People of ze wurl, relaaaaax!
The Swift Boat Vets. This whole Vietnam thing is strange, and is a lot
of food for thought. I've paid plenty of attention to these guys, and it has caused me to do a lot of learning about the whole war from many other sources. The thing is, I'm 29. Wasn't born until the whole thing was over. My parents and their friends are the closest direct link I have to it, and I haven't really talked to any vets personally about how they feel about it. I should, but that kind of seems self serving- "Hey, mind if I reopen old wounds so I can mentally masturbate about something I have no real concept of but plenty of other information on which to make my judgements about the issue?".
So let me just ramble for a bit...The first real military activity by the US in my lifetime was the first Gulf War. Remember when the troops came home? That's when we were very very careful as a nation to not make one of the same mistake as was made with Vietnam, which was culturally tolerating persecution of soldiers for having fought there. The "support our troops" message was a natural sell, but it was repeated almost ad nauseum. Kind of strange, because I remember wondering "why wouldn't we?". That's what made for the nauseum. I knew about Vietnam, but I didn't see any connection and couldn't figure out why anyone would need to get the word out not to treat these guys like dirt when they came home. Sure, some few people would be against the war no matter what(I'm looking at you, John Kerry) but no one was going to blame the troops right? Well I don't recall that anyone tested that warning and spit on a soldier in an airport in '91.
OK, so flash forward to now, Gulf War II/Afghanistan/WoT and the "support our troops" message has aged well. It's not a loudly drummed message anymore. Yellow ribbons are common, and there are many organizations dedicated specifically to, well...supporting troops. It's softened because it became a part of the Conventional Wisdom. We will support our troops, because we value them as countrymen. They are separate from the wars they are sent to fight. At the uh...let's call it indoctrination point of this meme, the message was hammered extra hard partly because it was not assured of certainty in the CW right? It had to be hammered home not just to people who were alive for Vietnam and remembered(or had participated, as vets or as vet persecutors) but to people like me, who had no idea of what it was really like
Alright, you don't have to stay with me. I'm not smashing atoms here, just making a long-winded observation. When the Swift Boat vets showed up on the election scene back in March, they amplified a part of the Kerry bio that might not have otherwise gotten much attention. I mean, no one was going to pretend it didn't happen of course, but it was going to be sort of vaguely recalled. Small clips of his '71 Senate testimony, video with no sound shown of his protesting as visuals for some pundit's narration which broadly describes the history of the anti-war Kerry. Some casual and superficial discussion of it without really more thought by the news consumer about it beyond the sort of way that people react when they find out Ben Stein was a member of the Nixon administration. Am I wrong? Maybe.
But the Swiftees caused a lot of people of my generation who only really know that it screwed up some of our family members pretty bad, so much that it was not much discussed around the dinner table, to go find out more about what exactly happened back then. So while the MSM has not given much attention to the Swift Boat vets, a lot of people actually have. The more thorough examination of Kerry's words and deeds during that time makes for a much more interesting conversation about protesting the war, and my question is whether this caused Kerry's bio to run up against the conventional wisdom he helped form in the 90s as a US senator-'support the troops'.
I'm not saying this is a verifiable thing in polls, but I do wonder how much sense this theory makes. But the conventional wisdom is not just 'support the troops'. That's the slogan. The message, of course, is 'not supporting the troops is wrong'. Subtle difference, I know. My theory is that by extension, the subconscious bias would also then be 'I don't think much of anyone who wouldn't support the troops. That's so obvious'.
But Kerry was a leader of people who did not support the troops. I am not saying that Kerry doesn't or didn't support the troops. Don't misunderstand. But clearly, lots of people didn't, and VVAW was a big part of that happening whether they orchestrated it or intended it.
VVAW members probably did support the troops, but they were going around saying that most troops were doing pretty horrible things on a regular basis. They can parse it all they want, but part of their political assault on the war was showing the bad stories they were able to tell were widespread and condoned. So naturally some people were incited to their acts of 'not supporting the troops' by the information championed and eloquently disseminated by Kerry and the other VVAW people. The VVAW was considering the assasination of sitting senators, so they were clearly willing to sacrifice a little for their ends. A few soldiers getting spit on was a small price to pay for ending the evil imperialism of western democracy, right?
So all these rabid anti-war people are filling the streets of NYC during the Republican convention, the Kerry base I mean, and anyone who is able to find history that doesn't lionize the brave protest of military capitalist hegemony can read about the orginal anti-war crowd(which are much the same crowds). Do the people around my age who go find out more than what the commercials tell them and decide for themselves if Kerry's anti-war actions actually supported the troops(though I am still presuming that he felt in his heart he was supporting the troops), or not, no matter which they decide, still somewhere have a subconscious thought somewhere that says
'not supporting the troops is wrong'
Anyone who was alive then is probably better able to judge whether it's fair to associate that amount of blame for troops who didn't get supported after Vietnam. I know this, and I also know that there was a lot- a LOT of other stuff that caused the obviously wrong acts against soldiers by war protesters. And in some ways, those were
different times. If for no other reason than that Kerry was a young man then and isn't anymore. Fine. I can understand if you want to say that my theory relies on some sort of chronocentrism(heh I made a word!) but I'm talking about subconscious stuff here, psychocus-pocus type stuff, where the big message of :
'not supporting the troops is wrong'
plus the reaction of:
'I don't think much of anyone who *wouldn't* support the troops'
is squared by any particular brain with the message they watch Kerry touting from back then:
'the troops are doing no good over there, and committing all sorts of heinous crimes as well'
When thinking about the question:
'Should I vote for Kerry?'
Alright, I think that stated it confusingly enough. Ought to be enough words up there to scare away all but the most dedicated stalker from reading this, so I'll stop. I had to put it out there though because I keep thinking about it and now I can stop.
posted by M@ at 9:45 AM