FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Open Season

by RICHARD RHAMES

Many years ago, after graduating from college and spending a year learning from a wonderful group of third graders at Biddeford’s Kennedy school, I took a position on the 3rd shift at a local electronic components factory. My brief career in public education was effectively over, though I didn’t actually know it yet.

Like many young men of that time I had become classified as 1-A by the local draft board. That meant that I could be yanked away and set to work killing Vietnamese people in great numbers. They called such spilling of blood “serving my country.” They still call it that. Only the killees have changed.

During that contentious year, the board and I discussed whether or not they would put me in jail. It was quite unpleasant.

Popular opinion had turned substantially against the Vietnam invasion/occupation by then with polls showing the public opposed to the project as “morally wrong” and “not a mistake.” But the press and the political class were dug in. Just like today, they were very reluctant to condemn the imperial thrust. It’s commonly alleged that the congress and the media were then filled with leftist “peaceniks.” Today’s school kids are taught that the evening news was filled with gory footage, “bringing the war into people’s living rooms.”

Closer to reality is Michael Arlen’s assessment of the coverage: “A nightly stylized, generally distanced overview of a disjointed conflict which was composed mainly of scenes of helicopters landing, tall grasses blowing in the helicopter wind, American soldiers fanning out across a hillside on foot, rifles at the ready, with now and then (on the soundtrack) a far-off ping or two, and now and then (as the visual grand finale) a column of dark, billowing smoke a half mile away, invariably described as a burning Viet-cong ammo dump.”

John MacArthur’s ” Second Front ” notes that despite the current hallucination of a 60s media establishment wild with anti-war hysteria, in 1967 a Newsweek poll “found 67 percent of viewers surveyed stating that television coverage had increased their inclination toward ‘backing up the boys in Vietnam.’ ”

Just as today’s barbaric wars of aggression are presented as noble efforts —partly defensive, partly altruistic “democracy promotion” / “nation building”— the problems stemming merely from “mistakes” made in advancing an honorable cause, so was the Vietnam “police action” presented as a difficult struggle based on the purest of motives. The “dinks,” and the “slopes,” and the “gooks” were seen as lower forms of life who needed our intervention, just like the “hagis” and “ragheads” of today. To suggest otherwise was to be un-American.

It’s quite remarkable how little has changed, or perhaps, how far we’ve regressed. Looking back, I remember a particular night in the component plant’s break room. I was one of the first male employees at this place. The lunch tables were always packed with women. I often sat next to a grandmotherly type of gentle and supportive demeanor. We often talked. But when, on one occasion the conversation turned to Vietnam, she revealed an unexpectedly hard edge. I was lamenting the bombing and the great loss of civilian life among the peasantry. But she brought me up short. “What good are they anyway?” she challenged.

I’m no longer surprised by such blunt expressions of racist solidarity in the imperial project. But I was younger then, and naive.

That said, however, it’s still somewhat overwhelming; the ease with which the public can be whipped up to venomous rage against whatever enemy-du-jour the political class deems it expedient to attack.

The right wing has now seized power, over only the most pitiful objections from tepid centrists called “liberals.” The resulting numbskull name-calling coarsens a squalid exchange of “talking points” that now passes for “debate.”

People that the right wing theocrats don’t like usually get labeled as un-American. It’s long been understood locally that I am an un-American. “Communist” used to be good enough, but then, my stated lack of enthusiasm for murdering Iraqi children gained me the “Osama” label. This is what standing up for labor rights and against state terrorism gets you these days.

Now even spineless corporate tools like Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid are being tagged as un-American by the hysterical right. Using the same kind of voodoo calculus that for years pegged Maine as having nearly the highest “tax burden” in the nation (not true they lately admit, but so what?), the Republican attack machine now alleges that Obama has the most liberal voting record in the Senate. He’s supposed to be some kind of left fringe dweller.

Fun fact: The financial sector has donated more money to Comrade Obama than to Field Marshall McCain. He has been auditioning for them for years and they understand that he poses no threat to their continued supremacy.

Now comes news that someone’s erected an 8-by-12 foot sign on Route 101 up in New Gloucester (Maine) picturing a young McCain in his flight suit, all set to bomb civilians and power plants in Vietnam. Next to the “Retired Captain” the sign depicts a turbaned “Barack Hussein Obama” labeled “No US Military Service.” Press accounts note that the aim of the sign is to promote McCain as “more American” than his rival in the race for Commander in Chief.

Representative Michele Bachman (R-MN) has called for investigations into who’s anti-American and who isn’t. “Most Americans are wild about America,” she says. Sure we’re deindustrialized, downwardly mobile, and distracted. But we’re very well armed. So watch out what you say. “We” know where you live.

In my case, there’s not far to go and not much investigation needed. People like me who’ve advocated for majority rule, economic rights for all, and less state terror are clearly un(or anti)-American.

Guess it may soon be open season.

RICHARD RHAMES is a dirt-farmer in Biddeford, Maine (just north of the Kennebunkport town line). He can be reached at: rrhames@xpressamerica.net

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

RICHARD RHAMES is a dirt-farmer in Biddeford, Maine (just north of the Kennebunkport town line). He can be reached at: rrhames@xpressamerica.net

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Pauline Murphy
Unburied Truth: Exposing the Church’s Iron Chains on Ireland
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Franklin Lamb
Update from Madaya
Dan Bacher
Federal Scientists Find Delta Tunnels Plan Will Devastate Salmon
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Louis Proyect
What Caused the Holodomor?
Max Mastellone
Seeking Left Unity Through a Definition of Progressivism
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
David Yearsley
Ear of Darkness: the Soundtracks of Steve Bannon’s Films
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail