Light/Breezes

Light/Breezes
SUNRISE AT DEATH VALLEY-Photo by Tom Cochrun

Monday, September 25, 2017

STILL HURTS



   As a kid in school or later sitting in an office or newsroom I always wanted to be outside. I could satisfy that urge in my reporting days, though was stifled when I got to the executive suite. 
   A day with a good portion of it spent under the sky is a good day.
    But when I see something like this I begin muttering about the intelligence and even parenting of those responsible. 
     This is under a bridge on a trail to the coast near Harmony California. It's a state park and a magnificent trail, so how a slob ends up there dumping trash is beyond me. And I wonder how anyone can be that arrogant and disrespectful!

it broke the nation
    Watching The Vietnam War, the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick documentary series on PBS has been rough because it evokes old wounds, though it is important we do so.
      Analysts have observed that Vietnam fractured the nation as much as the Civil War did. The divide remains a half a century later and many live in and with residual pain.
     Novick and Burns tell the story on a human scale and it is expansive. We see and experience it personally; North Vietnamese, South Vietnamese, and Americans. We are immersed into the political machinations of all of the governments, military organizations and the battle field. And we see the insanity of war and its dehumanizing and evil impact. 
    Our generation fought the war and fought against it and we  lived with nightly television news that was graphic, painful and dangerous to gather. 
    Over the years there have been many thorough historic volumes and accounts. I've read a lot of them and have talked with the authors; soldiers, journalists, intelligence operators, politicians and anti war activists. But most Americans have not. And even those of age during the war have tried to put it all out of mind and move on. It just hurt that badly. Living through it was emotionally searing.
     Despite the intentional avoidance most of us have experienced those moments or an occasion when something said or done would move us to the fault line fissure the war created. It was politic or polite to avoid going there. It was a way to avoid the pain and anger. But no longer.
     Novick and Burns give us a history we must address, national sins and errors we must confront. There is time for the generation of the war to square it in our hearts before we are gone. If we will but do that. There is much to learn about ourselves and our national experience in the Vietnam war and our response to the vets. 
     It is not courageous to face the truth, it is wise. Wisdom comes with a price, and that price has been paid so we must  remember the accounting. This documentary series does that. It also leaves a telling for our heirs. 

     See you down the trail.

15 comments:

  1. I am recording the Burns series but have not yet begun to watch it. Perhaps today.

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  2. I've watched two episodes, mixed emotions and thoughts about it. As you know I was there for two tours, 66-68 with a two month period back in the middle at Bethesda USN MC. What has struck me so far is how there are still lingering "we coulda won that" ideas hanging on. WTF will we learn? Two months after I arrived at Than Son Nhut I knew we were in the middle of a civil war. Get an hour out of Danang to some 'ville, they had no idea who the president of SVN was, but they had a picture of Ho on the wall somewhere.
    It was just a effed up mess. My father in law, long gone now, was commander naval forces Philippines, and was mentor to Zumwalt, who then was commander naval forces VN. After retiring, he told me he thought the whole reason the joint chiefs want to be there was to get combat training to a cadre of lower and middle rank officers, and NCO's.
    Who knows....

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    1. My father who was a Sgt. Major (former DI) fought in the South Pacific and worked for the government for a few years after the war was a patriot, but he was among the first of his (WWII) generation to say the war was "wrong." He called it a "politician's war," said we were backing the wrong people but his greatest concern was that American troops were being mis-used and sacrificed for political objectives and egos. There was no "generation gap" in our home.
      I was in ROTC and planned to take a commission and serve-but the war screwed with my inner calculus about all of that.

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  3. It was a stupid and self-serving war, as almost all wars are. Kill to get combat training? Maybe if you're Attila the Hun. Even animals know better than to do that.

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  4. Excellent summary and analysis as usual, Tom. We have strapped ourselves in to watch the first five episodes (9 hours) with the expected mix of nostalgia, anger, frustration and renewed respect for Ken Burns' ability to tell personal stories and do good journalism. We still haven't learned the lessons of hubris, failed bureaucracy and the financial imperative of the military industrial complex. But it is heartening to see that Burns has reopened the Teach-In classroom.

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    1. Excellent point. Indeed the Teach-In classroom has been reopened.
      You are right, sadly. We have not learned those lessons.
      BTW I was scanning the Columbia footage for you.

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  5. As I mentioned to Frank P. today, I am impressed with the columns about each episode in the Washington Post by Alyssa Rosenberg. Her column today about General Loan shooting the enemy soldier in the head on the street in Saigon was particularly well done. I mention that after noting The New Yorker's profile of Ken Burns and his operation about a month ago. Back at Purdue, then, I had such a need to protest and feel I only went through the motions with the Moratorium Committee, among other lame activities. And then came word that one of my gung ho fraternity brothers, an ROTC jock turned Marine, had been killed in VN not six months into his initial tour.

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    1. I started working in the news room of a little radio station in Muncie in '65. Surprising to some, Ball State had an active anti war community and a national guard unit that provided "conscripts" a fact that turned out to be a jolt to some BSU students who sought haven from the draft board. It provided a local slice of the national drama so much of my undergrad days were spent "working the beat" and wrestling with myself about my intentions. In addition to the note above, my goal of getting a commission, serving a few years and then going into foreign service or politics began to come undone by the war that seemed so wrong. And I fell in love with reporting.

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  6. VP/General Ky owned 5 or 6 liquor stores in Orange County after the war. A friend of mine worked in one of his stores while going to UC Irvine, said he was still a pompous, arrogant ass. Tieu died in Brookline MA. He lived very quietly.

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    1. Corruption is an apt description for many of the regime leaders of the South. But we learn the leaders in the North were able to send their children to Russia or elsewhere to avoid the conflict they pressed.

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  7. I'm halfway through the Ken Burns series on Vietnam. I'm learning so much. Such terrible mistakes were made.

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  8. thank you for this your broadcast provided bright clear concept..


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