February 13, 2004
Why Are We (Still) In Vietnam?

"Daddy, what's Vietnam?" A question a child might ask, but not a childish question.

I read the news today, oh boy, and it made me feel like I'd fallen through a wrinkle in time and wound up in 1972. Suddenly, it's like the last 30 years hadn't happened and the battle between the hippies and the pigs never ended.

Is this just another example of Baby Boomer self-absorption, or is there something more behind all this talk of who was and wasn't "in the shit" and the dubious influence of "Hanoi Jane" Fonda? Whatever it is, it's captured the hearts and minds of the Gratingest Generation more than the other issues we face in the Presidential election, namely national security, the crushing budget deficit, lack of jobs, AIDS, education, millions of Americans still living below the poverty line, guns, the evironment, corporate malfeasance, and... oh, a million other issues.

But everywhere you turn it's Vietnam. There hasn't been an orgy of Boomer self-love this bad since... well, since last week when everyone celebrated the fortieth anniversary of The Beatles appearing on Ed Sullivan.

Remember when this election was about us? The Deanie Babies? The inheritors of that aforementioned deficit? The kids working overtime in that MoveOn.org commercial? Forget it, man. It's all about campus turf wars from before we were born. Just look at this nugget buried in Jane Mayer's article on Haliburton, Contract Sport, in this week's New Yorker:

Around this time, in 1968, Dick Cheney arrived in Washington. He was a political-science graduate student who had won a congressional fellowship with Bill Steiger, a Republican from his home state of Wyoming. One of Cheney’s first assignments was to visit college campuses where antiwar protests were disrupting classes, and quietly assess the scene.

That disruption continues, but on the op-ed pages of papers from coast-to-coast.

Like Eminem, ecstasy, and Outkast, this election has been co-opted by our moms and dads and it's time for us to say, "Don't bogart it!"

Yes, Vietnam matters: one man's service followed by principled opposition means something and so does another man's avoidance of battle and subsequent insistance on sending thousands of others off to fight 30 years later. But these are not the main issues at hand here, and if we don't move on, we're going to get stuck in a quagmire, the likes of which we haven't seen since, well, Vietnam. Isn't it time the fighting stopped?

Posted in a Grave fashion.

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