Vancouver was their escape plan, a safe haven, for an American mother whose son was up for the Viet Nam draft. On a recent visit to Vancouver, the daughter recalls how, with America at war, Vancouver had promised safety, and peace.
I had an ancient excitement as I landed in Vancouver. An excitement mixed with nostalgia and longing.
The mysterious “Vancouver” had been the go-to place since my childhood, when my family was fighting to prevent my brother Jonathan from being drafted to fight in the Vietnam War.
In fact, we had just about packed up our house and were poised to move to Vancouver when the draft ended. Fifty thousand American soldiers had died and a cloak of grief and rage came over us like a storm.
My brother, who was seventeen in 1971, had a very low draft number; which meant he would be drafted – and low to an anti-war mother, like mine, was an epic call to action. By day, my mother was a fashion designer by the name of Marjorie Vogel but by night she was the head of Women’s Strike for Peace and was called Midge – Midge Weiss; activist, demonstrator and rebel rouser. There would be no way my pacifist mother was going to let the U.S. government endanger her son.
We sang “no more bullets, no more bombs, no more men for Vietnam”. We wore black arm sashes, we marched and we fought against the machine.
My brothers were seventeen and fifteen and I was thirteen and for the six years previous to that moment our home was filled with political gatherings, anti-war fund-raisers and strategy sessions.
My mom did fund-raisers at our house for Senators McGovern and Mushie, we traveled by bus to Washington D.C. with Bella Abzug and others to protest the war many times. There was and is a law in D.C. that says that only one-hundred people can stand on the sidewalk in front of the White House to protest.
My mom and her cohorts would inspire five-thousand or ten-thousand women to show up at the same time. They would synchronize their watches and all walk across the street to protest at once, that meant bad news when facing riot police, which my mom did many times.
The joke in our family is that as the riot police, who were sitting on horses, came towards us with their sticks and faces covered with plastic my mother pulled me towards her and yelled to them “You can’t hit me, I’m with my daughter”.
Well, eventually I was separated from her by our friends and mom was taken off by the police- my mom, the negotiator! When I saw her later I thanked her ever so kindly for using me as a human shield!
Fortunately for my family, the draft in the U.S. ended, and ultimately the war, before my oldest brother was drafted. But unfortunately, we never did visit or move to that “safe haven”, paradise on earth, liberal, shining light just north of us called Vancouver – the beacon of our hope during our darkest days.
Now, 35 years later, I arrive here with memories and with sadness for the 3,500 young American men who have died in Iraq War, not to mention the thousands of others and the awareness that the U.S. has justify the invasion and occupation of another country once again.
As the plane lands, I fantasize how different our lives would have been had we moved here so many years ago. I wonder if it will take the loss of another fifty-thousand young people before the USA decides to pull out of Iraq.
My mom's activism has always inspired me. In 2002, I launched a cosmetics company called PeaceKeeper Cause-Metics which gives its after tax profits to women’s health advocacy and human rights issues (www.iamapeacekeeper.com).
I think of her as I enter the city on a clear September day. She never made it here herself, but she would have loved Vancouver, our almost home.