Whose history are we really talking about?

 

 

That question requires us to focus on where we came from, our history, and everyone else's. We have all learned some form of history from different teachers in school, from books, and from the media. The history many of us grew up with involved powerful kings, queens, wars, governments, and the development of parliamentary democracy with some historical and romantic novels. But for the British, for example, when England leaves the Catholic Church in 1534 major changes occurred after Henry the VIII that changed how we approach the subject.

 
 

By the time some of us entered a university our perspective began really changing. Marxism had arrived bringing a heightened attention to the arc of class and economics. The Russians with the horrendous record of brutal killing under Stalin suddenly became our ally against the vicious Nazi regime Hitler led in a world that featured three fascist countries against what we called loosely “the free world”. Many treatises on history have helped to revolutionize our view of the past, but surely began filling up with depth from new historical knowledge that modified what simplistic patriotism taught our children about such issues as slavery, racism, and war and how we were exceptional.

 
 

After WWII things drastically changed and our military industrial complex with the aid of the CIA launched a series of military actions that were far from helping build up weaker countries. Supporting unpopular dictators because third world countries might lean towards communism, like in Vietnam brought us into a war of choice built on a lie that two of our Navy Destroyers were attacked on the high seas by North Vietnamese torpedo boats when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unraveled the truth. We had provoked the attack the night before by sending Norwegian fast boats with Vietnamese crews attacking North Vietnamese torpedo boats while U.S. Navy ships bombarded them from the ocean!

 
 

(Fulbright Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearings on Vietnam )

 

Soon we were involved in a widespread peace movement, nearly one half million deserters, draft dodgers, and our President Nixon carried on a secret B-52 bombing campaign into neutral Cambodia followed by an invasion he called a “protective reaction!” A few days later the nation responded with a series of loud protests around the country from thousands of colleges and with anti-war veterans’ groups expressing their outrage at Nixon’s expanding an unpopular war. When five students were killed and nine injured by national guards at Kent State, the numbers of protestors dramatically increased as did the rhetoric of the Nixon Administration attacking the protestors as slime. Christian Appy’s American Reckoning is one of only a few histories of the Vietnam War that describes how it ended America’s exceptionalism-the broad faith that the U.S. is a unique force for good in the world-for most people and had a profound effect on our national identity.

 
 

Another force connected with women involved half the population followed by equally powerful questions about race and racism. The idea of history as a procession of dead white males written by live ones may sound ridiculous now, but the war to open up a wider perspective was a real one. So writers of history began demonstrating different point of emphasis and views. Soon the teaching of science and engineering became increasingly important.

 
 

All exposes the current assault on the humanities within higher education as even more uncultured. The thinking goes like this: the study of history, English, philosophy or art doesn't help anyone get a job and does not contribute to the economy to the same degree that science or engineering or business studies do. I believe most of us say that is nonsense and obfuscation.

 

(My Lai Massacre killed 500 Vietnamese lives of unarmed men, women, children and babies)

 

The humanities, including history, teach people how to think analytically while at the same time appreciating innovation and creativity. Isn't that a good set of skills for most jobs? Yet we have a Black population clearly left behind even after a vigorous civil rights movement under Martin Luther King Jr, and those who followed his lead with a variety of militant and peaceful organizations that led to civil rights amendments to the Constitution and civil rights laws involving anti-discrimination in schools, employment and police interactions.

 
 

One could wish that the historians were all more accurate. Why would some dare doubt climate change when the science has established it’s truth as one of our most serious problems? Toni Morrison brought to life the inner life of slavery, and pushed the modern reader to confront this reality. Another confronted the same difficult history from a white woman's perspective. One memoir produces anti-war feelings from the righteous revulsion against gross misuse of power. Another accuses those who cringe at the horrors of Hiroshima as "hand wringers". Any society that fails to pay proper attention to whose history we are exploring, and from what perspective, maybe starving his/her own imagination and missing an opportunity to participate spreading useful historical knowledge so mistakes of the past may be understood and avoided in the future. 

 
 

(Hiroshima the day after we dropped an atomic weapon on that city followed by another later on Nagasaki despite many generals who conceded they were completely unnecessary since we had decimated their cities with Napalm, owned the skies for bombing anywhere, and Hirohito was ready and willing to surrender.)

Advice on Creative Writing from Daniel C. Lavery

My professors in creative writing classes and forums stressed writing every day for at least an hour at a place where you are comfortable and will have hopefully no interruptions. Some like to write at night, others early. Everyone is different so you should find your time. For me it is 10 am to noon. Some people like to go to a Starbucks to see the faces of people, the bustle of the crowd, and the coffee for inspiration. I prefer my desk overlooking my front yard. Another suggestion is to always use your favorite writing pen (preferably not a ball point-and not typing). The connection of your hand to the pen and what you write is a stimulating one for most writers.

List the most compelling words you can think of in a notebook. I always keep a writing notebook for inspiration. When you have that dream that you won't remember in the morning, get up and write it as you recall it right after you have experienced it. Waiting later will lose it usually.

 

Don't be afraid to copy a writer's style. This is especially true of a poet. Find a poem you like, and take out your thesaurus, change the words, move around inserting your similar experiences and use the format. Amazingly simple way to create a new poem by just following someone's road map. Always read a great author for at least 30 minutes before writing. This is warming up your creative thinking. Your brain needs this. You will see a difference in your attitude, and willingness to explore language and its beauty.

Revise: All creative writing requires once you have written your piece, to go back and revise with an eye to use of heightened language (metaphor/simile, evocative vocabulary, sense driven language, action verbs and brilliant nouns) and remove any boring adverbs and adjectives. Check spelling by starting at the end of the piece and work backwards so you aren't lulled into accepting a misspelling you may make frequently. Read it aloud and see if there are awkward words when spoken that should be changed. If it doesn't sound right, it won't read effectively. Make sure each of the five senses appear somewhere. See if you can't make your descriptions luminescent.

One of the secrets of nonfiction storytelling is the use of description. Much as a novelist would, these nonfiction storytellers set a scene and describe their story's action. Above all, they have an eye for detail and employ these carefully observed facts to bring scenes alive for readers.

Look for opportunities to put the reader into the action. Where are we? What's it look (smell, sound) like? Who are the characters? What do they look like? How do they act? Strive to be specific, not general: Name names, measure things, count so you can report exact numbers. Learn to identify trees and birds, car makes, and architectural styles.

So instead of writing, "A lot of birds perched on the ornate rooftop," do the homework and note taking necessary to report, "Thirteen purple martins perched on the Italianate rooftop." Rather than describing "a big pile of old cars," aim for "a 20-foot pyramid of rusting, windowless Fords, Toyotas, and Chevrolets."

This kind of descriptive writing starts at the very beginning—at the note-taking stage. You can't just plop down at the keyboard and conjure this up; you have to be there, all eyes and fully alert, and noting details. Don't forget the senses beyond sight. Are the bees buzzing, trucks rumbling, horns honking? Do cockleburs scrape your pant legs as you walk to your subject's front door? Is your interviewee's desktop smooth and new or pitted with age and use? Give detail and description a try, and you'll find that you can be every bit as "creative" a writer when you're not making things up.

Here are my social media:

djasb@aol.com (email) http://www.danielclavery.com (author website) https://www.facebook.com/danielclavery (Facebook) https://www.linkedin.com/danielclavery.com (Linkedin) https://twitter.com/Danielclavery

All the Difference, a memoir by Daniel C. Lavery, available at Amazon.com. for purchase or free look inside of the first 6 1/2 chapters at Dan's website: http://www.danielclavery.com, and on Amazon's Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BNXHV9Q, A paperback version is available at http://www.amazon.com/All-Difference-Daniel-C-Lavery/dp/1482676532/ book-cover-all-the-difference.jpg

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Review of Clara Bingham’s WITNESS TO THE REVOLUTION, Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the year America Lost its Mind and Found Its Soul by Daniel C. Lavery for VVAW

Clara Bingham’s WITNESS TO THE REVOLUTION, Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the year America Lost its Mind and Found Its Soul

WITNESS explores how the killing of four Kent State Students, maiming of nine more, by Ohio National Guardsmen, President Nixon’s invading neutral Cambodia, widespread anti-Vietnam protesting, and Seymour Hersh’s explosive reporting on the My Lai Massacre, shattered an enormous number of American’s support for prosecuting the Vietnam War. Clara Bingham’s unique enlightening interviews of 100 activists, vets, and officials, who pushed our country towards what Mario Savio called a revolution against “The Machine” referring to Henry David Thoreau’s essay “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.” “There’s a time when the operation of the Machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus-and you’ve got to make it stop!”

  (Kent State Students where 4 were killed and 9 maimed by National Guardsmen bullets)

David Harris, one of many activists explains everything “grew out of the Mississippi taproot …when white college students went south to help voter registration and witnessed the heroism of the black people of Mississippi.” Other interviews included drug use, Woodstock, The Black Panthers, SDS, feminism, and Nixon’s lies stabbed most every thoughtful person’s conscience by the time Daniel Ellsberg published the Pentagon Papers. These policies caused the largest student strike ever with 2.5 million refusing classes and 700 colleges shutdown including Kent State. While an historian might question whether this massive civil disobedience constituted a revolution, this powerful book shows a major shift in thinking occurred when so many resisted the draft. It would have been unthinkable to the serviceman or public in World War II, however, resisting the draft was the favored choice of an enormous number of their children.

  (Weathermen about to smash windows demonstrating their rage at the "Machine")

This disconnect is present today with the Trump supporters living in an alternative universe from that of Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. For example everyone in the Madison Police Department near Kent State when they heard of the shootings assumed the students were at fault from statements Spiro Agnew and the Ohio Governor made that vilified the protesters and urged the Guard to deal with them as scum. But the evidence was clear that the Guardsmen had violated their obligations to never fire on peaceful protesters as was common around the United States even if someone threw a rock or shouted obscenities. Allison Krause was killed by a bullet fired 343 feet away and while she took 45 minutes to bleed to death the medics were reserved for the Guardsmen and ignored her! Although no weatherman were present, elsewhere they had developed a strategy that included symbolic destruction of property like a Capitol bathroom with no one present. But it escalated into more serious bombings, hiding on the lam, and violence at demonstrations. Bingham says, “The sixties crested in 1968, with the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Dr. King, the Tet Offensive and Nixon’s victory.”

  (Nixon under the influence of alcohol speaking with demonstrators who descended on the Lincoln Memorial in protest against the Vietnam War and Nixon's policies)

Nothing is more chilling nor remarkable than Seymour Hersh’s ferreting out the truth on the My Lai massacre by tracking down eye witnesses to a horrendous war crime. Vietnam Vets like Nick Turse submitted proof of at least 300 similar massacres. Many occurred in “free fire zones” where they killed “anything that moved.” The Village of Ben Suc by Jonathan Schell involved another massacre that made Jane Fonda say, “I was one person before I read it, and another person after I finished…that was the beginning of my outrage.” Hersh visited Calley’s attorney in Salt Lake City who called it a mistake as he was told defending Calley accused of killing 109 “Oriental human beings.” Over a few beers Calley called My Lai a “setup, just a firefight.” Ernie Medina, a Captain, refused to agree with Calley “how I had nothing to do with it!” Barry Romo explained the body count was “close to 500” with American casualties only “One self-inflicted.” Hersh learned of a photographer, Paul Medlo who told him of three pits with “hundreds of people”, and that Calley brutally killed a small child. Medlo admits he and Calley “Shot and shot” at the unarmed people. Medlo, one of “McNamara’s Folly”, who would have never qualified in the past because of tests he could not pass, the next morning had his foot blown off by a mine! He felt God punished him and would punish Calley. His mother said, “I sent them a good boy and they returned him a murderer.” Hersh found photographer Ron Haeberle who saved photos of the massacre reported by Ron Ridenhour who broke the story a year before. His graphic photos have been circulated worldwide.

  (My Lai Massacre where more than 500 unarmed civilians were killed under orders by Lt. William Calley)

At Calley’s court martial he was sentenced to life imprisonment and hard labor at Fort Leavenworth. The next day Nixon ordered him transferred to house arrest at officer’s barracks pending appeal! His habeas corpus petition was granted by Judge J. Robert Elliot because of pre-trial publicity prejudice, refusal of the House of Representatives to release testimony taken in executive session, and inadequate notice of charges. Bingham’s focus is 1969-70 the “crescendo of the sixties, when years of civil disobedience and mass resistance erupted into anarchic violence.” Government sabotage as well as surveillance, theatrics in courtroom trials, massive police misconduct, and President Nixon’s late-night Lincoln Memorial meeting with protesters under the influence of alcohol when he tried to make them understand he wanted to end the Vietnam War. However, when he created the plumbers his days were numbered and brought his rapid much deserved downfall with Watergate.

  (Jane Fonda and John Kerry speak at an Anti-Vietnam rally for Vietnam Veterans Against War)

BIO: Dan graduated Annapolis, navigated a jet, then a ship to Vietnam. He resigned, joined VVAW, and became a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW, the ACLU and in private civil rights practice. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his change from a pawn in the military to crusader for justice. http://www.danielclavery.com (author website)

 

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Obama’s Train Is Coming

Obama’s Train Is Coming

 (My song for Obama is sung to the tune of Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues)

Obama’s Train is Coming

It’s rolling around the bend

I ain’t seen the sunshine

Since I don’t know when

I’ve been stuck with Bush and Cheney

For eight long dark years

Obama’s on his way

To bring us hope instead of fears

   

 

When I was just a baby

My Momma told me son

Always be a good boy

Don’t ever play with guns

But I joined the US Navy

They sent me off to Vietnam

My Lai, Kent State, and Nixon

Made me doubt my Uncle Sam

 

Along came Sarah Palin

And scrappy John McCain

One is old and grumpy

The other has half a brain

Obama offers each of us

A much better plan

Universal health care

For every child, woman, and man

 

Let’s end Guantanamo

And the war in Iraq

No more torture or rendition

Give us America back

Say good bye to neo-cons

Their time has finally gone

Welcome in some caring people

Who sing a different song

   

The world’s most thoughtful leaders

From near and very far

Welcome Barack Obama’s

Rapid rising star

He asks for us to live

The best that we can be

He’ll change the USA

From sea to shining sea

   

Alternative energy and

A more efficient fuel

Higher teacher pay

And energize each school

If you want college education

You can have that too

If you serve our nation

And the red, white and blue

 

On January 20th

Of the year 2009

Obama’s reign will begin

A glorious new time

Nations around the world

Will respect America again

And children of every race

Will now say yes we can

                     

This is a song I wrote while working on Obama's campaign in Cleveland in 2008. I hoped his speeches on these subjects would become history but the republicans were completely against anything he proposed, called him a Muslim born in Kenya, and prevented his plans to make America better from the beginning. They obstructed almost all his plans. Still he pulled us out of a recession, passed Bank reform and a health plan that covered more than 20 million uninsured persons. I do criticize his failure to close Guantanamo, over-use of inaccurate drones, and failure to take on Wall Street more strenuously for their fraudulent transactions and gambling with taxpayers money. History will reward him with a much more favorable rating than we have heard from the news media and his many misinformed detractors. I thought looking at Obama's history now that Trump is running for president on an entirely different and destructive path would enlighten voters as to how completely unqualified Trump is for the highest office in America and should be roundly defeated!

  Daniel C. Lavery djasb@aol.com  

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Review of Richard Pena and John Hagan’s Last Plane Out of Saigon, by Daniel C. Lavery, for VVAW’s “The Veteran”

Traveling Wall

Beginning at the Traveling Wall in Austin, Texas, a smaller replica of the National Vietnam Memorial, Richard Pena expresses a somber emotion for those who died in Vietnam seeing a woman's tears. He knew her pain would never cease. Pena was on the last plane out of Vietnam after spending a tour as a medic in Saigon. His photo was taken by a Viet Cong soldier when that final plane left. He recognized himself carrying his law school brief case upon returning with a delegation at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City in 2003. Pena's journal entries while serving from 1972 to 1973 as an Operating Room Specialist are aided by John Hagan, author of nine books and many articles as professor of Sociology and Law, Northwestern University, who comments on the context of Pena's story in history with references.

Last Plane Out of Saigon Pena      

Author Richard Pena pointing to himself entering the last plane out of Saigon

Pena's parents were proud of their Hispanic heritage and taught him by example. His father won a Silver Star for his service at Iwo Jima. Pena won best all-around high school athlete in San Antonio, Texas. He attended University of Texas at Austin when students burned their draft cards and protested the Vietnam conflict. The My Lai massacre struck raw nerves his senior year. Soon at Kent State National Guardsmen killed four students and wounded more wrenching America. His low lottery number made it certain he would be drafted. He tried to fail his physical but they were taking anyone who breathed then and entered the Army, June 14, 1971 as one of the last drafted.

3rd Field Hospital SaigonPena arrived at the 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon during the North Vietnamese siege of An Loc when they shot down four aircraft and killed nearly all the residents a few months before Nixon's presidential election during an opportunity for peace talks to resolve the conflict. His objections to pressing for peace were politically motivated as Humphrey would have gained substantial support as a peace candidate despite his role with LBJ. Nixon's voice on tape in the oval office showed he proposed nuclear weapons to succeed but Kissinger replied he thought it would be too much. Nixon said, "I don't give a damn" about civilians killed by U.S. bombing USA Today reported February 28, 2002. While peace was possible Nixon refused to press for it and made the South Vietnamese think if he were president they would get a better deal prolonging the war needlessly and causing more than 20,000 more American deaths.

Nixon against ProtestorsPena called Vietnamization a catastrophe demonstrated graphically as he arrived. Young ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) troops threw down their weapons and fled with villagers as the North Vietnamese launched an unprecedented invasion. They expected 200 or so casualties but 2000 marched toward a 100 bed hospital 60 miles away. However many were mortared by Communists on Highway 13 and others accidentally killed by our B-52s. The Air Force accidentally missed the Communists and hit a South Vietnamese village! Pena joined a group of fifteen who worked the Operating Room confronted by death who built a strong companionship.

Soon a C-130 aircraft crashed from mechanical failure causing them to expect many casualties. Burn patients were the worst, difficult to look at, tough to treat, and many died. The first soldier's face appeared plastered red, hair and eyebrows burned away, red burns ran the length of his young body. He had a wife and young child.They smeared Sulfamylon cream over him feeling helpless. His coworker said he would soon die. A sergeant arrived with a broken ankle and numerous lacerations. These professionals knew the risks but it is for the young whom Pena felt the most sorry. The lifers have some control but not the draftees. The sergeant wanted to know how many survived but Pena couldn't tell him only three made it. Pena wondered how many were on the plane and learned there were forty five. The government released only the number fourteen. Such lies insulted Pena and the others. It added brainwashing to misinformation. C 130 Crashed in Vietnam

An allied Cambodian arrived by air in desperate condition and needed a transfusion from someone with B positive blood. Pena readily provided it as the only one with that type. The doctors said he couldn't survive the operation, yet he wouldn't live without one! They amputated his left leg and blood splattered all over the floor. A nineteen year-old soldier was shot in the head and died from his wound. An American asked him for a cigarette but he didn't have one, so he shot him in the back of the head at point blank range with a .38 pistol. A clean-cut man named Holley had a wife he never cheated on but once. He was found the next morning in a lover's embrace as the girl had put ground-up glass in his food, the sixth American that girl killed. Soon we understand how Pena felt an impermanence sweep over him and all his previous concerns seemed small and unimportant. Richard Pena President of the Texas State Bar Much later Pena became President of the American Bar Foundation and State Bar of Texas. His practice started as a solo attorney for the common person, without an office using an old beat up car. He felt his experience in Vietnam gave him the courage, willpower and confidence to stand up against injustice and fight for his clients. "It was the road less traveled, but it was my road." Published 2014 by Story Merchant Books, 9601 Wilshire Blvd. # 1202, Beverly Hills, Ca 90210

Bio: VVAW member Daniel C. Lavery graduated Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, and a ship, turned peace activist and became a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his experiences:

http://www.amazon.com/All-Difference-Daniel-C-Lavery/dp/1482676532/ website: www.danielclavery.com.

  Last Plane Out of Saigon by Richard Pena

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