Alice's Restaurant Revisited

(Captain No-L is a senior living off campus.)

I got up about 5:00 a.m. full up with the knowledge that this was part of finally facing a tangible baddy. For two years I had demonstrated against the war; for two years I carried signs irrelevantly. This was the day of confrontation; I had expected it ever since I decided not to apply for a II-S this year on grounds of personal conscience. In short, I had taken my student deferment for three years as a kind of primer for what they told me was "getting along in the world."

I was feeling good that morning; I felt secure in myself, in the knowledge that the Army would see me at my best that morning.

A good friend drove me down to the local Board where we met some other demonstrators. We all passed out literature to my fellow travelers and I spoke a little about the right to free speech we had on the Army.

We arrived at the base and they promptly lined us up for orientation on our processing. "No nonsense and no trouble" was the essence of the message. The sergeant paused and that was my cue.


"Sir, could you tell us a little about why we're in Vietnam?" I asked. Matter-of-factly, he told little rolypoly Sgt. Brown to take me to Lieut. Johnson. Brown told me he'd kick my teeth in if I kept agitating. He was very paranoid. I smiled condescendingly in the best Harvard tradition, secure in the knowledge that they can't touch you. Lieut. Johnson asked me what I was there for, and I told him--"Nothing." He promptly sent me off to rejoin my group in Test Room A.

The decor was strictly Kafka--a long rectangular room with five rows of chairs overlooking the speaker's podium. The dysentery-green walls stood in the glaring flophouse-yellow light. The room was completely un-ventilated and the old fan blew hot air into our faces insultingly. The stage was set for Sgt. Brown's treatise on Conduct and Effort.

The Sergeant Goes Beserk

In the midst of it all I asked the Sgt. whether we had the right of free speech on the Army Base. Predictably, he went beserk. "I'm not giving any forum to any of you political agitators. We don't want any of your opinions here. Get out of here." I sat quietly as he repeated the command and waddled ominously down to my chair. "Now are you going to get out of here?" he commanded. I smiled sweetly, looked up at him and quietly answered, "No."

To the delight of my fellows, he began to push my chair out the back door--to little avail. Next he picked up my briefcase and said, "Come with me." As he was nearing the back of the room I called, "I'll sue you if you lose that." In despair he waddled off to fetch the Lieutenant.

In his office Lieut. Johnson and I talked at length.

"What did you do now?" he queried.

"I just asked him if we had free speech on the base and he went wild."

'We don't want any trouble. You are welcome to voice your opinions in newspapers and protests, but we just want to process you here. We don't want any disruptions."

"Sir, it was just a simple question and I am not causing trouble nor do I intend to disrupt my processing."

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