Nobody Gets Off the Bus:
The Viet Nam Generation Big Book
Volume 5 Number 1-4
This text, made available by the Sixties Project, is copyright (c) 1996 by Viet Nam Generation, Inc., or the author, all rights reserved. This text may be used, printed, and archived in accordance with the Fair Use provisions of U.S. Copyright law. This text may not be archived, printed, or redistributed in any form for a fee, without the consent of the copyright holder. This notice must accompany any redistribution of the text. The Sixties Project, sponsored by Viet Nam Generation Inc. and the Institute of Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, is a collective of humanities scholars working together on the Internet to use electronic resources to provide routes of collaboration and make available primary and secondary sources for researchers, students, teachers, writers and librarians interested in the 1960s.
In This Issue
Here's how it works. There is an Announcements, Notices and Reports section, a Features section, and a Book Review section. Items in the Features section and the Book Review section are listed in the Table of Contents. The On-Line version of this special issue is slightly different from the printed version. This is a description of the printed version, with links to the On-Line version. We provide an On-Line version of our issues as a free service; we encourage readers to purchase hard-copies and to use them as course texts. Electronic texts are a supplement to printed texts--not a replacement for them.
Announcements, Notices & Reports
The Announcements section is my special concern. Any article in there that isn't signed by Kalí or by someone else or copied from a press release is written by me, Dan Duffy. I try to set a certain tone. Most of the articles are by other people. This section is a bulletin board. It is bathroom reading. It is a teaching device, composed to unsettle anyone who knows for sure what it is to study the U.S. and Viet Nam, to delight anyone who is already assured of his or her own ignorance. My idea is to give lots of useful specific information in the course of making clear how complicated life can be. Many of the best articles in the issue are in Announcements somewhere, like John Williams' report on communications media in contemporary Viet Nam, just one of a run of articles on human rights and free speech issues that includes Horace Coleman on Malcolm X (pro), Manh Tuong on Catholic activists in Viet Nam (pro), and two young Laotian Americans, Chershouatseeb and Yang, on the overseas community and the resistance movement (con). I sure hope I don't have to explain all this to some humorless Interior official when I visit Viet Nam next year.
The Features section is intended to showcase individual pieces of writing. It is assembled in clumps of essays and narratives on related topics, interrupted by poetry that either works to the same point as the prose or serves as needed relief.
The first run of essays deals with political attitudes. Paul Lyons, author of "The Silent Majority Baby Boomers: Class of 1966 in a South Jersey Town" in William M. King's Viet Nam Generation anthology on Race and the War, continues his close examination of the Boomers with " Another Sixties: The New Right." Anthony O. Edmonds' article " The Viet Nam War and the British Student Left: A Study in Political Symbolism" takes the focus on the Viet Nam generation to another country. This run of articles is rudely interrupted by poetry by Antler and Jeff Poniewacz.
We continue with Miriam R. Jackson's " Peace Through Law: John Seiberling's Vision of World Order." Jackson considers the Congressional career of the WWII vet who came to office in 1970 on an anti-war platform. Miriam's "Brothers and Sisters on the Land: Tent City, 1977" appeared in Susie Ehrenrich's Viet Nam Generation anthology, Kent and Jackson State: 1970-1990. Michael B. Friedland contributes his own study of the activism of some WWII generation men in " Giving a Shout for Freedom: The Reverend Malcolm Boyd, The Right Reverend Paul Moore, Jr., and the Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements of the 1960's and 1970's."
The sense of moral concern maintained over years and decades conveyed in these studies of Seiberling, Boyd and Moore echo nicely in two poems from Stephen Hidalgo, the scholar of anti-war activism among U.S. poets in the 1960s. Marc Jason Gilbert turns away from adults to focus on those who turned to politics earlier in " Lock and Load High: The Viet Nam War Comes to a Los Angeles Secondary School." Gilbert's history is exemplary in applying rigor and method to an examination of events he participated in, once upon a time. In another display of reason and research, " The Tet Offensive and Middletown: A Study in Contradiction" Anthony O. Edmonds takes a look at the newspaper record in Muncie, Indiana to find out what can be shown concerning what folks in "the typical American city" thought the NLF offensive of 1968 meant to the war effort.
Next come three short poems and four haiku. A community college professor retired early to live cheap on the Upper Peninsula and write poetry as t. kilgore splake. His poem, " Tet," is a Warhol movie in six lines about a man turning bolts. Era vet Matthew Diomede reflects on ammunition and memory in " Bullets From the Heart," and Don Yost evokes the spirit of the helicopter in " Whup." Lenard Moore, whose Desert Storm: A Brief History is reviewed in Announcements, wrote the haiku.
Cecil Currey constitutes a military history section with " An Officer and a Gentleman: General Vo Nguyen Giap as Military Man and Poet." A former officer, Currey is known far outside his field as "Cincinnatus," the whistle-blowing author of Self-Destruction: The Disintegration and Decay of the United States Army during the Viet Nam Era (WW Norton, 1981; Preface dated 1979).
Next, a poetry section to xerox and staple to the wall: W.D. Ehrhart and Dale Ritterbusch bracket Steven Gomes. Ehrhart, Marine Corps veteran, Viet Nam Veterans Against the War activist, husband and father, is Viet Nam Generation's spiritual leader. His five poems, " Governor Rhodes Keeps His Word," " Guatemala," " The Distance We Travel," " The Open Door," and " The Last Time I Dreamed About the War" are excerpted from The Distance We Travel, Ehrhart's new Adastra Press book, reviewed in the Announcements section. Dale Ritterbusch's poems, " When It's Late," " Bien Hoa, 1968," and " Shoulders," are selected from his book, Lessons Learned, published by Burning Cities. Business Manager Steven Gomes' " Common Ground" sits between the two poems of the older veterans, reflecting on the poet's relation to his vet dad.
Now begins a run of articles gathered by Skip and Page Delano for a VG special issue on war crimes and war crimes testimony. The anthology didn't come together, but the Delanos gathered some remarkable essays. Ron Ridenhour, who worked for a year to bring media and legislative attention to the killings at My Lai, explains his motivations in " Jesus Was a Gook." William F. Crandell's " What Did America Learn from the Winter Soldier Investigation?" and Tod Ensign's " Organizing Veterans Through War Crimes Documentation" look back on their own efforts to bring news of atrocities to the public. These are followed by an extraordinary contemporary document, " The International War Crimes Conference, Oslo, June, 1971: Excerpts from the Diary of One of the Witnesses." All other notes were seized from the conference participants by the political police on re-entering the United States. This diary doesn't say much about what happened at the International Commission of Enquiry into U.S. War Crimes, but it speaks volumes about how young these people were when they started challenging the state.
In " State Rape: Representations of Rape in Viet Nam," Jeffords' student Karen Stuhldreher follows the topic of rape into the historical record of the war in Viet Nam and its popular representations.
Now comes something completely different, twelve poems from Dennis Fritzinger, aka Delta Foxtrot, the editor of the best vet's newsletter, LZ Friendly (Ernest Spencer's Khe Sanh Veteran has a saddle-stitched cover now, so it's in a different class), published by the Bay Area chapter of VVA. Fritzinger contributed " Charlie Don't Surf" to Viet Nam Generation Newsletter 3:3.
The next clump of essays is about what we laughingly call history. John Baky, curator of the awesome Imaginative Representations of the Viet Nam War collection at LaSalle University's Connelly Library, investigates the role of urban myth in our field in " White Cong and Black Clap: The Ambient Truth of Viet Nam War Legendry." Louis Wolf's " Government Manipulation and Distortion of History" starts with the author's work in Laos in the 1960s,where he saw things that have yet to make their way into the historical record, and proceeds to his present work at Covert Action Quarterly, observing how agents of the Executive Branch provide the historical record with accounts of events that have yet to occur.
The section on faux history ends with song lyrics from David Rodriguez' album, The True Cross. The title lyric is a monologue by a vet who blew up records for the CIA in Saigon, and now kills for them in Central America.
Josephine A. McQuail's " Folksongs and Allusions to Folk Songs in the Repertoire of the Grateful Dead," Dan Phillipson's " Camping in the 'Woods': Woodchuck Lodge, Woodstock, Woodland Valley" and Michael Branch's "' You Say You Want a Revolution': Environmental Reform in the Literature of the 1860s and 1960s" reflect on some of the ideas often associated with the 1960s in the U.S. Tony Williams, Viet Nam Generation contributing editor, brings a more international perspective in his review of John LeBoutillier's Viet Nam Now: A Case for Normalizing Relations with Ha Noi, David L. Schalk's War and the Ivory Tower: Algeria and Viet Nam and Hue-Tam Ho-Tai's Radicalism and the Origins of the Vietnamese Revolution..
Back to veterans. Victor H. Bausch's poetry and sudden fiction, " G.I. Party," " Chills and Fever," " The Media's Magical Treatment of History," and " Cherry Boy Comes Home From the War" are a nice frontispiece for David S. Harrington's " Therapy for PTSD: Whose Search for Meaning?" which in turn introduces SuAnne Doak's poems " Poppies" and " Hands," about a man and a woman who had a hard time in Viet Nam. Harrington is a veteran and works with veterans as a counselor and as a magazine columnist. He questions the assumptions that undergird the widespread acceptance of PTSD as a medical matter.
All of us here are cultural critics, but some more than others. Frederic Pallez' " Operation Desert Storm and Its Media Appropriation" applies what we've learned from examining the representations of the war in Viet Nam to the Gulf War. If the U.S. military can do it, why not a French literary critic? Speaking of French, Alan Farrell interrogates the images of the U.S. Army Special Forces current among schoolmen his age, and introduces some other ones in " The Green Beret: Schrekfigur for the New Age." In " Kennedy's Children," Viet Nam Generation Drama Editor David DeRose discusses Kerry Kennedy's Amnestia, a play that might be about a draft dodger and his father. Viet Nam Generation's newest contributing editor, David Erben, contributes " The Short Timers," discussing the late Gustav Hasford's masterpiece in terms of contemporary literary criticism. Poems from Joe Amato and Steven Duplij seem to fit here just because they are so intelligent. Duplij is a theoretical physicist in the Ukraine, and Amato is author of Symptoms of a Finer Age, published by Burning Cities. Speaking of smart, Cindy Fuchs' " Sex Acts" discusses porn films set in the Viet Nam War with rigor and delight. Fuchs' essay butts up against Robert Borden's " Meat Dreams: a Poem of the Viet Nam War," ten pages written in 1974. They go together famously.
We had another special issue project that didn't pan out, on teaching the war. N. Bradley Christie gathered some fine pieces for that collection, which will appear in a regular Teaching section of the journal. In "Expanding the Viet Nam War Canon: Doctorow, Heller and the Origins of U.S. Intervention," Daniel Zins makes it plain that despite what you have read on the back of thirty-six other novels, Catch-22 was the Catch-22 of the Viet Nam War. Heller included helicopters and loyalty oaths to make it clear that he was writing about the Cold War, not the war against Hitler. Zins, a literature professor, urges the importance of providing students with the cultural context of U.S. anticommunism for interpreting literature from the American war in Viet Nam. Michael Selig's " History and Subjectivity: What We Won't Learn from the Hollywood-Style Vietnam War Film" applies psychoanalytic perspectives from film theory to the usual suspects to lay out the point of view that they all demand from the viewer, and to discuss the things one does and does not see from this point of view. Selig teaches Communications. When he says "history" he means "the past." I suppose everyone does except those of us who write the stuff.
Next are five personal narratives that stress family, but not Walt Disney's. " Drugs," by Robert Lehman, evokes the deterioration of personality and love in Southern California 1970s drug culture as pathetically as did Philip K. Dick's Through a Scanner Darkly. In " Journey into the Sunset: The Summer of Love," Jordan Rivers tells of being one of the teenagers who ran to the rat-trap of the commercialized Haight, and how his particular family's values saved him. Viet Nam Generation contributing editor Bill Shields shares his special moments with his mom and wife and daughter in " Blood Rain." It's a poet's memoir, one perfect word laid next to another for a dozen pages. "Blood Rain" is also the story of someone who wasn't supposed to live long enough to tell it, the kind of person the armed services recruit because he'll do anything and nobody will take his story seriously should he manage to live. Shields has become a figure of note in the great world of alternative presses Eric Utne doesn't read, a Bukowski for harsher times, published by us, the rocker Rollins at 3.14.61 press, and the even smaller outfits Bill Shields and Jon Glade are authorities on, the people who publish with their rent money.
After I read Bill Shields, I generally go do something else. You can read poems by Carole Ten Brink, David Vancil (author of the poetry collection The Homesick Patrol, published by Viet Nam Generation, Inc.), and Marc Swan. Then you can visit Thomas Meade and his friends in the PTSD ward just after the Gulf War, in " Kicking the Viet Nam Syndrome." Timothy Martin ends our family section on a warm note, with " Father to Son," a Viet Nam navy vet's memoir of the WWII navy vet who raised him. Then comes Melanie Lawson's poem about being the daughter of soldier who is no longer with us, poems by David Erben from his editorial correspondence with Kali, and a poem from Rod Farmer about a traffic accident.
Let's go to college. Lu I. Jenson's " A Counselor's Counselors, 1963" and Randolph Splitter's " Salad Days" show the early sixties at two out-of- the-way campuses. After Splitter comes Jim Sullivan's " Out of Step, But On Target," the true confession of an antiwar movement REMF.
Three poems from Jane Teresa Tassi introduce thirteen war stories. It makes me tired to even think about summarizing this block of prose. Wade on in. All of these stories deal with war as something conducted by administrative structures, armed bureaucracies. After that, a poem each from Don Kunz, Ken Wolfe and Carol Blair, then four stories from non-combatants. Paul Schulz' " Making Sacrifices" shows a boy greeting his brother, home from Viet Nam. Dan Seiters' " The Killer, Trained and Devastating" is a glorious whine by a reservist called into active service at an unlikely age. Then, finally, five sketches from Viet Nam Generation's REMF Editor David Willson, and Nick Boldrini's " Attack!" lay down a standard for service-and-supply self pity that may never be equalled. The Features section closes with two poems from Jon Forrest Glade, who draws on a John Balaban sentence to remark in "Nothing Remains" that it's like it (he means the war) never happened. Isn't that nice. Don't you just wish this whole damned magazine was pure fiction?
Viet Nam Generation Book Review Editor Dan Scripture checks in with his biggest Book Review section to date, offering David James on David Willson, Renny Christopher on Wayne Karlin, Cynthia Fuchs on Thi Thanh Nga (Tiana Alexandra), Cecil B. Currey on Peter MacDonald, John Bradley on Barry Kroll, Anthony Signorelli, and Paul Macadam, Theodore M. Lieverman on David Schalk, Jacqueline R. Smetak on Philip S. Foner, and Maggie Jaffe on Beth Irwin Lewis and George Grosz. Sorry, I pulled my summary and commentary muscle two paragraphs back.
The issue is large because it is Viet Nam Generation Inc.'s only publication this year. Kali and I have been distracted. Look for her story in her Publisher's Note. My excuse is that I've been reviving the Viet Nam publications program of the Council on Southeast Asia Studies at Yale University.
When I started working to revive Viet Nam Forum and Lac Viet project for Yale in May 1992, I had no idea what I was doing. Fortunately, I didn't know that. I just knew that I was scared.. The only refugee scholar I knew and trusted was Huynh Sanh Thong, my genius predecessor. The only academic Southeast Asianists I knew and trusted were Ben Kiernan and James C. Scott, my sponsors on the Yale Council. Since I am a stress case, I even thought that the Yale Vietnamese students might have extremist parents who would come beat me up. The only way I had ever raised money for a literary project was to go get paying work.
I spent a year and more at Yale looking for scholarly advisors and asking people for money. I also managed to publish one Lac Viet book, Bruce Lockhart's End of the Vietnamese Monarchy, and I will bring out a Viet Nam Forum issue at the very end of this year. Somewhere in there Ben Kiernan and I raised money for a collection on Genocide and Democracy in Cambodia, which will appear in another Yale series. Then a foundation in Kentucky gave us some support for my work with Vietnamese-American college students. The Ford Foundation gave us some money for me to go to Ha Noi in 1994 and again in 1995 to bring back some collections of scholarship from the World Publishing House, Viet Nam's foreign-language press, to publish at Yale. It all adds up to enough money to survive, to use to get somewhere.
I'll persist with Viet Nam Forum and Lac Viet, putting out some excellent publications and looking for the funding to have a proper program, one with a budget and salaries and staff. I think we'll succeed. I am pessimistic about normalization of relations between Washington and Ha Noi, but that happy day should be closer by 1995, which will increase available funding. No matter what you hear about U.S. businesses wanting to invest in Viet Nam, the fact is that most are holding back until doing business there is entirely legal. Only two out of thirty U.S. corporations with Viet Nam interests even considered my grant proposal, and those two are at companies where I have personal connections.
There simply has got to be a place for scholars of Viet Nam-- Western academics, Vietnamese and and Asian academics, amateurs and students-- to publish together in English in a prestigious insitution outside of Viet Nam. It is easier for me to build such a thing at Yale than at Viet Nam Generation, Inc. But I spent a year telling people that, too frightened to do more than scramble and worry. My review of Duong Thu Huong's Paradise of the Blind in the Nation brought me a lot of visibility and credibility with funders, so I am writing my own mass market book, Viet Nam is Not a War, to gain some more. I will use the narrative of my Ford Foundation trip to Ha Noi as a frame for presenting a lot of basic information about Viet Nam.
In all my time travelling and on the phone for Yale, I did get a number of exciting book projects underway for Viet Nam Generation, Inc. in 1994 and 1995. For instance, we have Joyce Brabner's comic book from Cambodian-American teenagers, to be co-published with Readers & Writers, Inc., and the first collection of Laotian fiction to appear in English in the U.S. But all you get this year is this telephone book (in addition to Dan Barker's novel, Warrior of the Heart and Maggie Jaffe's book of poetry, Continuous Performance, which were published and mailed very early in 1993).
We didn't set out to have one big issue this year. But Kali and I are very pleased with the result. If you need to demonstrate to anyone that there is an intelligent, informed, and self-aware field of inquiry surrounding the American war in Viet Nam, hand them this book. As a matter of fact, we would like you to do just that with your students, if you have some, by assigning the issue as a text for courses on the Viet Nam war and the Sixties. There isn't an issue or a perspective that can't be addressed with a text from this collection, and we guarantee that your students will do more than the assigned reading. Please do tell them one thing, though, from me: assertions not suitably documented are not facts. I don't want to see anyone citing Nick Boldrini to prove that REMFs lived in mortal danger.
--Dan Duffy, Viet Nam Generation