Monday, January 29, 2007

Returning Vietnam GIs Spat Upon: Urban Legend?

The anti-war protests this weekend brought up another mention by a journalist of American soldiers being spat upon and denounced as baby killers by anti-war protesters when they arrived home from Vietnam to U.S. airports. I've often wondered about this but trying to imagine the airport scenes brings me up short. Soldiers were rotated home from Vietnam after one year's service there and as the big day of return came near, they counted the hours until they stepped on the U.S. bound plane. After arriving at west coast airports, San Francisco, etc., they stepped aboard another plane and fanned out across the country. Often, each one was the only soldier arriving at a home town airport. In fact they arrived home almost surreptitiously and many veterans since have decried the absence of any kind of welcome--bands playing music, etc.

It seems unlikely that protests were scheduled to meet a plane with perhaps one or two soldiers on it at airports around the country. No doubt, a few lone men were on the receiving end of an expectoration from a rude person, but I'm convinced that lone acts like that have been blown out of proportion. The logistics for arranging groups of protesters to meet planes arriving all over America seem daunting, to say the least. Yet what we continue to hear is that mobs spat upon them and called them baby killers.

It's important for proponents of the current war in Iraq to keep this story going, as a method of persuading Americans to give our soldiers full support. Yet, as the news from Iraq gets increasingly somber, we find that many of our soldiers are committing hostile acts and even atrocities against the people of Iraq. Some of our men have already been tried for rape and murder against Iraqi civilians. Others' antics were exposed at Abu Garaib.

On You-tube you can see this morning on tape the bestial beating of an male suspect by Iraqi soldiers while being cheered on by a truck full of Americans. Not one American soldier intervenes. Instead, they whoop, comment, and holler as though they're watching a cartoon. As the requirements for enlistment are consistently being lowered, men with criminal records, very low IQs, and the worst kind of rednecks are being recruited by the Army. As news footage shows (and of course that footage is heavily censored), some of our troops are indeed baby killers.

Following is an examination of spitting on troops:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam is a 1998 book by Vietnam veteran Jerry Lembcke, which argues that the common claim that American soldiers were spat upon and insulted by anti-war protesters, upon returning home from the Vietnam War is little more than an urban legend and that posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, was more political invention rather than any real mental health affliction.

One of Lembcke's conclusion in Spitting Image is that there was not even a single media report to support the claims. Lembcke claims that the reported "spitting on soldiers" was a mythical projection of those who felt "spat-upon" and was meant to discredit future antiwar activism. He suggests the image of pro-war antipathy against anti-war protesters helped contribute to the image. Lembcke argues that memories of being verbally and physically assaulted by anti-war protesters were largely socially constructed, noting that not even one case could be documented. [1]

Spitting Image asserts that the claims of abuse of soldiers only became ingrained in the American consciousness some years after the war had come to a close; Lembcke attributes its growth to films relating to Vietnam, notably Rambo. He says that these claims were used by President George H. W. Bush as a way to help sell the Gulf War to the American people. Lembcke believes that the "myth" is involved in helping to promote the yellow ribbon campaign; it has led some to think that for one to support troops, one must therefore also support the war, because it ties together the ideas of anti-war sentiment and anti-troop sentiment.

Lembcke also argued in Spitting Image, that PTSD was a political invention, designed to castigate returning Veterans and mentally unbalanced. This was done, according to Lembcke, as another way to discredit veterans in the Anti-war movement.

A persistent criticism leveled against those who protested the United States's involvement in the Vietnam War is the complaint that protesters spat upon and otherwise derided returning soldiers, calling them "baby-killers", etc. Lembcke says he found no evidence to suggest this ever happened, and suggests it may have come in part from the common retort made by protestors to President Lyndon Baines Johnson, "Hey hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?"

Spitting Image contrasts with author and columnist Bob Greene's book Homecoming in which Greene interviews several dozen Vietnam veterans and focuses on firsthand accounts of mistreatment from anti-war protestors.

Review of Jerry Lembcke's book

A Los Angeles Times book reviewer wrote:

"The image is ingrained: A Vietnam veteran, arriving home from the war, gets off a plane only to be greeted by an angry mob of antiwar protesters yelling, 'Murderer!' and 'Baby killer!' Then out of the crowd comes someone who spits in the veteran's face. The only problem, according to Jerry Lembcke, is that no such incident has ever has been documented. It is instead, says Lembcke, a kind of urban myth that reflects our lingering national confusion over the war." ISBN 0-8147-5147-4

Cinematic depiction of veterans' experiences

The notion of soldiers being spat upon was featured in a number of American movies, including the Rambo series. According to the Digital History Project at the University of Houston:

In First Blood (1982), John Rambo captured the pain of the returning veterans: "It wasn't my war--you asked me, I didn't ask you...and I did what I had to do to win....Then I came back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport, protesting me, spitting on me, calling me a baby-killer...." [2]

The 1977 film Tracks features a fictional anti-war activist who spits on his opponents.

In the film Forrest Gump, a protester calls Forrest (in uniform) a baby-killer.

See also

Stolen or Strayed?

Two days ago I lost a sweater I had just fallen in love with. I had peeled it off at the gym while walking the track. Five minutes later, when I reached into the pigeon hole where I left it, all I felt was air. All the other holes were full of people’s clothes, but somebody took a fancy to my gray tweedy mix, thin soft wool GAP sweater that fit loosely and well and just melted against me. I had only purchased it from the Goodwill two days before, and had hardly got to know it, but I would have preferred it if the culprit had taken my watch.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Quest: Good English Matters

Quest, the Queen's English Society's little quarterly journal arrived today. I curled up with it on the couch while thick snow drifted past the window, and I perused the latest thinking on whether spelling matters and what the papers say--a collection of disgraceful and unforgivable crimes against the English language. Writing for that little magazine must be intimidating. A writer would know that cohorts of self-anointed experts are waiting in their lairs ready to pounce. This must have a dampening effect. Was I ever aware that a cohort refers to a group, not one person. No, but I never had Latin, deprived child that I was. Do I ever use 'wonderful' to describe a movie that's here today and gone tomorrow? You bet, event though it's entirely detached from its original meaning. I was fascinated (to use fascinated here is to go way beyond its meaning) by the discussion of usage of children vs. kids. I'm with Adrian Williams when he says kids give the impression of a "rumbustious band of great little guys, rarin' to go.... Kids are classless...but children are just stuffy and middle class." So, if you want to avoid sounding stuffy, you'd better go with kids.

Odds and Ends

Had lunch at the Rustic Hills Country Club today. No we're not members! We don't play golf. Our local women's group gathered there for this month's meeting. I took Paul along because he had a dentist appt at two, and the dentist is only a mile away from the Club. When I told Marilyn the chairman I was bringing a guest she asked, "What's she like?"

I ordered spinach quiche for both of us, and Marilyn said, "Real men don't eat quiche." Well mine does and he loves spinach. They like to have male guests. Afterwards we heard a good Power Point talk by an Akron Art Museum representative on the museum's expansion and Ohio artists in the collection.

For comparative study, the lunch cost $14 each and included coffee and ice cream afterwards. No bread rolls though and that puzzled, because little pats of butter were on the table. The waitress said rolls weren't included in our price. A bit pricey but the tip was also included.

While he was at the dentist (procedure scheduled to take an hour) I combed the sweater aisles at the Goodwill just across the highway, looking for good labels, new or nearly new. I'm wearing one right now. It's from The Gap, loose and comfortable, wool mixture, gray tweedy tones, cleanly washed. The others I'll wash first. It was GW's frequent shopper day , meaning 35% off original price. I got 8 sweaters and they came to $21. That wouldn't nearly pay for one new one at Macy's. Good recycling, don't you think?

We're going to have Paul's grilled cheese sandwiches again this snowy evening with baked beans. His grilled cheezers are the very best--crisp and buttery on the outside and melted in the middle. I'll open a can and supply the beans.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Well, they announced the Oscar nominations this morning...

No surprises except perhaps for the actor who plays the lead singer in Dream Girls. First movie role, first Oscar nomination. Not bad for an American Idol winner and this news will fuel up the Idol fans to say, "Hey, real talent gets recognized on this show." But it's fair to say that a little cream must rise once in a while even in the show that's become the opiate of the masses. Little Miss Sunshine received a best nomination, as well it should. It's a picture I'm looking forward to seeing -- sweet, funny, and lovely. Also, The Departed--an old-fashioned gangster film. It played for weeks here but somehow I was always busy and never got to a matinee. Perhaps I'll get lucky if it gets another release on the strength of its nomination.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Senators Up for Re-election 2008

From Daily Kos
List of Senators up for re election 2008 -
State Name Party Seniority Election

AK Ted Stevens R Sr 2008
AL Jefferson Sessions R Jr 2008
CO Wayne Allard R Sr 2008
GA C. Saxby Chambliss R Sr 2008
ID Larry Craig R Sr 2008
KS Pat Roberts R Jr 2008
KY Mitch McConnell R Sr 2008
ME Susan Collins R Jr 2008
MN Norm Coleman R Jr 2008
MS Thad Cochran R Sr 2008
NC Elizabeth Dole R Sr 2008
NE Charles Hagel R Sr 2008
NH John Sununu R Jr 2008
NM Pete Domenici R Sr 2008
OK James Inhofe R Sr 2008
OR Gordon Harold Smith R Jr 2008
SC Lindsey Graham R Sr 2008
TN Lamar Alexander R Jr 2008
TX John Cornyn R Jr 2008
VA John Warner R Sr 2008
WY Michael Enzi R Jr 2008
AR Mark Pryor D Jr 2008
DE Joseph Biden Jr. D Sr 2008
IA Tom Harkin D Jr 2008
IL Richard J. Durbin D Sr 2008
LA Mary Landrieu D Sr 2008
MA John Kerry D Jr 2008
MI Carl Levin D Sr 2008
MT Max Baucus D Sr 2008
NJ Frank Lautenberg D Jr 2008
RI John F. Reed D Sr 2008
SD Tim Johnson D Sr 2008
WV John Rockefeller, IV D Jr 2008

Guardian's Leader: "In Praise of Lame Ducks "

Tallahassee huntsman last week returned from a shooting trip with a ring-necked duck for his table. Two days later, his wife opened up the fridge to see the feathered feast lift up its head in greeting. Startled, she screamed at her daughter to rush it to the vet, a journey that transformed the bird from nutritious target into living being, deserving of nurture and protection. Staff at Goose Creek sanctuary marvelled at the tenacity of the creature, which had survived not only bullet wounds to wing and leg, but also endured some 48 hours in a cold, sealed closet. It has not winged its way out of the woods just yet, but the vet responsible claimed at the weekend that the odds were now running in its favour. The ring-necked duck is not a showy species, being silent most of the time, while reserving a discreet, purr-like call for courtship. Females - like the one in the Florida fridge - have plain, drab brown plumage. But strong character lurks beneath the modesty: the duck routinely flaps across the American continent, and even, on occasion, the Atlantic, migration requiring the same fortitude that has now enabled death to be defied. Some hunters, of course, give their quarry no hope: snaps of Prince Phillip's party on Saturday seemed to show a fox being shot, and then clubbed, and then stamped on by a gamekeeper. But such is the spirit to live, that wildlife can grab at even a vanishing sliver of a chance to survive. By proving that spectacularly, the Goose Creek duck should give heart to us all.

A Quacking Good Duck Story

If you had seen this story being belittled on the NBC evening news with Campbell Brown Saturday evening, you might admire the humane stance taken in the Guardian leader. The two fool television anchors and the idiotic weatherman sickened me as they giggled and laughed their way through their report. They showed callous disregard for that living creature locked inside a freezer--not a nice place to be for any animal or human. It is entirely possible that the Leader writer was as concerned with the fate of the duck as taking one more crack at Philip Windsor. What planet are those royals living on? One so far away they seem cut off from reality. The Queen throttles injured game birds to "get them out of their misery," and Philip allows servants to stomp on a dead fox. Is there any hope for the next generation of royals? Three cheers for the duck, the hunter's wife who took it to the vet, the wild life volunteers who will give it a good life, and the historians who will record the story for posterity.