[sixties-l] Re: sixties-l-Re Vietnam Memorial

From: Jeffrey Blankfort (jab@tucradio.org)
Date: Sun Jun 18 2000 - 09:18:38 CUT

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    I also find the Vietnam War Memorial a fitting monument to the US war
    dead with each name in place, and the smaller versions of the wall that
    have circulated throughout the country at various times to also be
    appropriate since they imply neither glorification of war or the
    warriors who fought in the war but simply a recognition of those who
    served in it from the US side and lost their lives.

    What has always troubled me was that following the formal end of the
    amred conflict, the anti-war movement patted itself on the pack and
    walked away from the issue with no effort made to secure reparations for
    a country which our military had devastated and no effort to block the
    economic sanctions which eventually, as we see today, brought Vietnam to
    its knees, where it must officially honor war criminals like John

    Like, Marty, I used to leaflet and protest at draft boards, but on one
    occasion I found something I was not looking for and found encouraging,
    and it is a story that hasn't yet been told.

    Some of the young Chicanos had obviously more consciousness than others
    because in looking at a list of those who had failed to report for
    induction that was hanging on the wall, Spanish surnames predominated.
    While the overwhelmingly white anti-war movement focused on those among
    us who were either burning their drafts cards or going to Canada or
    Europe, another segment of our society was finding another way to deal
    with it. No doubt many of the Chicanos who didn't show went South to
    Mexico. Others probably hid in their communities. In any case, it is a
    story that is yet to be told and its implications understood.

    My reaction to Platoon was very different from the friends who I saw it
    with, and perhaps you have to have been in the military to understand
    why. One of the most powerful force, if not the most powerful force, in
    the military is "male bonding," a term I don't like to use but which
    becomes very real when one is in the service. Even for someone who went
    in, involuntarily, knowing our military history, the feeling was very
    powerful and one that I was not at all inclined to resist. Men in a
    military unit going through the same experiences tend to become very
    close,despite coming from varied backgrounds, who would not likely
    socialize among one another on the street (and I would assume the same
    would apply to women in a similar experience). The glue that holds this
    bonding together is that the experience from boot camp or basic training
    on is, to put it mildly, not an easy one, particularly if you go into
    the infantry, which I did. And even though they were not in the same
    units I can understand why Vietnam Vets have bonded together even though
    they didn't serve together, the shared experience having been so

    So I saw Platoon, despite its intentions, of being essentially a
    recruitment film for young macho 18-year olds who see themselves (or
    would like to do so) as invincible and look forward to the bonding

    After seeing the film, my friends and I went to a nearby restaurant and
    I proceeded to give my opinion about the military, etc. I was unaware
    that at the table behind me were four marines and they made no
    hesitation in telling me what their opinions about what I had said. I
    turned around and told them I had recently been in Beirut where 278 of
    their buddies and a hundred or so sailors had been blown up by a truck
    bomb in a country where they had no business being but had been sent by
    a government composed of two political parties that didn't care whether
    they lived or died. That I had been on the site of the bombing within an
    hour after it happened, talking with two of the survivors and then
    taking an official walking tour around the permimeter of the wrecked
    building while bodies of the dead were still being taken out.

    I told them how we saw among the shreds of uniforms hanging in the
    trees, photos on the ground of girlfriends, wives, parents and children
    of the dead Marines, fragments of letters from home. And I told them of
    my rage at this waste of human lives whose fault lay not with the
    bombers, who saw the Marines not as peacekeepers (which they weren't)
    but at the government that had sent them there to cover the behind of
    our Israeli allies who had already killed some 20,000 Lebanese civilians
    in its invasion the year before (which the Marines over there I had
    spoken with had known next to nothing about). When I finished, the
    Marines were all very quiet, and when we left the restaurant, still
    quiet, they nodded their goodbyes.

    Jeff Blankfort
    > Date: Sat, 17 Jun 2000 11:11:23 -0400
    > From: Marty Jezer <mjez@sover.net>
    > Subject: Re: [sixties-l] Re: Vietnam War Memorial
    > 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
    > my take:
    > 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

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