Puppies, Ellsberg, McGovern, and Nixon

Legal treatises spread across the library shelves in our second bedroom where I studied hard for the California Bar exam. Old legal concepts swept away the cobwebs in my memory, and the outlines helped me frame cogent arguments to complex problems in contracts, torts, crimes, civil procedure, and many more. A welcomed relief from the drudgery came when we mated Shiva, to Quiet Hills Zodiac Traveler, a magnificent pedigreed show-Lab.  Before long, Shiva had a bulging litter kicking inside her. Our front porch served for a birthing place.

In a few weeks, Shiva delivered twelve black pups during an all-night marathon. Unfortunately, one didn’t make it. The energetic black glossy pups provided plenty of entertainment as they maneuvered for the nearest full teat. We called it “equinipple.” To tell them apart we tied colored yarn around their neck.  They romped out in the back yard, chased their tails, and bull-dozed unwitting gawkers of butterflies. We could tell that "Sky," with blue yarn, largest head, and best coat, would be the first taken. Others were faster, more agile, and energetic.

Soon it was time to advertise our brood. When Tom saw the advertisement, he wandered up to me and said, "I never thought you would be a dealer in flesh!"

"Come by and see our beautiful Lab pups. I'll bet you'll want to buy one," I said.

The next day a happy couple had Sky in a hug and were carrying him home. Attached already to him, I was sad to see him go, but his sale paid for the stud fee and we had ten more to offer. In two weeks we sold seven more leaving us with four: Caliban, Shadowfax, Bear, and Greenie. The latter three were black shimmering females full of energy. We took them out to a field to run and they tried valiantly, but failed, to come close to catching scurrying rabbits whose speed was like a motorcycle to a tricycle. Unbelievably, we were so attached to our pups, we kept them all except “Greenie.” She was a sleek black beauty we sold to Jerry, who named her, “Sabra.”

***

Although the Pentagon Papers surfaced in 1971, the voluminous document took time to digest and decipher. Ellsberg was in hiding in fear of deadly revenge from the outraged Nixon Administration for showing the people their cynicism and cruel disregard for American soldiers, the Vietnamese people, and protestors. So the delay in getting the information out to the public was a mixture of not having the spokesperson, Ellsberg, available to discuss it to the public as well as the gigantic amount of information and intelligence to sift through.

After returning from Vietnam, Daniel Ellsberg went back to the Rand Corp. As an expert on Vietnam, he was invited in 1967 to contribute to a top-secret study of classified documents regarding the Vietnam conflict. Defense Secretary McNamara had commissioned the analysis in the Johnson Administration that showed our government knew we could not win the war but continued it, knowing it would lead to many more deaths than publicly admitted.

With the assistance of colleague Anthony Russo, and his own children, Ellsberg secretly made photocopies and leaked the Pentagon Papers to Neil Sheehan of the New York Times. They published the first installment in June of 1971, and after a legal battle, the entire document, but did not reveal Ellsberg as their source. He knew the FBI would eventually learn he caused the leak. Senator Mike Gravel from Alaska entered 4,100 pages of the document into the Congressional record and publication followed.

The nefarious Nixon administration began a vengeful campaign to discredit Ellsberg. The president’s plumbers broke into the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist, Lewis Fielding, to try to find something damaging to discredit his piercing criticism. When that failed, they made plans to break into Fielding's home for the same purpose. They feared releasing these papers would bring discredit upon Nixon, whose judgment would no longer seem reliable to a wider audience, and that the public would also realize Nixon was dangerously vindictive, anti-Semitic, and might not support his re-election campaign.

Equally important, the Pentagon Papers showed President Johnson’s mendacious exaggerations and lies regarding the Gulf of Tonkin incident, as military slaughter escalated in Vietnam, and had no likelihood of success. Joan and I could not awaken many Bakersfield residents with whom we spoke on these issues.

***

Of course McGovern was our choice for the Presidential Campaign. I had lived across the street from him in Chevy Chase, Maryland when he as a Senator. While playing step-ball, I often hit homeruns into his yard. He lived two doors down from Senator Hubert Humphrey, our liberal Vice President under LBJ. We fervently hoped the country would not re-elect Nixon. He had lied about a plan for peace in 1968, escalated the hostilities in Vietnam, invaded neutral Cambodia without a declaration of war, and caused so much discontent in our generation that National Guards killed four students at Kent State. The lying, and deceptive icon of the right wing establishment ran on a peace platform against a gentleman, scholar, and humanist. Joan and I went door to door trying to convince Bakersfield residents not to vote for Nixon, and that we desperately needed McGovern’s wisdom and empathy. Revelations about the Watergate break-in had surfaced, yet no one but liberals and radicals believed Nixon was involved.

The Republican Convention in Miami during November 1972 infuriated me as I watched the flag-wavers scream, “Four More Years” until I had to shut the TV off. They supported a lying president who ordered criminal conduct out of revenge, treated protesters like scum, and repudiated the vets who protested against their dirty war.

Mutilated vet Ron Kovic in his wheel chair close to the podium during Nixon’s acceptance speech with passion  screamed, “Stop the Bombing. Stop the War.” The Republicans, in character, responded, “Four More Years,” to drown him out. They chanted their mantra endlessly, while the police pushed Kovic and his friends out of the Convention Center.

(Ron Kovic, Disabled Vietnam Vet,at the Convention , author of Born on the Fourth of July)

Nixon’s victory devastated me. The nation gave "Tricky Dick" more power to destroy American lives and the Vietnamese people after having sacrificed nearly fifty thousand Americans and an estimated two million Vietnamese. America’s ignorance never looked so destructive, although it seems like déjà vu (all over again), when I reflect on Bush and Cheney’s lies for invading Iraq to justify a war against a country uninvolved in the Al Qaeda 9/11 attacks, who they knew did not have weapons of mass destruction.

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About Daniel C. Lavery

Dan’s writing shows his transformation from a child to an athlete and a Duke pre-ministerial student where he began to question ancient and arbitrary dogma. He graduated from Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, and a ship to Vietnam, fell in love, turned peace activist and a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW. His memoir, "All the Difference," describes the experiences, some humorous and others deadly, that changed his consciousness from a pawn to an advocate crusading for justice against some of the most powerful forces in America.