“Jane Fonda in the Court of Public Opinion”

 

This moving two hour play was a re-creation of a 1988 confrontation between Jane Fonda and a group of Vietnam Vets in an Episcopal church in Connecticut who opposed her plan to shoot a movie with Robert Dinero in their city. The play used video of various historical events from newscasts (Ho Chi Minh's victory in Dien Bien Phu in 1954 over the French occupiers of South Vietnam, the Diem regime, My Lai, Kent State, Gulf of Tonkin, Hue rebellion, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon on why we were in Vietnam and how we were going to bomb them into submission, Jane in Hanoi, and film of many of these events).

 

The vets lambasted her for their understanding of what she had done. She informed them she was there to verify whether the US planes had bombed the dikes that historians and experts said would kill over 200,000 Vietnamese civilians and destroy their rice, a staple for their culture used three times a day, and refuted the lies about her: 1)Exposing the prisoners to torture that had ended before she arrived in 1972 by all accounts) 2) Taking notes from prisoners and returning them to the prison guards to harm the prisoners: “Once a lie starts and you keep saying it, people will believe it.” 3)She never aimed an anti-aircraft gun at the sky to show her support for the enemy although sang a song in Vietnamese that shows they adopted a part of our Declaration of Independence and wanted many of the things we did when we rid the British of their domination over our early country trying to develop our independence.

  “Jane Fonda in the Court of Public Opinion”

The Vietnamese used a photo-op to fool her into sitting on a chair of an AA gun she realized later looked bad and offended many while our military was in an undeclared war against the Viet-Cong and Ho Chi Minh's North Vietnamese Army.  She asked them to forgive her for her lack of sensitivity on how it would look to men fighting in such a conflict, but then explained her concern for the lives of everyone in the conflict, not just Americans. She insisted the gun was not loaded, never had her hand on any trigger, and never aimed it anywhere as it was stationary and unarmed. Nevertheless, she regretted having allowed herself to be used by the North Vietnamese and asked to be forgiven for her naivety.

One of the vets admitted to having killed innocent civilians and had believed the lies about Jane, but now, after hearing her explanation, realized her intent was to stop the killing. He forgave her saying, “Let's move on.”

Two would never forgive her and claimed she was a traitor: “We are always supposed to follow our president's orders without question—that’s what patriots do.”

 

The minister ended the play by pointing to the cross on the wall of the church and saying, “Jesus said something applicable, ‘Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.’”

The actors came out to a standing ovation. I was moved to tears over an old memory revived by the graphic scenes and heart-wrenching dialogue and production. Peace. Let it be. Dan

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