Mudcat Café message #173369 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #17801   Message #173369
Posted By: Sourdough
04-Feb-00 - 03:04 AM
Thread Name: Baez interview. Americans and enemies
Subject: RE: Baez interview. Americans and enemies
It's true, we haven't had a real full-scale foreign invasion but we did have our presidential mansion burned during the War of 1812 and the First Lady had to go running away carryig valuable paintings and other furnishings from their home. (I'm not sure where the First Gentleman was at the time.) And then, fifty years later, we had one of the bloodiest wars of the century in which the dead of both sides were Americans. Gerogia sure felt invaded when Sherman cut a fifty mile wide swath to the sea.

Having said that, I am now going to try to express why reading some of the more "shot from the hip" thoughts in this thread made me a little sad. I don't mean to be argumentative or to provoke but having lived through through the Vietnam Era as an adult, I, too have my feelings about the forces that were ripping apart the country during that time.

I've always felt that "Hanoi Jane" was too strong an epithet. In retrospect, she really did make a terrible error in judgment in an awful time. We were being lied to by our government. We could not get them to listen, or even to give us straight answers. I think it is easy to forget just how disturbing a time it was. I suspect that the trip to Hanoi grew out of desperation. There were excesses on the one side of getting American soldiers killed in a war we could not understand the reason for and no one could explain it. Even one of the major architects of that war, McNamara, with twenty years of hindsight admitted that it had been a ghastly mistake. Lots of people died but it is easy to forget that the survivors of wars are not unwounded. By sending a nation's "best and brightest" off to war, we were wounding a generation. I think all of us in my generation know some of these people. They are or were our friends. Many of these soldiers are still fighting the Vietnam War in the psychiatric wards of VA hospitals or on city streets where they offer to work for food. Many more, are scarred badly although they have managed to rehabilitate themselves through a personal process that was for many of them as difficult and lasted longetr than their combat time in Viet Nam. And then there were the battles at home, the divisiveness within families, between generations, the stealing of the American flag to be a symbol of the Right...

People with consciences were torn. There were no easy decisions. Go to war, go to Canada. Face the question, "Am I a coward or an idealist?" Shame your parents.

Jane Fonda went against her family's wishes and inclinations and she risked her own career, probably damaging it seriously. You can make the argument that she gave up literally millions of dollars. Look at the kind of acting she was capable of "On Golden Pond". I am sure she knew when she went to Hanoi that she was going to be hated by a huge segment of the US population that would never understand or forgive her. I gave up far less for peace than that. It must have been tempting, with visions of juicy parts and celebrityhood that comes with successful motion pictures, to sidestep controversey. Those of us who criticise her as a dilletante, did we give up say, ten thousand dollars? I know I didn't think of myself as a dilletante in opposing the war but I gave up far less than she did.

We are talking about a period that was around ten years after the McCarthy Era. I think Jane Fonda understood what she was doing to her career.

Joan Baez stood up for what she believed in to an extent that few of us did. She became a target of hatred and vituperation. As a public figure, she was slandered, publicly pilloried for her beliefs. I can't believe she found it satisfying to have her beliefs made into comic strip humor. Her husband went to jail for his beliefs. What made it sad was that Al Capp himself had been in combat. He had lost a leg, I think, in a bomber, during a raid on Germany. He lost it in a good cause. Would he think losing it for a trivial reason would have been OK, just because some politicians were afraid of losing face or had a vision that the countries of the East would fall like dominoes until we had Red Chinese landing in Malibu.

About five years ago, I happened to get copies of some home videotapes that Joan Baez' accompanist shot in Sarajevo. She went there on tour because she felt that she might be able to do something by bringing attention to the suffering that was going on there. She went in the middle of the war. There were pictures of her in "Snipers Alley" wearing a flax jacket as she left the hotel to go out and meet Muslims and Christians in homes and schools. She said later of her trip that it seemed to her that the people of Sarajevo weren't so much afraid of dying as they were of being forgotten. Her trip was to show them that they were not forgotten. I can't believe that this tour was designed to make money or sell CDs.

What I consider a failing in myself is that I have not stood up for my own beliefs as much as either one of these women have for theirs. Their motives were not publicity (what would they gain?) It wasn't to avoid being drafted. They believed that somehow what they were doing would lead to increased social justice. They may have been starry eyed idealists but it is hard to consider either of them evil. Looking for perfection in my heroes has always led me to disappointment until I heard the phrase, "There are no great men, but there are great strengths and great weaknesses". Outstanding people like Joan Baez and Jane Fonda, I believe, fit that pattern.