“SB sighs in relief for Viet war end.”
That was a front page headline in the Chula Vista Star-News.
The story opened with: “President Nixon’s announcement that agreement has been reached with North Vietnam to ‘end the war and bring peace with honor in Southeast Asia’ was greeted by most Americans—including South Bay residents—the same as most war news these past years, unflappably and with a tacit acceptance.”
The story went on to quote then Chula Vista City Councilman Lauren Egdahl, who was also a pastor.
“It’s long overdue and I couldn’t be happier,” he said.
Chula Vistan Herb Lathan, the chairman of the state veterans committee, was slightly more hawkish in his reaction.
“We should have taken a regiment of Marines and wiped them all out a long time ago.”
The story was published Jan. 25, 1973 and as it turned out that cease fire was more fantasy than fact as hostilities and death would last through 1975.
That same week, in fact two days prior to the newspaper hitting the streets, the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that established a woman’s autonomy over her body and reproductive rights.
There was no mention of the historic victory on the front page. (And if you told me women living in South Bay at that time had no interest in that story I’d call you a liar.)
No mention of the case in the rest of the A section.
Or in the following week’s paper. Or the one after that.
Decades later it’s easy for me to question the editorial decision making at the time. And an often cited argument against stories of national importance talked about in the “hometown paper” is that the news is not local.
But was the Vietnam War more local than the Roe v. Wade ruling because young men from Chula Vista, National City and the rest of South County went to fight in a war? Did the women of South County in the 1970s not care a whit about their right to make a choice about their lives and their freedom? Were reporters unable to find any women to talk to?
I’m sure there were plenty of men who had something to say about the topic.
Or did people in South County simply not care that women were recognized as obviously having a right to choose what to do with their body?
Will they care when that right is taken away?