I recently watched the 2017 Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary called The Vietnam War. It was brilliant because it focused on the personal narratives of participants and yet managed to scale out to the political and cultural turmoil of the day from both a Vietnamese and international, albeit usually American, view.
War is a very human endeavor. When ants go to war, we don’t know how much coercion or fear they possess. In contrast, the human animal finds it difficult to kill, overlook war crimes, and forget what happened. Hence the “shell shock” of WWI, “battle fatigue” of WW2, and PTSD of Vietnam war veterans.
Today was the 100th anniversary of armistice day, or the end of WWI, the so-called “war to end all wars”. If you want to understand the conspiracy theory of war being a racket of finance and arms, you should read the 1905 George Bernard Shaw play, Major Barbara, wherein the protagonist basically spells out the endless cycle of debt and arms sales as the engine of civilization and mechanism of governmental control.
CUSINS. What on earth is the true faith of an Armorer?
UNDERSHAFT. To give arms to all men who offer an honest price for them, without respect of persons or principles: to aristocrat and republican, to Nihilist and Tsar, to Capitalist and Socialist, to Protestant and Catholic, to burglar and policeman, to black man white man and yellow man, to all sorts and conditions, all nationalities, all faiths, all follies, all causes and all crimes
If you wish to know the actual details of decades of war experience from a military man who was once asked to plot against FDR by American corporations, read Marine General Smedley Butler’s War is a Racket, from which this is excerpted:
There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War is a racket. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. War is just a racket… I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else.
As I blog in the Korean spa lounge where I often write, a the 1962 war movie called The Longest Day is showing. This John Wayne propaganda film contrasts with the post-modern style of Ken Burns documentary, which uses contemporaneous pop songs from The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix, first person narration of people who actually killed people and are haunted by it.
If you want to watch a more realistic war movie, you must see Paths of Glory and Full Metal Jacket, both by Stanley Kubrick. The former illustrates the absurd battles and the second shows the horror and banality of war.
We humans are story tellers and we can be asked to do anything and justify it if the story is believed. But at the heart of it, the more we disconnect from our moral center and live in our heads, the more robotic we become.
French President Macron today took the opportunity to jab at President Trump by asserting “Nationalism is a betrayal of Patriotism.” His logic was hard to follow and belies a desperation as they try to reverse the anti-globalist tide by negating Brexit, controlling the Italian economy, creating an EU army, and welcoming migrants through open borders.
Armistice day on Nov 11th, 1918 didn’t end all wars. If anything, the problem has gotten worse. Why? Perhaps the most underappreciated and untoward consequence of aging is that lose the wisest among us; in contrast, the minds of the young are so easily corrupted and led into wars. To wit, I overheard a conversation between young Latina woman of twenty-something and a man in his late 70’s to whom I had been speaking to about his service in Vietnam. The young lady was “triggered” by the man’s use of the term “illegals” and rebuked him saying that “all of us were immigrants so the current caravans have a right to be here!” The veteran said that he too came to this country legally from Costa Rica and that we can’t simply let everyone in without discretion. When the young lady was dismissive of him as a race-traitor and hypocrite, the older man replied “I fought for this country. I have a right to say what I believe. I have a right!”
And there you have it. Smedley Butler and the Bill of Rights versus the globalist social justice program. If you learn one thing from watching hours of testimonials about the Vietnam war, it came down to a few simple things: hubris and lies by politicians and generals, fervent patriotism or nationalism (I’m not sure which term is preferred) by the young and foolish, and the engineered sociopathy of all in service of war.
That war that will truly end all wars was begun by Napoleon when he liberated the serfs on the feudal duchys and ended with MLK/RFK’s near simultaneous murders and the PTSD/Stockholm Syndrome that followed. The war has always been for the natural rights of humanity to have liberty, equal protection under the law, and the right to pursue happiness or instead, to live, struggling like ants building someone else’s anthill and fighting in someone else’s war of conquest and glory.
3 thoughts on “Thoughts for Veteran’s Day 2018”
Things are not looking good for the status quo.
hii again dr. park! i enjoyed your thought provoking commentary in which you center on the often devious underpinnings of war and the false justifications that perpetuate such wars or conflicts. what resonated w/ me was your account of an interaction between a latino woman and a veteran of Vietnam war, each firmly convinced of his/her views on issues of immigration entitlement. while i agree w/ your point about the sadness of death in terms of losing one’s sense of history and (in this case) government law, i take heart in the belief that the “blueprint” of order and rite of passage is not forever irretrievable: the educational process can and should expose students of all ages to our laws and history in an effective way.
but, there is another factor which i find heartening: reversal of trends or the theory of regression to the mean. i was a major in neuropsychology and minored in multivariate statistics. over time, many things simply reverse w/out always explantation: trends, fashions, beliefs, presidential approval ratings, athletic performances. regression to the mean might also impact the narcissism of millenials to an eventual return to courtesy toward others, involvement in correcting societal ills, etc. regression to the mean would also serve to explain why people who start a relationship (in romance or in business for example), may initially have strong positive feelings, followed by more negative feelings over time, and vice versa.
Yes the abandonment of personal virtue and meritocracy in favor of a prejudiced agenda is what any cultural revolution is about. People don’t know that black Republicans were persecuted during reconstruction. The idiocracy will be televised and promulgated.