaganda in an immediate way, by addressing myself directly to these sailors. There wasn't much time. I had just one day to write, print and circulate my piece throughout the Portsmouth pubs (with the help of several colleagues and friends). I typed this piece over the space of a couple of hours, with no editing. It's raw. It's crude, self-righteous and not a little pompous. But I wanted to speak directly to the heart - as one did in those hippie, love and peace days and I was filled with an evangelical zeal. 

 

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