Before you go any further, you should realize I spent the Vietnam War years heroically playing banjo and guitar for cash when not attending classes at college. This dashing state of affairs was the result of my being 4f; I was born without part of my back. The only trauma I suffered because of the war that channeled the lives and thinking of my male friends was the knowledge that 1.), if I had been poor or Black I would have been drafted and 2.), I would have been a disgraceful soldier.
The latter conclusion is based upon the solid and unshakeable fact of my own world-class cowardice. No army in the world deserves a thumb-sucking hysteric screaming for his mother while trailing behind in the jungle, alternating with stentorian announcements of surrender at the snap of a twig. Any draft board knows military refuse when it sees it. Nobody asked me to join.I just wanted to establish my objective credentials early on for this piece, which is about Jane Fonda and the Vietnam Veterans.
To assist memory, during the war actress Jane Fonda went to Hanoi to publicize her hatred for the American position in the conflict. She posed with anti-aircraft guns that, one supposes, were shooting down her countrymen. She went on radio to voice her objections. She posed with North Vietnamese military men and civil defense workers.To the surprise of nobody, combat veterans were not pleased by this, labled Fonda a traitor, and started a hate campaign. Then the war ended, or at least the United States withdrew its troops, followed within a few years by functionaries and boat people. Peace.
In the afterglow of their victory, the North Vietnamese turned out to be the land-hungry, imperialistic slugs the Chinese always knew them to be. The communists across Southeast Asia started fighting each other in reflection of long-standing nationalistic conflicts, and Pol Pot did his part to make the world forget Hitler. Well, he tried, anyway.
Back in the United States, the view of the war underwent some changes. It is increasingly hard to see what possible good came out of it, the reasons for our presence incoherent and mutually exclusive, and in any case, one cannot escape the feeling that the United States from start to finish had no idea what it was doing, why it was doing it, who it was doing it to.
The same cannot be said of the majority of the soldiers. To listen to the professional veterans lobby, unmatched since the Grand Army of the Republic whined its way into the nation's heart, one is left with the unmistakable impression that the biggest gripe they have about the war is that they didn't get a parade. This is absurd. They complain they are not treated with respect, and that Fonda's presence on the planet is a living insult to their exertions. Ludicrous.
If anyone went off to fight and kill without giving the slightest thought as to the point, they deserve all the scorn that can be amassed. The United States made a grotesque error in Vietnam, which was nothing more than a buy-off of France so that Germany could rearm.
We were not threatened. We clearly had no illusions about keeping an elected government in place. The Domino theory made no more sense then than it does now. And the fact is, our government never even had the courage to call it a war. As such, there was the inevitable dredging of manpower ranks. The Vietnam War was fought by the poor and the ill-educated and unmotivated. Of course there are significant exceptions, but the facts speak to the most unfortunately assembled army in one hundred years of our conflicts.
And that is why I have trouble elevating a Vietnam veteran, ipso facto, into a hero. That status is no more deserved than the scorn the veteran occasionally received coming home. The worship of the Vietnam Veteran is revolting and hypocritical, and Fonda had no duty to apologize for her actions. But then, married to political baggage like Tom Hayden, Fonda had to pander to the voters. This is one of the things the matter with America and Democracy: false sentiment and mobs rule reason.