THERE IS A GAS WAR, AND GAS IS WINNING — As the war in Ukraine breaks out in early 2022, this sign at a DeLand convenience store beckons motorists to fill up their tanks at prices surging because of the war’s effects and the U.S. sanctions against oil pumped in Russia. The shortage of oil and refined fuels pushed crude and retail prices to levels not seen in years. BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN

By Al Everson

The parallels between 50 years ago and now are so striking.

In 1973, we were trying to recover from our then-longest war in American history, the Vietnam War. The war should more accurately be termed the Southeast Asian War, because it stretched beyond Vietnam proper into Cambodia and Laos.

Thanks to Henry Kissinger’s diplomatic finesse, the U.S. signed an agreement with North Vietnam and quickly withdrew from a war that had actually begun during World War II and picked up momentum during the late 1950s and early ’60s, mushrooming into a major — but undeclared — war by 1965. President Richard “I’m Not a Crook” Nixon termed the U.S. exit from Vietnam “Peace With Honor,” but there was no peace, and there was no honor in abandoning hundreds of living American POWs.

Now, we are still trying to deal with our losses in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite intense fighting and futile attempts to remake those countries in our own image, the failures are obvious. As in Southeast Asia, our government made the coldblooded decision to leave an unknown number of Americans to the not-so-tender mercies of the Taliban.

On the homefront, the economic scenario is so much like 1973. Inflation is robbing Americans of their wealth and comfort. The dollar is losing its strength almost by the hour. Prices are rising for simply basic items such as food, energy and shelter.

I can well recall in early 1973 the price of a gallon of gasoline was about 25 cents — and an attendant would still take the hose off the pump and put the fuel in your tank. By the way, a teenager could put a dollar’s worth of gas in the tank and cruise around his/her favorite places for hours before returning home with plenty of gas still in the car.

Gas prices soared to 38 cents per gallon and higher that fall, amid the Arab oil embargo and reports of manipulation by oil companies wanting bigger profits. As the cost of getting from here to there increased, many Americans recycled a question from the gas rationing during World War II: Is this trip really necessary?

Yes, at the time it seemed like the end of the world. And it was the end of the world as we knew it then.

Food prices were climbing in 1973, just as now. I recall Art Buchwald, whom I sorely miss, writing a humor (?) column about a suburban couple going to their bank to apply for a loan to buy steaks for a cookout. The banker informed them, the story went, that they would have to provide collateral and commit to a repayment schedule.

The loan would cover the cost of the meat, but not other items, such as a salad. As the past becomes the future and fiction becomes reality, is such an episode in our cards? Will we have to borrow to eat?

Not least, the nation was jaded and jolted by political scandals known by the catchall name of Watergate. Reports of government surveillance of citizens and political enemies, political dirty tricks in campaigns, slush funds, reports of favors for and payoffs to members of Congress, influence peddling — in short, criminality at the highest levels of power.

Yes. It is 1973 — and worse.




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