Apparently, the new Firefox download, Quantum, is a pain. One user wrote: “I had the extensions I needed, the page design I was comfortable with, and working more efficiently and effortlessly than ever. This makeover is terrible.” Also, Finding and fixing a Disqus problem
And of course, it was the war I grew up with. So I just HAD to watch the series The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, all 10 segments, all 18 hours of it, though it took almost a month. It did not lend itself to binge-watching.
I knew quite a bit about the war from my time protesting it. Names, dates. 1954: the French fall at Dien Bien Phu. But I never felt how brutal the battle was. How the the United States, first little by little, then in a big way after the Tonkin Gulf resolution, expanded the war, were facts I knew.
Of course I had not been privy to the thoughts of the American Presidents and their administrations as they struggled with their decisions as events on the ground did not go as planned.
The real value of the documentary, though, was the story telling: the soldiers that were there taking this hill or that, only to abandon it a few days later. The sister of one soldier killed in Vietnam who became an antiwar activist.
And while the segments prior to my political awareness were interesting, seeing the parts I lived through had the greater impact. It managed to reflect all sides of the war: Vietcong soldier to disillusioned American vet.
The evolution of the antiwar movement was of particular interest to me. The killings of four students at Kent State in 1970, for instance, which I was well aware of, nevertheless became deeply personal.
One of the odd takeaways I got was that Hillary Clinton was Lyndon Johnson were the policy wonks who arguably the most qualified in 2016/1960, but that the more TV/media-savvy candidate got the nomination (John Kennedy) or won the election, even though Trump had claimed his sex life was his personal Vietnam.
I saw the criticism of the Burns/Novick work, that “Vietnam was not a ‘tragic misunderstanding’ but a campaign of ‘imperial aggression.'” Surely it was the latter, but I leave room for the possibility that it was the former as well.
When I watched The Vietnam War, the PBS series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, in October 2017, I was naturally drawn to the music. Here is the list of the 120+ songs that were included in the 18-hour program, which you can listen to at Spotify, or find on YouTube.
Some were very familiar, others not, but I was fascinated that there were at least five Beatles songs – Tomorrow Never Knows, Revolution 1, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Blackbird, and Let It Be, which can be expensive to license. (I swear I also heard Piggies, but maybe I was just hallucinating.)
Coincidentally or not, Robert S. Hoffman posted Protest music: Music you can resist to, which include three of the songs on the Burns/Novick roster: Eve of Destruction by Barry McGuire, For What it’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield, and Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, the powerful outro for episode eight.
As Dustbury pointed out: “For about as long as there have been protests, there have been protests of protests. This 1966 wonder, on the real-life Are You Kidding Me? label, lays out its agenda before the very first verse… The Beach Bums were Doug Brown and the Omens, plus a different frontman than usual: Bob Seger, who probably wrote this under the ‘D. Dodger’ pseudonym.”
But The Ballad of the Yellow Berets was WAY too close of a ripoff of the tune that was #1 for five weeks on the Billboard pop charts in 1966, longer than any song that year.
The Ballad of the Green Berets [listen] was co-written and performed by Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler, From the Billboard Book of Number One Hits by Fred Bronson: “He was sent to Vietnam, where his fellow soldiers showed little interest in his songs…
“His Vietnam duty was cut short when he fell into a booby trap while on patrol….Lapsing in and out of consciousness, he treated the [leg] wound himself.”
Robin Moore, author of the book The Green Berets, got hold of Sadler’s 12-verse song about the army combat unit and edited it down. Initially released to the military, it was so popular, Moore took the track to RCA, which “agreed to finance a full recording session, complete with orchestra.”
I don’t what he said specifically that day, but we were all disappointed to miss it first-hand.
The new documentary The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, which I am watching, though not in real time, reminded me of the time I might have seen John Lennon but did not.
I have noted that I participated in a number of antiwar demonstrations between 1968 and 1974. (In 1967, it would not have occurred to me.) A few were in my hometown of Binghamton, NY, which got bigger and bigger as the war dragged on.
But most Vietnam prtook place while I was a student in New Paltz, NY, starting in 1971. A handful took place in town or around the area (Kingston, Poughkeepsie). But most were in New York City, with a fair number in Washington, DC.
It was at one of the New York City rallies – there were so many, I no longer remember when – that a bunch of us took a charter bus to New York City to stand up against what was the latest incursion. And after we rallied for a couple hours, we got the bus home.
Someone was listening to the rally on the radio – I’m guessing WBAI-FM, which makes sense, given its history. An organizer at the announced John Lennon and Yoko Ono, only ten minutes after we had reboarded the bus. We were still in Manhattan, but, of course, there was a schedule to keep.
I don’t what he said specifically that day – it was probably similar to the ideas expressed here – but we were all disappointed to miss it first-hand.
John Lennon’s struggle against war I thought was brave, not because he had been a Beatle, but because he was facing deportation from the United States because of what was likely was a bogus drug possession arrest and conviction in the UK a couple of years earlier.
Hmm – interesting how what would have been the the 77th birthday of John Lennon converges with the now-controversial celebration of Columbus Day, given the often xenophobic polices of the current regime.
Give Peace a Chance – Plastic Ono Band here or here.
The Berrigans continued to be troublemakers, including in the anti-nukes movement.
When I first went to college in 1971, I was pulling away from my “traditional” Christian roots. At the same time, I was fascinated by two Catholic priests, the Berrigans, who were fighting against the Vietnam War in provocative ways.
Separately and together, Philip and Daniel Berrigan, with a coterie other, mostly Catholic, protesters, were involved in several antiwar activities. The Berrigans and seven others:
…used homemade napalm to destroy 378 draft files in the parking lot of the Catonsville, Maryland, draft board on May 17, 1968. This group, which came to be known as the Catonsville Nine, issued a statement after the incident:
“We confront the Roman Catholic Church, other Christian bodies, and the synagogues of America with their silence and cowardice in the face of our country’s crimes. We are convinced that the religious bureaucracy in this country is racist, is an accomplice in this war, and is hostile to the poor.”
In retrospect, the trial of the Catonsville Nine was significant because it “altered resistance to the Vietnam War, moving activists from street protests to repeated acts of civil disobedience, including the burning of draft cards.”