Michael Moore: Why I Became Anti-War
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Word eventually filtered through the parents that Mrs. Beachum had indeed vanished. There was no official word from the parish, but this much was said:
“Mrs. Beachum’s husband is missing in Vietnam and presumed dead. Nobody knows where Mrs. Beachum is, but she has probably left and gone home to be with her family.”
We never heard from Mrs. Beachum again. No one did. It was said she was too distraught to talk to anyone at St. John’s and, if she had, no one would have quite known what to say to her. Others said she had a complete nervous breakdown when she got the news about her husband and she went off, to be far, far away, to be by herself and shun this cruel world. One parishioner said she took her own life, but none of us believed that because if there was one person who was thrilled about being alive, it was Mrs. Beachum. We finished out the year with an afternoon substitute teacher who did his best, but he never asked us to sing him a poem.
It was then, in the spring of 1968, after the deaths in Vietnam of Sergeant Beachum and a boy from the high school, plus the assassinations of King and the sweet man in the Senate elevator who helped me find my mother, that I made up my mind: under no circumstances, regardless of whatever amount of coercion, threats, or torture leveled at me, I would never, ever, pick up a gun and let my country send me to go kill Vietnamese.
And if anyone would ever ask me why I felt this way, I’d just look at ’em and say, “Don’t be facetious, child.” Perhaps Mrs. Beachum is reading this. If so, I want to say: I’m sorry for whatever it was that took you away from us. I’m sorry we never had the chance to say good-bye. And I’m so sorry I never got to thank you for teaching me all those wonderful manners.
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