When I came back from Vietnam in early 1970, after spending a year in the jungle as an infantryman, the culture shock, the transition from carrying an automatic weapon for twelve months that became in essence an extension of yourself, in a foreign country that regarded us as invaders(The American War), to being placed on the defensive back home with constant media bombardment of vapid half truths and misinformation about the realities of violence in manufactured war, I knew that I was indeed a stranger in a strange land.
With the explosion of information last week of the one man assault on an elementary school and the overkilling of twenty young children and six teacher-defenders and after several days of internalizing the specter, I was haunted by the memory of a massacre that happened ten months before I had my orders to be assigned to Co. C 1/20 11th Inf. Bde. Those in my platoon that would talk about it referred to it as “Pinkville” (pink on a grid map is a population concentration). The orders were to sweep through the village, a VC suspected stronghold, and “clear” it. Supposedly, the villagers were warned in advance. The discretion of Charlie Company’s leaders has been the subject of several books and articles over the years since. When Life Magazine came out with the story of MyLai in October 1969, I saw the horror of that day that my platoon members could not talk about. All the guys that I had known that knew about that horror had rotated home. I felt that I was guilty by association and knew that I would be regarded as a women and baby killer.
Today the media goes non-stop and rapid fire about assault weapons in the hands of deranged people killing with them. The half truths are also killing. I am reminded about something Jesus said to his disciples concerning the actions and words of hypocrites (hypocritical media) and public displays of praying, “But when you pray, go in to your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen”. In other words, stop machine-gunning non-stop shallow, half-felt public displays of sentiment that will effect nothing when it comes to dealing with what Michael Minch said in “American Thantos”, “The Variables of Violence” when he talked about “a culture of anomie”that doesn’t rouse us from our “comfortably numb”(Pink Floyd) state of “social instability resulting from a breakdown of standards and values, personal unrest, alienation, uncertainty, that comes form a lack of purpose or ideals”-Websters. To borrow that “comfortably numb” again, speaking for myself, I think uncomfortably numb is more on the mark.
We all need to “go into our rooms” and pray that we gain the wisdom to see our culture for what it has become and stop the brain assault of the corrupt public media, see those childrens’ bullet torn bodies—and at the same time see what this culture exports in its “wars against terror”, with all the manufactured assault weapons falling into everybodies hands.
I’ve seen mangled bodies in combat—THIS SHIT HAS GOT TO STOP!
Robert O. Pillsbury is Vietnam combat veteran who was in Lt. Calley’s company. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org