#7 Response to Economist Article
Subject: LEXINGTON: The man who healed the Vietnam wound
Date: Sat, 07 Apr 2001 00:23:56
Sirs, I have read with great interest the aforementioned essay. I am a 57 year old American veteran who served in Vietnam as an infantry officer 1968-1969. I am writing this from Ho Chi Minh City. I wholeheartedly agree with the essayist as to the cause of the disenchantment and malaise of the American public concerning our statesmen, politicians and public service. I sadly must admit to a total disbelief in any political rhetoric I am exposed to. Mr. McCain may be healing some wounds by making us feel proud again of public service, particularly military service. The essay mentions this change beginning in 1998 with the release of "Saving Private Ryan". I can recall and I refer to a feature article in The New York Times where the reviewer, Vincent Canby, stated, "Among other things, he (referring to Mr. Spielberg) seems to have fulfilled a national longing that maybe even he wasn't aware of: to wipe clean the collective American conscience after the trauma of the Vietnam War", NY TIMES 10 Aug 98.
I feel we must go further than a salving of our conscience. Vietnam has been forgotten by the world at large and, particularly, by my countrymen. This, I feel, has caused the malaise. And until this is put right the 'PTSD' will continue. It seems as if a collective amnesia has set in dating from 30 April 1975. A place that once so dominated the consciousness of America, a place that we deemed important enough to tear lives, families and nations apart, has now been relegated to a mere afterthought. A bit player in the world of 'real-politik' Yet, I feel its effect is still deeply embedded in the minds of anyone old enough to remember those horrible years. Yes, we may all suffer from a PTSD due to our experience with Viet Nam but I fail to see how the fact of one man's willingness to acknowledge his service during that war will heal anything. My PTSD is not driven by my service but by an anger towards my government and my representatives. I feel it is our duty not to forget. As long as we do so we will truly dishonor those who lost their lives and their sacrifice will be for naught. Be they Americans or Vietnamese. We have shed our blood on this land and we have caused the blood of others to be shed. We cannot and should not shed our connection to Viet Nam.
I do not need an affirmation that my service is now deemed noble or correct. What I, we, need is an elected leader of our nation to have the 'cojones' (aptly used a few years ago by a former US Ambassador to the UN) to stand up and offer an explanation or, if none is available, an admission that we made a horrible error. When will we see the leader strong enough to say we are sorry? When will my country extend a hand in true friendship and brotherhood to Viet Nam?
William J. Kelly Jr.