Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Thanks for Watching Vietnam, the Sequel.

I'd like to preface my comments with the following statement: Every half-baked opinion I'm permitted to regurgitate in this forum is the direct result of a lot of suffering endured by a lot of people who don't happen to be me.

Or politicians.

The "The Baby Boomer" generation consists of anyone born between 1946 and 1964. Since I blew onto the scene in 1962, I consider myself still a part of that parade, but more like the guy in the clown suit who trails the whole procession with a scoop shovel. 

These folks are supposed to be the offspring of returning World War II veterans. The only way my ten-year-old dad could have taken part in the ass whoopin' would have been by protecting his parents' victory garden from fascist tyranny with the business end of his Daisy Red Ryder. 

Jokes aside, World War II was a national effort. Here's a small sampling of goods rationed for stateside citizens during that era: gasoline, rubber, sugar, processed foods and…you won't believe this one…coffee! The homefront received but a smidge of God's steamy rich nectar between 1942 and 1945. Talk about a bunch of cranky riveters.

The decade following the Big One ushered in a sparkling period of prosperity and consumer excess. Even the president himself capitalized on the nearly unlimited supply of pants fabric:

America discovered a new mission—life, liberty and the pursuit of—stuff. We fell in love with stuff and lots of it. In fact, we accumulated so much stuff that we bought bigger houses out in the suburbs to hold all of it. Stuff made us comfortable, stuff made us happy, and by God, we'd earned it. 

We felt a little bad about sending all those Japanese Americans out to the desert, but you know, even supermodels need to go number two sometimes.

Then the Sixties rolled around and a little donnybrook flared up in southeast Asia. But this time, we weren't asked to give up any stuff to support the war effort, since it really wasn't a war, just a misunderstanding. 

With the savagery of Korea still fresh in our memories, we tried our damnedest to secure student deferments for our best and brightest (please see Dick Cheney with hair and original heart). You know, leave that skirmish to the people who displayed a willingness to participate through an inability to pay for college. As a result, West Virginia led America in poverty patriotism, experiencing 84.1 deaths in Vietnam per hundred thousand males living in the state. 

47,359 soldiers were killed in "hostile actions." Another 10,797 died from other causes—disease, accident, suicide. And thanks to our new television technology and a few daft-yet-courageous war correspondents, the true carnage caused by a guerrilla war—the booby traps, punji stakes, land mines—piped its cinematic splendor into our living rooms as we ate our tater tot casserole from floral patterned TV trays.

It didn’t take long for America to spill into the streets and demand an end to such a futile, yet bloody fiasco. Nevertheless, the war raged for a decade until the final Americans were airlifted from an overrun embassy thirty-eight years ago today, on May 7, 1975.

Why the history lesson? I'm sure you're thinking, "Who is this guy, some frustrated left-wing professor wannabe?" Well, yes, but there's another reason. 

It's even worse now. 

The United States and a smattering of its NATO allies have been bogged down in Afghanistan since October 7, 2001, a twisted new American record. Ghosts of Vietnam litter the landscape—the improvised explosive devices, the indigenous enemy that can melt into the civilian landscape at will—and the ambiguous mission. 

And the real tragedy is that most of us don't even think about it. Unless we have a "dog" in this battle—a friend or family member—we live our lives sprawled on the creamy memory foam of ignorant bliss. 

No draft? No problem.

Did you know that fourteen coalition forces have already died this month in Afghanistan? Why aren't we more outraged? 

I'll tell you why. Because we've got our stuff.

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