I wasted two good hours watching CNBC's "Boomers" last night. Maybe I've seen too many episodes of "Lie to Me" but I just couldn't ignore the scowl on Tom Brokaw's face when both Bill Clinton and Tom Hanks were speaking. Clinton I kind of understand, but to scowl at our beloved Tom Hanks? Forrest Gump Tom Hanks? Saving Private Ryan Tom Hanks? Brokaw grimaces and treats both men as lightweights with too much freedom and too many toys. In fact he treats most of my generation that way.
He says anti-war activist David Harris "claims to be patriot." He doesn't seem to notice that all those kids with college deferments were fighting for the poor kids who had no choice and were being slaughtered in a never ending war. No, Brokaw forgets the rows of body bags coming home. He forgets the number of homeless vets who still live that nightmare. I lost my only brother three years ago. His body came home from Vietnam but his spirit never did. He was there in 1965.
Then Brokaw consoles a Vietnam Vet who "spent his life defending this country and is patriot" This time, unlike David Harris who only "considers" himself a patriot this guy really is a patriot. OK - point taken Tom. Except this guy has been a podiatrist for the last 25 years and not on the front line of anything. And his service in Vietnam was at the embassy as we were leaving. This "patriot" never really got in the mud. Never experienced napalm in the morning.
I know plenty of people with battle scars from nightsticks and tear gas who did it out of a love for this country and dedication to its founding principles. Kent State proved to all of us that we didn’t have free speech. Our country, our National Guard would open fire on any student and not just those who protested. If we didn't agree to die in Vietnam - they'd kill us here instead. We got the message Mr. Brokaw. Our country killed our heroes and was taking aim at us. It would have been safer to go along with the establishment. But these were people of conscience, people of great courage. They were patriots in the truest sense of the word.
Brokaw goes on to say that most people were pro-war and cites the election of Richard Nixon as proof. Richard Nixon who promised to end the war in six months, and then let it drag on for another five years. Richard Nixon who defeated a Democratic Party that was torn apart by the assassination of our primary candidate Robert Kennedy.
Mr. Brokaw the people who survived the depression and won the war and freed the Jews from Nazi concentration camps were our parents. When they came home from the war, America had the only functioning economy in the world. The television said "See the USA in your Chevrolet" and they did. The made up for what they lost by going on a buying binge. They discovered GI loans and bought houses and cars and shiny new appliances and boats and kids, lots and lots of kids. But life in those identical houses that lined suburban streets was not always as good as it looked. Some of those soldiers brought the war home with them. Some of those soldiers made war on their families. Some of those soldiers made homes that were concentration camps. And we were those children.
We wanted no war. We knew that all the fancy gadgets in the world would not buy happiness. But most of all, we hated the lie, the smile for the photographs lie.
The women, who had kept the home fires burning and kept the rivets in the planes during the war, were told to remember their place and sent to the kitchen. Soldiers who had fought bravely were denied the right to vote in the county they defended. The black soldiers were sent to ghettos that looked a lot like concentration camps.
We looked at the black soldiers and said, isn’t that just like what the Nazis did? Aren’t we better than the Nazis? We looked at women who had been capable of building airplanes and were now being told that they couldn’t turn on the television properly. We wondered why.
We watched the Nuremberg trials and swore never to be Good Germans. We never wanted to commit atrocities simply because we were following orders. We questioned authority. We rejected inequality everywhere we found it. We fought, peacefully at first, to make our country better. More just.
Yes, Mr. Brokaw, we are the children of your Greatest Generation. We are their creation. So if we failed, so did they. But you’re wrong, we didn’t fail.
Look around Mr. Brokaw. See the colors and the beautiful diversity? Inequality still exists but very few people try to justify it. Very few people say it's "God's way." We made our presence known. We made this a better country even if you are blind to it.
Mr. Brokaw, I thought I saw you grin when you announced that Bush had defeated Gore. You turned away quickly but I'm sure I saw it. Is that why you were so very slow to see that Bush was incompetent? Or were you, like him, itching for another game of war?
This "documentary" with so many glaring factual errors is Brokaw’s way of keeping the Vietnam War alive by pouring a bit of salt into an old wound. It just a old man out to settle the score. Next time Mr. Brokaw, write about something you know.
The America-Loathing of the Daily Kos
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE...
These people will not stop. In spite of their flag waving protestations - they consider democracy a kind of "quaint" idea. They believe in power. They have it and they will not let go. We've been far too lazy. If it's the last thing we ever do - we have to save democracy for our children and grandchildren. Not by protests or violence but by speaking up. In clear civil and rational tones, we have to make our case for the American dream over an over and over.