On this question of building a Vietnam War Memorial, the one in Washington is
an eloquent statement of the tragedy. But to honor the survivors? Here is
Those of us in The Resistance used to leaflet at draft boards early in the
morning when men were called up for induction. The class and racial
distinction between those who were called and went and those who were not
called or resisted was marked -- as the data indicates.
The draftees were mostly poor and people of color. Were we in the The
Resistance morally superior than those who went? Maybe some of us, maybe
all of us -- it would take a lifetime to figure that one out. Where we were
different was in the families we grew up in, the friends we had, the
schools we went to, the books we read.
I never understood the horror that the GIs went through until I saw
Platoon. It made the tear gas and policemen's billy clubs that we faced
rather inconsequential. I saw the movie in Canada and after it was over
everyone left but me and another guy, obviously a vet, who remained seated,
stunned, in different parts of the theater. We got up to leave at the same
time and acknowledged each other as we left the theater. I wish I had
talked to the guy, suggested going out and having a beer, etc. But what
could I say against what he, I assume, experienced? Yet both of us were
marked by the Vietnam War. I really respect anti-war activists like Country
Joe who have reached out to the vets. And the activists who are working
with them are doing a great deed of healing -- and movement building! In
Vermont, Rep. Bernie Sanders, an independent, a socialist, and one of the
leaders of the anti-Vietnam War movement in Vermont has built a
constituency among Vets because he fights for their rights. We should too.
I think it possible to have a memorial for the living veterans that
recognizes their sacrifice rather than romanticizes the war. We also ought
to have a memorial for the millions of Vietnamese killed though I would be
happy to see that memorial created with no-strings-attached money.
Finally, it should be noted that the Vietnamese have reconciled with the
GIs -- even with airmen like John McCain -- who fought against them. I
don't see why we cannot.
-- Marty Jezer * 22 Prospect St. * Brattleboro, VT 05301 * p/f 802 257-5644
Author: Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words (Basic Books) Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel (Rutgers University Press) The Dark Ages: Life in the USA, 1945-1960 (South End Press) Rachel Carson [American Women of Achievement Series] (Chelsea House) Check out my web page: http://www.sover.net/~mjez To subscribe to my Friday commentary, simply request to be put on my mailing list. It's free!
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