Re: The Summer Of Love/Vets

Wed, 27 Aug 1997 00:38:54 +0000

It seems as though the following quotes represent the criticism toward my
recent post:

<... overly simplistic portrayal of vets and vet "guilt" for the war.>
<...comments which seemed to be kind of stuck in a 60s blame-the-soldiers view>
<...either/or logic totally misrepresents the complexity of social history
during the period.>
<... the world is a lot more complicated than you'd have it, and the "willing
accomplices" that you are citing here had at least as many complex motivations
as you had.>

I would respond to these criticisms, but first:

Regarding :
<please come back with a restatement of your position that enables discussion
rather than dissing.?

It seems to me that my post, without the benefit of any "restatement", has
enabled some rather interesting and substantive discussion. Secondly, I've
read my post over and over and I can't find anything that "disses" anyone.
This was a political statement and although some of the thoughts expressed
seem to be unpopular, it is beyond me how any of it was seen as personal.

I felt badly that Joe McDonald seemed to take my political differences with
him personally, and I have e-mailed him privately. At Joe's request, I have
provided excerpts of that e-mail below. The deleted parts related to my
expressing my personal affection for him. I have great respect for Country
Joe and I valued him then, when I agreed with him, and I still value him, now
that I seemingly disagree with him -- at least on this one issue.

I believe that my thesis was not "simplistic" it was "simple." Anyone who
survived the 60's and still around today to try and remember it knows that
very little in life, political or not, is uncomplicated.

The Vietnam War and every facet, every angle and every issue related to it, is
filled with complexities. No, the good guys were not always the ones fighting
in the streets and the bad guys were not always the ones fighting in the
jungle. History shows LBJ (Superbird) to have be a tormented person over the
war and I'm lead to believe that some people even have some nice things to say
about Nixon.

Since the members of the list are, by in large, vets of the 60's and know the
issues and the arguments for both sides of most issues -- backward and
forward, I assumed that I could state my conclusions without having to state
my reasoning. Although the conclusions were indeed "simple" and
"uncomplicated", the complexity of the issues considered to reach these
opinions were by no means "simplistic". And when we talk about generalities
about groupings of people, don't we all assume that we know that there are
always individuals who
defy the generalizations.

My analysis of all of those complicated and complex issues is:
1.America's participation in the Viet Nam War was wrong.
2.America's policy makers who got us in the War were wrong.
3.American's soldiers who fought in the War were wrong.
(Once you buy into #1 you have to buy into #2 & #3 because #1 could not have
happened without them.)

Paula alluded to it, (<I'm afraid, though, this is true of practical moral
discourse generally. If there's choice or moral character, such issues define
it.> and Ted was more specific, (<it seems to me it boils down to (a) I
understand why you went &
fought in the war, and I condemn the government (and other institutions) which
pushed you in that direction, but (b) I think going and fighting was wrong
--then and now.>)

The consequence and responsibility of personal choice. That's what my posting
was all about!

The complexities, complications and nuances of life which went into each
soldier's decision to enlist, or become inducted, as important as it was to
that specific individual, is not relevant in viewing the personal choice
itself and it's consequences and responsibilities.
People are responsible for their actions, usually, regardless of their

1)"Gee, I'm sorry I killed you Mr./Ms. Vietnamese Person. But I come from a
poor family and I didn't really have any good job prospects, and I knocked-up
my old lady -- so going into the army was the best way out for me. And they're
the ones who sent me here; and they put this gun in my hand; and they pulled
the trigger -- I mean -- yeah, I pulled the trigger, but they made me do it.
Yeah, I guess they couldn't have made me do it if I had made some different
choices -- when I had a chance."

2)<As a member of VVAW since 1970 and one of the current National
Co-Coordinators, I would merely point out that most of our members (including
myself) actually enlisted in the military because we "bought" the
anti-communist line thrown at us since birth. - Joe Miller>

Choice! Some of us made the choice to do the right thing. Some of us made the
choice to be "complicit" in the wrong thing.

(excerpted letter to Joe Mcdonald):
Dear Joe,

When I publicly... commented on your posting/vet views, I expected that mine
would be an unpopular position.

However, ... you.

What I intended to do was: 1) ask genuinely if I was missing something 2)
express that, assuming that I wasn't missing anything, I disagreed with
your position -- not with you. I certainly was not challenging your
"progressive credentials"!

If anything, this is a political disagreement -- and an honest one in my view
-- and not a personal difference. And I am sincerely sorry that it was taken that
way especially by you.

And now for the hell of it:

> Yes, i must say that it seems you dont get it! and that is too bad! You
> have not internalized the experienced and touched the killer in
> yourself.

You are correct, Joe, I haven't touched the killer in me. Do you really see
this as something desirable? As far as I know, there is no killer in me. If
I ever
had to kill it would, most probably, be in reaction to some extraordinary
situation (probably involving protecting my wife and kids), not because I
reached down and contacted some primal force deep inside of me.

<Would you have killed for the "revolution"?>

Yeah, at the time I flapped my jaw that I would have, but I'm not at all sure
that I would have actually put my Uzi where my mouth was. And besides, I'm
not necessarily claiming to be a pacifist.

Isn't the "morality" of "killing" really a question of the purpose and
intention behind the act. Would killing in the name of an imperialist war
machine be the same as killing to end that system, in pursuit of freedom,
peace and justice. There sure seems to be a difference to me. Wasn't there a
difference between the killing that the NVA and VC engaged in, while defending
their country from US invaders, and the killing that was done by the invaders?

<Or maybe you believe that one can just pick and choose their causes and that
there are those who deserve compassion and those who do not. There is much i
do not know about you.>

Yes, I do believe you pick and choose your causes. Don't you? We all evaluate
our feelings and thinking on each issue and decide where we stand.

Yes, indeed some people warrant compassion and others don't. Some just
warrant pity and some deserve only disdain. Do you have compassion for vets
who engaged in activities like Lt. William Calley?

I can have compassion for a man who is on death row for blowing away a shop
owner in an attempt to get money to feed his family, or even to feed his
Jones. I have no compassion for a guy on death row who just thought it would
be fun to blow some jerks head off. I have do have compassion for the vets of
whom you speak. I see clearly see them as pawns who suffered at the hands of
US government -- I just don't see them as heroes.

<What does your heart say to those who have family who died?>

Only a complete jerk -- regardless of how radical they claimed to be -- would
not be deeply touched by the loss that these families experienced. I'm not a
jerk. In fact wasn't it that very sensitivity and compassion for the lives of
our soldiers that led
thousand of people into the anti-war movement. As I see it the anti-war
movement was about stopping the slaughter on both sides. The anti-war movement
was concerned about the lives of the dead, before they were dead. We were the
ones who tried to keep them alive so that they could come back home to their families.

<And what do you think of yourself for not answering that call?>

By answering the call, I assume you mean enlisting? I feel great about it.
Not because it kept me alive, but because I followed by heart and my mind and
did not allow my country dictate my conscience

<These deaths are the result of "our" folly so we must grieve.>

No. No. No, Joe! This is really were we part ways. I am innocent of blame
and I dare say so are you! You, presumably did everything you could do to stop
the war -- I know that I did. Why are you so insistent in bearing some common
guilt. It wasn't your folly, and it certainly wasn't my folly. We cried out
against the folly.

Yes, let's all grieve. There is no doubt that ranging from dead GI's to those slowly
killed by agent orange, there were grievable offenses done to the tens of
thousands of our men. But grieving is not the same as bearing responsibility!
Do the German's who hid Jews and smuggled them to safety bear the same guilt
as the Germans who did nothing? I don't bear an ounce of guilt about American
slavery. My people didn't get here from Eastern Europe until about 60 years
after the Civil War. That doesn't stop me from recognizing the injustice and
supporting things like Affirmative Action as a means of leveling the playing field.

<I served in both entities Military and Peace Movement and know the difference
between the two.>

I don't know about you Joe, but as far as I'm concerned between the two, your
hitch in the Peace Movement was a far greater service to your country and to