Thursday, June 4, 2015

Grass roots challenge to the official commemoration

To the Editor:

The Village of Hastings is aligning its planned Memorial Day activities with the Pentagon’s program for a “50th Anniversary Commemoration of the Vietnam War.”  We would like to share with your readers why we think this is inappropriate.

Memorial Day was once “Decoration Day,” a time when people visited the graves of soldiers killed in wartime.  Originating after our Civil War, it was a time to memorialize the dead, not to debate the merits of the war.  This non-political tradition has largely continued.

Attempting to combine this memorializing activity with a Pentagon-style reconsideration of the Vietnam War is simply impossible. We now know how the United States instigated the war by preventing the reunification of Vietnam under the 1954 Geneva Accords; how the 1964 Tonkin Gulf resolution, which provided congressional authorization for the war, was based on lies; and how 3.3 million Vietnamese people were killed in the ensuing holocaust.  If we are truly to “commemorate” – “to remember together” – the Vietnam War, we must acknowledge that long before its end opinion polls showed that a majority of Americans thought the war was a “mistake”; and by 1971 59 percent thought it was “immoral.”  Many Rivertowns residents were active opponents of the war, and in any commemoration they and their reasons for rejecting the war should be included.

Moreover, commemorating the 50th Anniversary dangerously distorts the history of the war, as 1965 marked its midpoint, not its beginning. In that year the goal of the massive invasion of South Vietnam by the United States was to maintain a bogus and bitterly opposed regime that we ourselves had created.  The service of many thousands of Vietnam veterans prior to 1965, including some signers of this letter, should not be suppressed in order to tell a more convenient story.

Perhaps the only way to merge Memorial Day with a Vietnam commemoration would be to apologize to those who died, and to their families and loved ones.  We could express our sorrow that more than 58,000 Americans died in an unjust war.  We could say that we are sorry that we did not prevent our political leaders from convincing so many that the Vietnamese and their desire for reunification constituted a threat to our country.  And we could express our sorrow that wars are still being fought on the same dubious grounds that led to so many deaths in Vietnam.

Marcia Brewster
Frank Brodhead
Sidney Callahan
Jay Gilbert
Naseem Jamali
Nick Mottern
Jenny Murphy
Michele Rafferty
Susan Rutman
Andy Ryan
Richie Schlosberg
Linda Snider
Betsy Todd
Vicky Youngman
Elisa Zazzera

[All from Hastings]

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