Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Some Versions of the Past are a Bit Fishy.

We were supposed to be different.

Growing up in the 1960's, we "baby-boomers" were convinced that we had, somehow or other, created a new world unlike any that had come before. We were, in our minds, revolutionaries. Our music was unsurpassed. Unlike "popular" music of the (ancient) past, ours would forever remain on the forefront of the culture. We smirked, in our smug, superior way, at the Muzak of Lawrence Welk blissfully unaware that John Lennon and Paul McCartney would become the Lawrence Welk of the 1990's and beyond.

As the recent controversy surrounding Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal proves, my fellow baby boomers who seek to advance in the political ranks continue to bring us all (willingly or not) back to the days of the Vietnam war. Today, 35 years after the fall of Saigon, 64 year old politicians running for the U.S. Senate view service in Vietnam as a resume enhancement; so much so, that stretching the truth misspeaking lying about having served in Vietnam comes easy for them.

In the words of Henry Allen:

O,the stained souls, the small-hours doubts, the troubled manhood of so many American men who didn't go to Vietnam when they could have -- the strange guilt they seem to feel when they confront Vietnam veterans.

I may have, for a brief moment, felt that same said "strange guilt" this past weekend while I listened to a Vietnam vet as he attempted to mesmerize someone young enough to be his son with tales of his year long stay in Vietnam. As much as I would have liked to join in the conversation with similar stories, I was not, however, tempted to do as Richard Blumenthal had done.I would not lie about having been in that war myself when the truth was that I have never been in the military.

Like many of my generation, I had absolutely no desire to fight in Vietnam. The reasons we may have given in those days for not wanting to go were far more noble than the actual truth. We would go on and on about the immorality and illegality of the war. We would speak of the corrupt South Vietnamese regime. But, we were, contrary to Richard Cohen, "spoiled shirkers". We were, by and large, more inclined to remain in the world of "sex, drugs and rock and roll" that was the United States.

We were undisciplined and anti-authority. The uncensored "Fish Cheer" was our anthem.

Anti-war protests were the order of the day. I submit that these protests were actually more anti-draft than anti-war. A wikipedia article claims
"The draft lottery had social and economic consequences because it generated resistance to military service and the resisters, draft evaders or "draft dodgers", were generally young, well educated, healthy men."

My recollection of those days is different. As I recall, those of us, like myself, who managed to get high numbers in the lottery didn't bother protesting any longer.

Over the years, I've come to realize that much of what we hear from those of us who protested the Vietnam war is a colorized, glossy version of reality. I believe that it is this fantasy version of the Vietnam era (error?) which fuels much of the Liberalism of today. I, for one, am willing to admit that I was not as noble then as I should have been. I wish more of my fellow baby-boomers would admit the truth as well.

1 comment:

Al said...

And it's 1,2, 3,
What are we fighting for?
I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam

(Thanks a lot for putting this in my head. Now I'll be humming it all night.)

Having turned 18 after the Vietnam peace treaty, I was relieved to find out that I would not be reclassified from my 1-H status.

I was 6 when my Dad was sent to Vietnam by the Air Force in 62.(People forget how far back troops being there actually goes.) They wanted to send him back in 65 but he opted to retire instead. After 23 yrs in the AF. He had planned on staying in for 30 yrs originally.

What that fully means, I don't know as I never got any straight answers about why he didn't want to go back.

I honestly think Vietnam won't go away until much of our generation is no longer arround.

Beyond that, what Vietnam was or wasn't will probably never be fully agreed on. Had Vietnam not been televised & Walter Cronkite not said what he did thus causing LBJ to bow out, how much different would our perception of Vietnam be?

But I do wonder how much sincerity was behind some of those protests & how much was motivated by the fact that they knew anti-war songs were an easy sell?