Friday, April 22, 2005

Spitting Just as Wrong 30 Years Later-Even if it is Hanoi Jane

I’m not a fan of Jane Fonda’s. Then again, I’m not a fan of the Vietnam War, either.
Still, what Vietnam Veteran Michael Smith did this week by spitting tobacco on Fonda at her book signing in Kansas City was appalling. He disgraced himself as a gentleman and a Marine.
(Just as wrong is pie throwing and anything else that constitutes assault by anyone on any side of the political aisle. Fight your battle with words and non-threatening protest, that’s what “Free Speech” means).
Smith brought to the forefront once again, in the national spotlight, of why people outside of K.C. view our fine Mid-western town as a “Cow town.”
I admit, when you’re brought up in a family that runs deep with military blood, as I was, it’s hard to get over the fact that the young Jane Fonda made nice with the North Vietnamese and posed for pictures on top of weapons that were killing our young soldiers.
However, although right wing conspiracy theorists (including Charlton Heston, who wrote a book about it) like to blame everything that went wrong in Vietnam on the vast left wing liberals and their anti-war efforts, not every challenge our soldiers faced during the war or after had anything to do with how most of the people felt about the war –or had anything to do with “Hanoi Jane,” as Veterans call her.
And this just isn’t tripe coming from one of those unpatriotic, Godless left-wingers, who, if I hadn’t been just a tot during Vietnam, probably would have been one of those war protestors myself.
My family was one of those that paid the ultimate price for Vietnam. My brother, Steve, fought there and although he returned breathing, he left his soul. (I know, it may come as a great shock to fanatical right-wingers, but yes, Liberal blood runs red, white and blue too).
Steve was intelligent and witty when he left for the Army at age 17 in 1969. The worst trouble Steve had gotten into was that of most teens: skipping school, drinking and staying out too late.
When Steve came home from Vietnam, where he served as a gunner in an artillery unit, he had a heroin addiction and suffered from early signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Our family didn’t recognize his new sullen personality. None of this can be blamed on Hanoi Jane, since Steve came home a few months before her now infamous trip.
Michael Smith has been in print and on television (Has Bill O’Reily and FOX Views gotten him on yet?) defending his actions by saying that he suffers from PTSD and the effects of Agent Orange. And this is Jane Fonda’s fault because…..
As I write in the book about my brother’s life after the war (‘No Immediate Threat: the story of an American Veteran,’ read the prologue on my website, Vietnam was a long series of bad policy dating back 400 years. Unfortunately and tragically, it culminated with the Cold War and resulted in 58,000 Immediate American casualties.
The truth is, Vietnam was a mess long before Jane Fonda set foot on North Vietnamese soil. Fonda did not give ready access to opium and heroin to our troops at $1 a hit, nor did she hypnotize our soldiers into believing they experienced the horrors of war so they would come home with PTSD. She didn’t spray Agent Orange laced herbicide throughout a land that still suffers the effects of the cancer-causing agent.
Fonda simply believed what the majority of the nation by 1972 believed: The war was wrong, it was costing too many lives and it needed to end.
Did she commit treason by visiting North Vietnam or did she just use her celebrity and resources and make a terrible judgment? Since she was never convicted, much less tried for treason, it boils down to terrible judgment. She admits it, she apologizes for it during almost every single public appearance and she says she regrets it.
It’s more of an apology than the Veterans and their families have received from members of the U.S. government regarding their bad judgment for putting us there in the first place.
Fonda has taken her place in history. Instead of actually being everything that was wrong in Vietnam, she has come to symbolize it. Her grace under fire for refusing to press assault charges against Smith shows she has come to accept that.
No one knows better than my family that the war will never be over for some of these Veterans. But how can Veterans and their families condemn people who spat in our face and the faces of our loved ones when they came home and then praise what Smith did to Fonda this week?
Where will it end?


Blogger KCKOOL said...

I think we should consider Mr. Smith a "traitor" instead of Jane Fonda - he betrays us all when he does something so outrageous, when he can't get beyond a 30 year old incident, when he can't get a bigger perspective on his own life, Jane Fonda's life, or our life as a nation. This is what instigates and perpetuates wars all over the planet - that bitter, vituperative hate and anger that says "I will never forget, I will never forgive."
May God bless and forgive you, Mr. Smith, whether you want it or not.

2:55 PM CDT  
Blogger hooper2 said...

The KC Star's editorial page was filled w/letters from people on both sides of this incident. There are many emotions still near the surface re: the Vietnam War. Obviously, Mr. Smith's behavior was inappropriate but a "traitor"??? Yes, Jane Fonda has apologized but only for some of her actions. Americans lost their lives doing what their country asked of them. Jane used her power and influence to hinder rather than help these Americans. I'd pick Mr. Smith any day to fight by my side over Jane.

3:15 PM CDT  
Blogger Redundant Redactor said...

The spitting incident was very uncouth and reflects poorly on KC. Hardly anyone I know would have done that.
What's the difference between burning the flag, which has been said to be an allowed form of free speech by the Supreme Court, and spitting on Jane Fonda? Obviously, spitting is an attack on a person, a misdemeanor in this case. Had this man just spit on a copy of her book that he had purchased, I would be inclined to say it was a legitimate form of free speech, although still rather crude.
Unfortunately, this veteran doesn't seem to know where to draw the line. His need to act out his feelings in public, instead of just using words, is unusual.
I think Jane Fonda had every right to speak out against the war, if that's what she believed then. Without those rights, this would not be a free country.
All that said, have you ever thought who's the biggest winner from this spitting incident? Yes, it's Jane. Her book just got free publicity across the country, on all the wires, in many of the newspapers, on many of the newscasts, and on the Internet. You can't buy that kind of publicity. Press charges against him? Of course she isn't. She ought to be paying him for what he did.

12:39 PM CDT  
Blogger Janet said...

This incident is one in a long line of many concerning the Vietnam war. Am I a Jane fan? No! I have to say after this crude incident I'm not a Mr Smith fan either. Like you, my brother, served in Vietnam and came home a mere shadow of himself. Part of the walking dead that returned. Do I sympathize with the Vietnam vets and the way they were treated when they came home. Yes. Jane had nothing to do with that. The American public did and those are the same people justifying Mr Smith's actions. There is a better way to say you disagree with someone. How can this action be anymore acceptable than Janes trip to Hanoi?

5:35 PM CDT  

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