Re: Buying the System Line (was: Summer of Love/Vets)

Kevin Cole (
Tue, 02 Sep 1997 23:40:33 -0400

Paul Heavens wrote:

> We were wrong as a nation. Cant we accept that?
> There were no "evil people" risking thier lives. Just the number expected
> in a country like ours buying the system line. And why not? they were
> educated and primed for it. There is no blame here

Yes I think this is a fair way to construe what happened. Except that I'd add
that "buying the system line" denotes a line of thought and a depth of belief that
probably isn't accurate.

I enlisted, for example, not because I "bought the system line" but because I
reached a point where I believed that the truth was unreachable and indeterminable
given the state of the bullshit that was flying around, and so I suspended trying
to figure out whether there was a right side in those terms. It was with a sense
of relief that I fell back on a more concrete, more reliable sense of
what-to-do-next -- I followed the example of several older men (uncles, cousins,
friends) whose lives I'd learnt from and whose support I found consoling. I
enlisted because that was where they were, and it felt like the right place for me
to be. (When I got there I felt perfectly at home, and I'm pretty sure that the
process by which I got there wasn't unusual. I was a fuckup in the service, but I
served with some real heros, and with some ordinary heros, and I'm glad I knew

I know this sounds hopelessly like an abdication of my responsibilities as a
thinking rationalizing ethical being etc etc etc but I wasn't able to think very
well then, and I was in a lot of trouble personally (being an adolescent), and so
I did what felt right. I didn't "buy the system line" and I didn't "buy the
anti-system line" because I mistrusted and disbelieved both of them. And almost
30 years later I still consider in retrospect that I did the best I could in that

I think that this sort of cultural, personal-example, non-abstract line of
decisionmaking is probably a lot more common that one would think. And that
should serve as a warning to ideologues who'd insist on constructing a
superstructure of abstractions atop someone else's behavior.

Hope this is making sense. It's late at night and I just returned from a Z Z Top
concert at Riverbend in Cincinnati. There were lots of veterans there. Some on
Harleys and some in mini-vans. A lot of broken lives and lives that grew stronger
around the broken places. It was a comfortable place to be.


> >At 12:38 AM 8/27/97 +0000, you wrote:
> >>
> >>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.)
> >>
> >This is where I, and many others, disagree with you.
> >
> >My father was in the Navy during the Vietnam War, in fact, his ship served
> >an observer function in North Vietnam in the late 1950's. Although he was a
> >dentist, and therefore normally a non-combatant, his general quarters
> >station was fire control officer on the forward gun turret. I have and
> >never will see my father as a potentially wrong and evil man for serving
> >during time of war; if ordered to combat area, he would have gone as a very
> >loyal sailor who had worked his way up from enlisted ranks and loved
> >(loves) his country.
> >
> >Those who serve, serve for many reason. During my own naval career, I
> >learned that it was the military person who usually hated war the most,
> >because we knew the costs.
> >
> >Marcella Ruland
> >formerly LT USN
> >.-
> "Once there was a tribe of monkeys whose elders decided to attack thier
> neighbors for no other reason than that thier neighbors had the potential
> to steal from them."
> War is dead wrong, unless your a monkey defending your turf from assault.
> To go to war not knowing what you are fighting for, to take up arms to take
> the lives of others without justifiable cause, is wrong. Where was the
> justifiable cause for Vietnam. We had to save them from themselves? Yeah,
> right! I'm sorry, we all saw the same war happening. Frankly, I know it
> takes a lot of courage to be unpopular, the antiwar movement was unpopular
> for a while, then the returning vets were unpopular. Today we can look back
> and see the war was wrong and we can also see that we were able AS A NATION
> to make a lot of people believe at that time that the war was worth
> American young lives. We were wrong as a nation. Cant we accept that?
> There were no "evil people" risking thier lives. Just the number expected
> in a country like ours buying the system line. And why not? they were
> educated and primed for it. There is no blame here. The "event"showed us
> who we were as a society, that we were people who did what we believed in
> even if later it proved to be wrong. We are also people who can recognise
> when we are wrong and move on. I hope.
> _
> /_) /_/
> / /-)(_//_ / /
> Valuing the differences is the essence of synenergy - the mental, the
> emotional, the psychological differences between people.- and the key to
> valuing those differences is to realise that all people see the world not
> as it is, but as they are.

Kevin C Cole