Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Somber Flag - from Mudville

The Somber Flag

Greyhawk's post links to The Flag That Refuses to Go Away in The Boston Globe.

He also links to one of his (Greyhawks) older posts about "Stolen Valor" from B.G. "Jug" Burkett.

Went through all that linkage to establish a context for some thoughts.

The Globe article can be summed up in these two paragraphs:

One would like to think the POW-MIA flag had transcended the reactionary uses to which it was put by a political fringe that abused the memory of lost heroes to raise money and win elections. For many Americans, the flag is simply a token of sorrow for the entire Vietnam episode, and it functions also as a sign of concern for a new generation of US troops who are at war. But the darker meaning dominates. After Vietnam, a self-pitying sense of victimhood defined the American mood. That generated a vengeful determination never to be shown up as weak -- or captive -- again. That, in turn, brought us to the disastrous present, which is explained by recalling that the men on whose watch the disgrace of Vietnam climaxed included Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Their wars against Baghdad (Cheney's in 1991, Rumsfeld's now) were supposed to stifle the Vietnam syndrome once and for all, but Iraq, in pathological recombination, has only quickened it.

No wonder the grief-struck flag refuses to go away. When we Americans behold that silhouetted bowed figure -- the prison tower, the barbed wire -- we may feel the pointed shame anew, but now we recognize the unknown image. We ourselves have become the prisoners of war; it is our own government that has taken us captive. The black flag at last belongs to all of us.

The author seems convinced that nothing is worth fighting for, except maybe who wins elections. His argument seems similar to those upset by the movie about Flight 93 and continued efforts to avoid showing 9/11 scenes from New York and The Pentagon. Ignore painful stuff and it'll simply go away, or perhaps more on point - quit bringing up stuff that makes the liberal/left look weak and ineffective.


However, I must gently disagree with Greywolf's assertion at the bottom of the post that Rambo was an insult to Vietnam Veterans.

Setting aside the sequels, "First Blood" served as a cathartic of sorts for many 'Nam vets.

Forget the rampages with the M60 and all that mayhem... one or two lines captured the feelings of many of us - "And I did what I had to do to win, for somebody who wouldn't let us win!" and "I want, what they want, and every other guy, who's came over here, spilt his guts, gave everything he had, ONCE, for our country to love us, as much as we, Love...IT. That's what I want."

I've heard those lines, and variations, echoed in dozens of 'rap' groups and by many of the 'Nam vets I've helped with VA issues.

Just a counter-point to the also true notion that Rambo painted an almost cartoon picture of us Vietnam vets.


Had the pleasure of hearing B.G. "Jug" Burkett speak at the Kerry Lied rally in DC, and had the even greater pleasure of shaking his hand and thanking him for his work.

But there's always been a small element of his position that troubled me.

He seems to connect patently phony vets and PTSD as having something nefarious in common. In a sense that is quite true, but only part of the story.

In the case of Vietnam there was something going on with real vets before PTSD came along. Initially it was called the Post Vietnam Syndrome. Happily it affected only a relative few in negative ways, but it's roots were in the way 'Nam vets were treated when we returned.

There's a short bit here that adequately defines the distinction I'm pointing to.

Burkett seems to suggest that there are phony vets who use a phony mental condition to stain the honor of all vets, and I don't buy it.


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