5/30/12 Vietnam and the L.A. Uprising
I shoveled shit for this country and burned it in a metal drum because I was a no class private in Vietnam making $90 a month, and I’d rather shovel shit than kill Vietnamese for stupid Crackers who hated my guts, legally, and would as soon see me dead as one of what they so comfortably called “gooks”. So, I shoveled shit and barely avoided walking 5 clicks a day with a 40 pound sack of mostly death on my back in 110 degree heat for a white man who had called me to a war that interested me not although he justified it with “good” and “bad”, “right” and “wrong” but neglected to tell me which of these I was for doing the White god’s work of killing the unpeople.
I begged, shamelessly groveled, to be allowed to work 16 and 18 hour days at a manual typewriter as a much maligned Company Clerk (71H10), but whose secondary MOS (job classification) was the deadly, cursed 11D10, groundpounder, dirt troop, cannon fodder, reconnaissance scout, weapon responsibility in a firefight,.50 caliber machine gun or .30 caliber machine gun on foot.
And, I was often called upon to pull guard duty at night (2 hours on 4 hours off) manning the .50 then, going into work the next day. I jumped off enough helicopters and went on enough air assaults, drove jeep in enough recons of jungle paths, and participated in enough village assaults to be offered a CIB (Combat Infantryman’s Badge). That’s the macho badge that everybody wants and a lot of officer’s lie to get.
But, I turned it down because I saw it as a badge of shame, the killer's talisman. I put myself in deadly situations for this country – sometimes unwillingly, but sometimes because of esprit de corps. Yet, I proudly proclaim, now, 45 years clearer in moral sight, that I did not seek to kill and would only have done so in self defense.
Today, I met an obese, 300 lb State Park Sheriff in Malibu State Park who was, also, an Army vet (although not a war vet). He explained how the ecosystem was so balanced that he didn’t fault the rattlesnakes; he faulted the humans who disrupted the ecosystem. He said there had been only one rattlesnake bite in over 10 years and that was when a bicyclist ran over one and it caught in the spokes and somehow flipped onto his hand.
He really made me feel a lot less threatened by the ubiquitous bush around us. He went on to say that even the natural wild fires were the ecosystems way of eliminating certain types of unnecessary foliage and when men put out the natural fires it causes an overgrowth, so when the natural (Lightning) fires came it would be calamitous (not his word).
We were really vibing on the Army thing (except he did gratuitously use the word “gook”, but I let it go), and I was admiring his knowledge and love for his occupation when he mentioned that he had been an officer in the National Guard based in Inglewood that was deployed in the 1992 "Riots" (his word). He said he was a Republican and he disagreed with my analysis of the causes and nature of the "historic event" (my words).
It struck me that his tone had been patronizing and braggadocious; he felt some kind of innate superiority. I told him that I had completed Officer's Candidate School and refused the commission because of an incident of racism with an elitist Harvard graduate Tack officer, but my GT (IQ) score was 140 and I never ran into an officer whom I could not out think. I knew more about the administration of the office, the company, and the battalion than them because I had trained myself to like staying up in the office going through files, reading manuals, records, and everything else because I loved to read, and I had been taught "real confidence comes thru knowledge, only".
I told him that I could do 100 push ups in those days (I might have added and not be winded), but I could see that his ample girth was lumbering away from me and this daunting thought - is aplomb, wavering, his hauteur, shattered.
Afterwards, I reflected on his lack of insight. The "Uprising" in South Central was much like the Malibu State Park if you were close enough to it and understood. When the liquor stores are allowed to overwhelm the neighborhoods, they are eventually going to ignite, naturally. When the liquor stores combine with the worthless schools and broken families, a spark will, eventually, cause the holocaust; it is a natural reaction of people to oppression.
But, he would have to develop an appreciation for South L.A.’s (their term) black and brown trees and their ecosystem.
Barack O’bama, George Bush II, Bill Clinton, Russ Limbaugh, all the stars in Hollywood and on Broadway, over half the police and fire departments in every city, 90% of all the politicians, talk show hosts , et al in America are not as patriotic as me. They have had the opportunity to go and defend their country in war, and they did not. I went, reluctantly, but I went and served honorably.
If Bill Clinton or George Bush or any of the aforementioned politicians had experienced what I did in Vietnam, they would be laden with medals and considered war heroes. Their memoirs and resumes would be fat with embellished stories of battle scenes that most of us (Vietnam veterans) tend to minimize and forget. I have always considered my war experience ignominious, at best, in the past, but, no longer. From now on I will demand my due respect!