Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Call to Cowardice

My parents, now in their late 80s, are still incapable of understanding why I am ashamed of going into the Army in 1965. They don’t get it when I say that, if I had had the courage, what I would have done is stand tall and say, “Hell, yes; I’m a coward and proud to be one; I ain’t going.” Well, I was lucky. I spent 3 years in the Army during the Vietnam war, all stateside. Order were cut sending me over 3 times, but a fortuitous combination of luck and playing the system kept me out of harm's way (though no one in the military is ever completely out of harm's way).

Because I was against the war from the beginning, I used to seek out those who had just returned, take them out drinking, and listen to their stories. Believe me, a true picture of the Vietnam war has never been written or filmed. They all fall short. Some of the stories I heard were so nighmarishly sick and sickenly hilarious that they surpassed even my ability to grok them — and that takes some doing.

For anyone who wants to hear the case for heroic cowardice made convincingly, I recommend the movie “The Americanization of Emily” with James Garner and Julie Andrews (yes, Mary Poppins). It has a strong Paddy Cheyevsky (however the hell that’s spelled) script, one of his fiercest, and makes the case for saying it loud I’m scared and proud better than anyone has before or since. It’s on DVD now, after years of being unavailable. I highly recommend it.


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