Friday, July 4, 2008

Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans

Warning - Dear readers, ye precious few, the very end of this post is vulgar indeed, possibly - almost certainly - offensive to some. I make no apology for it. All I can do is offer you this chance to pass it up. Forty-one years is a long time to tolerate the false pretenses of people striking at the heart of who you are, and I do not have the stamina of Sisyphus.

On July 4, 1987, twenty-one years ago today and twenty years after I left Vietnam, HBO presented a special program, Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans, with lots of chatter about it being time the rift was healed, that we're all Americans, yada yada yada.

Against my better judgment, I tried to watch it. Sometimes you just feel self-destructive, you know?

Many of the usual suspects were there, perhaps the most obviously hypocritical being the cinematic liar, Oliver Stone. My feeling then (and now, for that matter) was that they weren't there for any reconciliation, but simply to show how magnanimous they could be when we - those who had gone, and gone willingly - were so obviously in the wrong. Such is their world.

My attempt to watch the program didn't last long. I had a 50 inch Mitsubishi TV in a white oak cabinet, and when I began to get the urge to put my foot through the screen I changed the channel.

If you didn't live through those times, or if you did and you were brain dead, there's something you should understand:

When you see clips or read articles about those people and their "anti-war" protests, you are being lied to.

They were not anti-war, they were anti-US, although the distinction was never made - and is not much made even today - in the mainstream news media.

When Jane Fonda visited North Vietnamese hospitals, she saw what was for her the sum total of the war's casualties. You know how many South Vietnamese hospitals she visited, right? That's right, none. When she posed laughing in a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun embankment, pretending to look through the sights for those she described as "blue eyed murderers," she wasn't saying "Stop the war," she was saying "I'm with you, North Vietnam."

Who can say with a straight face that people who chanted

Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh,
Viet Cong are gonna win.

were not anti-US, only anti-war?

As late as today, these "anti-war" celebrities refuse to face the consequences of the US withdrawal of troops and then funding: more than a million boat people; more than a million people sent to "re-education camps," some never to see their families again; tens of thousands of people executed without trial. These anti-US grasshoppers had no time for that. They had to move on to other areas in which we were in need of their wisdom, such as nuclear energy.

My first thought when I saw the title of this program in 1987 and the banner flaunted on the show,

Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans

was how incredibly arrogant it was. Running through my mind was "We've been home all along. Where have you been?"

Time does not mellow everyone, at least not in all respects. It was twenty years from the time I left Vietnam until that HBO show aired, and now it has been another twenty-one years. Want to know what I think about it now?

Fuck you and your "Welcome Home."


Karen said...

Ken, as usual, very well written. My late DH felt the same way that you do. He was a marine pilot and did two tours.

I didn't know him then and I was a suburban housewife at the time with 3 small kids and I was "anti-war", not anti US or anti-troops. I never marched in any protests.

I didn't see N. Vietnamese injured in hospitals but did see our troops coming home in body bags and watched the number of dead climb day by day.

I did welcome home our troops and was relieved that it finally ended, although the way it ended wasn't anything to be proud of.

I think you and my DH would have liked each other. Both of you had similar lives and both curmudgeons in a loveable way.


BrokenDownProgrammer said...

Curmudgeons? Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Thank you, Karen.

Anonymous said...

My uncle retired from the Marines and saw duty in VN three times. He never wanted to talk about it and only six years ago he told me how horrible it was for him. When he was young he was a wild teenager, full of mischief. As an adult he is an honorable man, wonderful husband, father and grandfather, not to mention how great he was as my uncle.
Anyway, he (and I am sure many others)try to put to rest those unspeakable memories but with telecommunications being what it is today and the Internet.....I don't need to say any more about what can be viewed on the Internet.
Anyway, I was proud of him because he sent out a mass emailing to all of the people on his email list attempting to control what he is exposed to in the here and now. Here is what he wrote to us.

Dear Family and Friends,
The time has come that I must ask each of you not to forward me any
photo's or news articles regarding our present on going conflict in Iraq or Afghanistan.

As many of you know I retired from the Marine Corps and I saw combat action in Vietnam. I know first hand how terrible war is along with the agonies that go with it. Over the years I have tried my best to suppress my memories of those times. I can assure you that those memories are not a pleasant time in my life. I can also assure you that they will never be forgotten, just suppressed.

I totally support our fellow servicemen and in my own way I contribute to their support through various military organization. I pray for their safe return along with the safety of their families. I ask each of you to please do the same.

I thank you for your consideration concerning this matter.

Anyway Ken, your post prompted me to share this with you. I am not sure why, I just know I needed to do so.

Good post today. Happy 4th of July.

Anonymous said...

Ken- I read this Vietnam blog piece-and several others too. Well done, you are hitting your stride. I think there were as many kinds of anti-war people as there were pro-war. Those who lauded the enemy deserved and deserve to be excoriated, as do those who condemned all those who served. The military were and are our fathers, brothers. friends husbands, lovers,(and now mothers, sisters etc) doing their best to help our country. Some made their own wishes for being elsewhere subordinate to their perceived duty to serve. Many people who were anti-war were not anti-personnel, and did not want to see the further destruction of these men in a cause that was often of murky origin and in a conflict that was not going to be definitively won (some say would not be allowed to be won).

Many of the college age protestors were ignorant yahoos looking for an excuse to raise hell--I observed a number of these: they got drunk and or high, went down to campus to chant, harass the police, and throw rocks. If they got gassed, they would scream about their rights. There were some more reasoned protestors as well but many of them tended to be more involved in speeches and writing than violent protest.

Devonia said...