I laid the groundwork and introduced this morning’s topic in Pope-pouri II. The focus was Karen Pittman’s article, Kinda Fonda Jane. Today I will focus on Pittman’s “allow me to retort” follow up, Being Fonda Jane.
Specifically, Pittman raises this salient question:
And to those who would attempt to argue the empirical evidence with me, I can say only this: What is actually open to debate here is not so much what Jane Fonda did in Hanoi in July of 1972 as whether or not we should forgive her for it.
That was the gist of my closing question in Pope-pouri II:
(5.) Do Jane Fonda and Cardinal Law’s critics have an obligation to examine their own faults in refusing to grant forgiveness under any circumstances? Since contrition and forgiveness are a two way street, do Fonda and Law’s critics have a moral obligation to be forgiving?
Pittman also addresses another question I posed in Pope-pouri II;
(4.) Is there any point in either Jane Fonda or Cardinal Law attempting to make a public act of contrition, to critics who can never be satisfied?
Ms. Fonda’s detractors charge that she should “apologize,” which, truthfully, it seems to me, she has tried to do, on more than one occasion. But even this is not enough, for these folks in the main don’t like the way she has apologized. I guarantee you not even very public groveling and prostration would do the trick for most of them. They would still say her genuflections are fake and that she is only getting down on her hands and knees now to sell a few more lousy books. (The book is actually quite good, by the way.)
Since Wednesday, a former Vietnam vet was arrested for showing up at one of Jane Fonda’s book signings and spitting tobacco juice in her face. He made it clear that he does not normally chew tobacco, but only indulged this one time for the purpose of spitting in Jane Fonda’s face. The Vietnam vet had no remorse and remarked that he considered his action a moral duty to honor fallen Vietnam vets.
Editor’s note: I would like to interject that the urban legend of war protesters spitting in the face of returning Vietnam vets has been thoroughly debunked. A professor who noted the similarities that every rumored case occurred in either an airport or a bus terminal and in every case the honorable Vietnam vet turned his back and walked away. The obvious conclusion is that it may have happened that way once, but if it had happened more than once, it could be validated by records of a long haired hippy freak who was hospitalized with a busted up face as a result of a serious ass whuppin.
That raises another question:
1.) How do you make amends to an entire nation? The obvious parallel is Robert McNamara, whose apologia, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, was less than favorably received by conservatives. The details of McNamara’s moral failure have been chronicled in Dereliction of Duty by H.R. McMaster, a former history professor at the United States Military Academy.
Pittman asks pretty much the same question:
Ms. Fonda’s detractors charge that she should “apologize,” which, truthfully, it seems to me, she has tried to do, on more than one occasion. But even this is not enough, for these folks in the main don’t like the way she has apologized. I guarantee you not even very public groveling and prostration would do the trick for most of them.
Is it just me, or does anyone else find it disconcerting and discomfiting that many of the critics appear to drop all the blame for the carnage (the killing fields of Cambodia) and the quagmire (Vietnam itself) at the feet of one (hysterical) woman? Is Jane Fonda really the Helen of the modern age?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but it was JFK, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon – not Jane Fonda – who sent these good men to those mayhem-strangled jungles in the first place, was it not? Whatever else we can say about her motivations (including her adversarial ideological leanings at the time), Jane Fonda did at least want to stop the bombing and bring the soldiers home, whether she achieved that mission or not.
Even if Hanoi Jane was directly or indirectly responsible for many deaths, how many more young men were felled before she went? Do we really think she was trying to add to the number of the dead or to quit the killing on both sides? How many deaths, do we suppose, belong to the ghosts of Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon?
For my money, Jane Fonda should be admired as a national hero for helping stop an immoral and illegal war. The Theocons have been out in force attempting to rewrite the history of Vietnam. They have invented the novel idea that we didn’t really lose Vietnam, because it was just one small battle in the mythical “War Against Communism”. This is a blatant attempt to justify Bush’s immoral and illegal Iraq war by making it part of an equally mythical “War on Terrorism.”
Theocons also created the myth that Ronald Reagan won the cold war with his Jerico like speech exhorting Gorbachev to “tear down that wall.” My analysis is that there were at least seven factors, in order of importance:
(1.) Our thirty year bi-partisan policy of containment
(2.) Internal Soviet corruption, decay and economic weakness
(3.) The Solidarity Union movement
(4.) Pope Paul II
(5.) Gorbachev’s reform efforts that were manifested by his policies of glasnost and peristroika
(6.) Ronald Reagan’s efforts to abolish nuclear weapons
(7.) Last, and most certainly least, Ronald Reagan’s speech at the Berlin Wall.
We must not allow conservatives to hijack history the same way they are hijacking the truth to promote their ill considered economic and foreign policy objectives.
Allow me to close with two final questions:
(1.) Can Germany every atone for World War II and Hitler? This is especially poignant with the appointment of what some folks are humorously, or rudely if you will, calling our first Nazi Pope.
(2.) If David Horowitz is serious about including Juan Williams, Garrison Keillor and Roger Ebert in his list of anti-Americans who think America is The Great Satan, doesn’t consistency and intellectual honesty demand that he also include Pope Paul II?
Let our grand national dialogue continue . . .