Re: My Lai/Medina
Fri, 3 Oct 1997 12:29:41 -0400

I cannot say with authority that CPT. Medina has not accepted pension
checks because of past grievances with the military. However, as a
supposed anecdote stated in the way that Joe MacDonald states it, it has a
decidedly suspect ring about it. I say this because aside from its
sounding in its emotional content very much like a movie produced by Oliver
Stone, using a screenplay written by Slyvester Stallone, meant to be
directed by John Milius, (I'm not being smartassed here,) the story is
classically folkloric in nature. Now, that doesn't mean that it CAN'T be
true as stated, or that it is in some way impossible. It means that the
story as recreated seems to represent a kind of "wish fulfillment" that
groups often need to gain closure on certain very painful or complex past
events. That is the social mechanism, incidentally, of how rumors work
and it is also why rumors are so important to the healthy functioning of a

The structure of the supposed anecdote (honorably scarred - bent but not
broken - veteran, exploited and callously discarded by a gracelessly
cynical military bureacracy, striking an inconsequenstial but strongly
moral blow against the uncaring and ungrateful American society that sent
him to a cruel hoax of a war and now wants merely to dispense a pittance of
a pension - all these narrative elements are repeated over and over
again in some combination in countless films, novels, songs, and poems
created over the past decade or more. Because this Medina version of the
"good man wronged by a heartless bureacracy and uncaring nation" resonates
so perfectly with so many previously produced and apocraphal "truths" about
the war as they appear in public entertainment, I bet that it is pretty

It has so many of the satisfyingly sentimental but wholly unrealistic
elements of the classical morality play that I believe the anecdote is one
of those that is simply too good to be true.

The important thing about stories like this is not the objective facts
involved but that the sentiment expressed in the story reflects some
satisfying moral outcome that a group feels OUGHT to be the case, even if
it never happened.

The other thing that sounds suspect to me is that I believe that Medina
himself felt that Calley was a complete incompetent who was unreliable and
a danger to his men and the general mission of an infantry company. Medina
knew of the general level of hatred and resentment Calley's platoon held
against it's LT., and I believe Medina testified about such things. In any
case, given how the out come of the court martial came out, it seems
unlikely that Medina would feel that Calley was treated as a scapegoat,
since if Calley were not convicted, Medina probably would have been. That
would still be a matter of scapegoating, of course, but with quite a
difference in reality.

John Baky