I also have found Howard Zinn to offer much clarification on historical issues I previously had not fully understood, and was reminded that the term "Left" or "Right" are really labels, often not helpful when it causes one to write off a thoughtful opinion that might help us better understand some facet of history. Having graduated from the United States Naval Academy, and having been presented with their slant on world history, it came as no great shock that we were given Defense Department propaganda, but I tried to defend it without having been offered the more complete "truth" (if that word can ever apply to a subject like history).
Through much reading of many views on the Vietnam debacle I continue to find sharp contrasts from different voices concerning what they contend is the "truth." Having recently finished A Distant War by William Prochnau, I learned how many "lies" about Vietnam had been intentionally created to cover the policy Kennedy began, LBJ doubled down on, and Nixon claimed to be the peace candidate for. When he sabotaged the peace talks Nixon merited LBJ's claim that his conduct amounted to treason.
Prochnau cited song and verse from correspondents in the early Vietnam conflict's days in 1962-3. Halberstam, Sheehan, Arnet, and many more dove in full speed behind the effort until one after the other saw the policy supported a ruthless regime that had little help from the Vietnamese people. That the South Vietnamese army refused to attack at night though left battle plans on the operations board as if they were engaging the VC those hours, was mind-boggling. It was confirmed by Daniel Ellsberg in his memoir, Secrets, regarding the Pentagon Papers. They frequently lied about the results of battles that correspondents were present at and knew conflicted with the truth. The classic example was At Bac where the ARVN were soundly defeated but the military claimed a resounding victory. Halberstam and the others wrote what they saw and their trustworthy sources in the field experienced. This process of hearing from the government and our military that differed diametrically from what had actually happened created a gradual but strongly critical report of lack of progress from the professional correspondents that became loud and frightening to the supporters who wanted them to “get on board” and stop writing critical reports.
These impudent reporters were repudiated by Ambassador Nolting, and those in charge. The Diems, especially Madame Nhu, called them communist sympathizers, and Kennedy hated what he was hearing. He often wanted to know who wasn’t supporting the policy his administration had backed initially with the optimism of that golden era that embodied an atmosphere of Camelot. After so much negativism the Stars and Stripes would counter the New York Times and similar news reports from western journalists who wrote what they saw, so the troops were provided what the Defense Department and the Government wanted said to promote the effort.
An example of conflict that occurred with two different views inside the military was surprising and stunning. The Green Berets' had a policy of fighting counter insurgency by trying to “win the hearts and minds” of the villagers to counter the VC attempts to gain their support. Learning the language and customs was essential to this view. The soldiers made enormous efforts not to offend the villagers who were essential to success of the theory espoused by the Kennedy Administration and lauded by many new accounts grabbing the attention of the public. But the Air Force’s General Curtis Lemay ignored the Army strategy and sent bombers deliberately targeting civilians according to reliable sources who quoted him as saying the Air Force policy was to create fear in the villages, intentionally leveling hamlets as his technique of air power strategy saying to the press he would "bomb them back to the stone age." Long after his famous napalm bombing of Tokyo, Yokohama, and hundreds of other Japanese cities in WWII, he was quoted admitting that had we lost that war he would have been executed for war crimes because his fire-bombing policy targeted civilians with napalm sent in circles around wooden homes that forced the population to run to the center where they were all burned to a crisp!
Lemay also was quoted as admitting the atomic bombs at Nagasaki and Hiroshima were unnecessary because Japan had been decimated, were unable to recover, and their leaders knew they would have to surrender before that policy was initiated. Furthermore, no reasonable person with accurate knowledge of the status of Japan then would have expected us to engage in a land war against such a defeated and weak enemy. But other voices prevailed. They needed to test the atomic bomb and give the world assurance that no one would dare challenge the allies with that weapon. Barely tested and in need of more proof of the effectiveness of the weapons, our Air Force dropped those two unnecessary atomic bombs.
Many have heard quite a different view. We had to do this or suffer enormous deaths in defeating the dug in Japanese Army. So it goes with history. Some voices are diametrically opposed and we must choose who is telling the truth if we can ever find such an ideal. So to say the left and right are mirrors of each other in their madness, or whatever you want to say to dismiss them, is far too simplistic in my view, unless we know who we are rejecting. Yes, I dismiss Ted Cruz as delusional, but not Bernie Sanders as of the same stripe. Nor do I of Howard Zinn. But if you said Tom Hayden, yes, his view seemed simplistic, but an outgrowth of the SDS trying to gain support for the Anti War view. I found him nonobjective, opinionated,yet a good speaker determined to use power he thought he had but really didn't.
There are also anarchists who are often confused with leftists, and libertarians who may appear right wing delusional zealots. Let’s not forget those with religious, ethical, ecological, or other objections to some historical fiasco that does not fit neatly into this dichotomy. An example would be a person ( Unitarian, Presbyterian, Jewish, Catholic, Buddhist, agnostic, atheist, or a pacifist artist, musician, or other profession) who does not believe in the use of armed force, nuclear weapons, drones or torture yet is conservative on government regulations. There are many variations on this theme of how people differ on issues that affect history in some way that make it extremely difficult to label them extremist right or left wingers. And even if they seem to act as a block, defy that by often saying they are independent. Labels are a simplistic way of arguing what is right or wrong with left wing or right wing historians or prognosticators. To improve one’s dialogue, I submit these labels should be removed from the discussion. If they are useful to reject or support an argument, use them with caution, but clearly identify what is erroneous, or truthful in support of, or opposition to, some issue. That would be an important effort to improve meaningful dialogue. Dan
Tranquil Ricon Beach makes one put all rhetoric in perspective.
We should take care, in inculcating patriotism into our boys and girls, that is a patriotism above the narrow sentiment which usually stops at one's country, and thus inspires jealousy and enmity in dealing with others... Our patriotism should be of the wider, nobler kind which recognizes justice and reasonableness in the claims of others and which lead our country into comradeship with...the other nations of the world. The first step to this end is to develop peace and goodwill within our borders, by training our youth of both sexes to its practice as their habit of life, so that the jealousies of town against town, class against class and sect against sect no longer exist; and then to extend this good feeling beyond our frontiers towards our neighbors.
Media electronics are not welcomed at some idyllic locations where artists gather to perform while working on a large farm in a pristine forest in northern California. They live in Nature at a cell phone free and non-computer-TV-radio alcohol or drug zone in a world filled with bad news, commercialism, false promises, and violence. Does this sound melodramatic? Escaping the hum drum of American cities still holds an attraction for many who long for the quiet of small town relationships, farm lands, vegetable gardens, fresh organic produce, and mutual respect and kindness.
It is in keeping with an early twentieth century German scientist’s philosophy and performing eurhythmy, a kind of dance movement that is an expression of spiritual and artistic values to the best classical music, Shakespeare-or other literary giant, poetry, humor, on stages in robes of silk wearing tight fitting slippers that permit swift and graceful movement on hardwood floors.
We joined in bio dynamic fertilizing their vegetable and flower gardens, removing dirt and excess leaves from a barrel full of onions, to make them ready for sale to their community at low prices, and picked fresh bio-dynamically grown carrots, parsnips, onions, cabbage, beets for meals that were tasty, nutritious, and cheap.
The last evening we heard an amazing piano concert from a Croatian pianist in a loose fitting black tuxedo who played Brahms’ first two Cantatas that lasted about one-half hour each with a loud applause after each performance. He demonstrated his astounding command of the piano in a relaxed way for a 6'4", 250 pound pianist, who swayed as a dancer while feeling the beauty and harmony of the notes Brahms wrote. He was the music.
After much applause he played Brahms variations on Paganini that featured a series of hand movements and sounds I have never seen before. At the same time he moved both hands about a third of the way from the left and right sides of the keyboard to near the center while moving his fingers rapidly in what is called a tremolo. That reminded me in a strange analogy of how a lawn mower cuts blades of grass but all his fingers were rotating up and down over keys that his hands sent three times from the left to right and back together harmonically in tune with the magnificent music!
Finally, after the audience greeted him with five minutes of loud hand-clapping, he returned for a finale. He sat gently down, extended his arms outward with fingers extended and then with knuckles parallel to the keys, rested his left hand fingers immediately over the keys on the extreme left. Again using a tremolo, but this time more like a buzz saw (maybe a terrible analogy for art) cutting blades of wheat, as they hovered over the keys that magically created a stunning deep bass sound telling us something the composer who hadn't been identified and the pianist wanted to fasten in our memory forever.
When he finished the audience burst into a chaotic frenzy of applause with astonishment on their faces, smiling with joy, for the longest period of the concert. He stood and bowed smiling and nodding his appreciation for the spontaneous reaction. After a few more bows he left behind a curtain.
During a ten minute period where no one knew whether he was finished or would return for another piece, it was clear he had finished the concert as the Russian pianist who brought him to the concert announced and the crowd slowly moved out of the auditorium beaming from the musical experience.
After most of the audience had departed, the pianist appeared at the end of the hall leading to the exit with the Russian piano teacher who asked him to perform for the group. A curious student asked the pianist about his finale. Standing next to her, I was with my wife and daughter. He said the work was from Liszt who wrote of his extreme sadness upon Wagner's death, and entitled his short work, "The Sad Gondola." Since his pronunciation was difficult the Russian made it clear to all. The pianist now in civilian clothes was relaxed and smiled generously to his admirers as he left gracefully.
While the piece remains in my memory, I will describe the feeling as a unique awareness of the fantastic ability of an artist to make the piano send out an extraordinary and haunting sound. The effect remains an artistic expression difficult to imagine without an effort of explanation, but easy to say was unforgettable, energetic, and blazing with intensity.
Saturday morning August 24,at the Davenport Hotel in Dublin, Joan and I made friends during Irish breakfast(stewed tomatoes, yogurt, sausages, ham slices, potatoes, eggs, bread, apples, cereal, coffee buffet style) with a number of people from our tour: C-I-E Tours International.
We walked to a nearby park across the street from Oscar Wilde’s Apartment clearly marked for tourists with a bizarrely dressed mannequin posing as Oscar strewn out on a blanket with muffler around his Irish hatted head, a fake glass of wine, and bottle next to him. Patriotic fully decked out military officers and soldiers performed a drill in honor of fallen soldiers of the IRA at a memorial inside the park that drew a large crowd and was led by a most serious faced muscular immaculate leader whose features looked carved in stone. His spit-shined shoes glittered in the sun, medals flashed, staccato orders shot out barked loudly as if everyone was under the threat of a military siege that these men would never allow, or die willingly to prevent. They honored the fallen Irish in all their wars at a pyramidal structure-the epitome of a shrine to the fallen patriots of the past.
Near an ecological exhibit in the park we noticed a statue of a female with harp, many large black and white magpies scooting from place to place and gliding around until settled on the green freshly mowed grass or in a tree rustling leaves until perched. More statues appeared in the relaxed atmosphere of the park away from the military ritualistic shouting and marching that returned every hour, stopping traffic on the boulevard next to the entrance and calling attention to the ceremony with drill sargents passing out literature while the commander stood every ready to explode into action, like Liam Neeson or Colin Farrell.
The Museum of Natural History beckoned us through brick walls and more pristine landscaping, green lawns and huge trees.Stuffed Irish animals filled the glass exhibit scenes with magpies, deer, and giant deer antlers that were larger than any I had ever seen anywhere. Many fish were displayed along with a variety of animals found in Ireland.
The Art Museum featured many classic paintings including Sir John Lavery’s we bought on 3x5 post cards:one of him in the background painting his wife and children, goat herding in a birch forest, and his Lady seated with dark hair. Back at the hotel we slept for a few hours after leaving a message for Vince Lavery, a friend we met long ago in Fresno who ran for a political office and gave us his green Lavery political bumper sticker we proudly displayed while working in Bakersfield in1973.
He returned our call, and joined us for dinner at the hotel and a play we invited him to join us for George Bernard Shaw’s “Major Barbara”at the famous Abbey Theatre. Walking there Vincent gave us his unique opinion of Dublin and street walking tour that filled us with historical references, and interesting vistas we would otherwise have missed too many to mention here.The play had spectacular effects, moving parts from the ceiling and walls changed the scene from a castle to a drawing room and then a canon leveled a pretend shot in minutes to the gasps of the audience and our amazement. The shell burst with a crash!
The protagonist was a female Salvation Army Major, the daughter of a wealthy arms merchant. Shaw treated us to the tremendous conflict that a Christian woman devoted to peaceful resolution of disputes and opposed to arms sales and use, had with her father who argued that to preserve democracy we need the most advanced weapons to ensure its survival. She had fallen in love with a dull Greek scholar who was also an idealist.
Meanwhile the community that made the arms represented an advance for civilization rather than a decline, as they had earned a good living manufacturing arms,raised wages for all, and built churches, schools, and provided the most progress for their children and the surrounding community including music, drama, choirs,and everything cultural. The millionaire arms merchant was brilliant, handsome, and a persuasive speaker that challenged his daughter repeatedly regarding her pacifism in the face of real military opposition from dictatorships and fascists determined to destroy civilization and its artifacts. In the end, after 3 ½ hours, she succumbed to his view realizing the challenges to democracy were indeed evil and powerful and could not be moved by prayers alone.She joined his enterprise realizing there was nothing immoral about protecting our civilization from vandals.
Vincent took us by a metal statue that had a bullet through the breast of a Black woman, discussed his politics while in Fresno, anti-Vietnam War views, showed us the statue of Cuchulainn, and love of Ireland and its history.
He doesn’t eat meat but smokes cigarettes and said the Lavery clan is from northern Ireland especially Belfast. Agreed many years ago some French people with the surname LaVerée came to northern Ireland as mine did,and settled there after and during the Norman invasion.Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes is “mularkey” as being over-the-top in exaggerations according to the Irish.