|Donald Trump, candidate (image from "The Black Sphere")|
Donald Trump has waded into Viet Nam memories with his comments on John McCain. Instantly I knew this would lead to an extended session of media masturbation. I'm sure "Morning Joe" on MSNBC salivated over the opportunity to begin its Monday morning show on this topic.
The media are walking a very fine line in addressing the matter. The media must be careful not to pre-suppose that Trump's comments are 1) insulting to all veterans, and 2) objectionable on the face of it. I would assert that it is not unreasonable to assert, as a passing opinion, that being captured in a war and being in a prison do not automatically make you into a hero. You can disagree if you want. But Trump's opinion is not out of bounds, not cause for knee-jerk condemnation.
The media then started reporting that "Trump refuses to apologize." The media are assuming that Trump had some sort of obligation to apologize, and a "refusal to apologize" is thus news. There can be two schools of thought on the matter. You can be a holier-than-thou type and rail at Mr. Trump, or you can realize the issues are at least more nuanced.
By spending so much time in a North Viet Nam prison, McCain at least was spared any risk of being "fragged" or killed. Fragging became commonplace in the Viet Nam war. It has been cited as the reason we absolutely had to get out of Viet Nam at a certain point. We are hearing more about fragging in Viet Nam, than was the case in the years immediately following the war. It is such an unsavory topic. "Fragging" was U.S. servicemen literally killing their superiors.
Should we be surprised this happened? Did anything good come of the Viet Nam war? Were U.S. interests served in any way at all? The U.S. dispensed propaganda about how sub-human the enemy was. This is typical propaganda accompanying any war. Dehumanizing the enemy makes it easier to kill them. "The enemy" won the Viet Nam war and these are the people now running the country and with whom we have relations. Do they seem so sub-human now?
BTW I personally remember one other public figure who has criticized McCain, Trump-style, and it was Wesley Clark. This happened during McCain's run for president. I'm not even going to bother Googling this because I do in fact remember it: Clark saying that being captured doesn't make you a hero.
Maybe I should sympathize with McCain because by being captured, he ensured his own survival through the end of the war, which was a far better position to be in, than by staying in the field. He'd have to be sure he'd at least survive in prison. I wouldn't blame anyone in Viet Nam for finding any sort of way to simply survive.
More on fragging:
But dissent of course is not a good or ideal thing. In an ideal world, we'd like to think our leaders, even teachers in school, have wisdom and will lead us in the proper fashion. In the '60s, for some reason, this ideal did not hold. I entered adulthood thinking it was just fine to question authority. To "refuse to conform." In an abstract sort of way, I suppose this attitude is OK. But it can also get you in a lot of trouble. Today we teach our kids to respect authority. That's the way it should be. The boomer generation will never forget the more questioning ways that were instilled in us.
War "heroes?" Maybe we should back off from the term "heroes" completely. "Heroes" suggests a comic book type of template. It's not the real world. Try to be a "hero" in war and you'll end up dead. The smartest soldiers learn to take as few risks as possible. Don't try to be a hero.
Donald Trump's opinions re. John McCain were no big deal. It took him a mere few moments to express them. What followed was a lot of ridiculous hair-pulling by the sanctimonious type, many of whom were following a Pavlov's bell. "Our soldiers are heroes!" A better attitude would be: war is bad and it should always be avoided.
Some final background on fragging in Viet Nam:
Having read this you're probably in no frame of mind to watch the movie "The Green Beret" starring John Wayne, or any John Wayne war movie.