A Decent Family Man And Citizen: A Requiem For Vietnamese Peasants

There are certain things that can’t be taken away

from the late John McCain:

He was a Navy pilot

he was shot down over Vietnam and captured

he was held as a prisoner of war for five and a half years

he was tortured by his captors

he survived torture

he survived prison

he became a US senator

and he ran for president twice.

 

Surviving that long as a prisoner of any sort

I suppose, is heroic

and maybe regardless what you were doing

when you became a prisoner

like armed robbery

or petty thievery

or securities fraud

or a simply being a refugee

forced to flee

your burning village

by crossing a border illegally,

or burning a village with napalm

or blowing up a power plant…

surviving prison for over 5 years

no matter how you wound up there

is heroic

because no human being

should ever be locked in a cage

but hero of war,

was he a hero of war

for dropping bombs from the heavens

on strategic “military” targets,

villages,

schools,

churches,

and pagodas,

sending peasant farmers

to meet their maker?

 

John McCain was, as they say

just following orders

and those orders led to

a lot of collateral damage

led to a lot of napalm

and death

and destruction

and a lot of cluster bombs

still unexploded

still waiting for victims

and it’s sad when anyone falls victim to cancer

but a lot of Vietnamese people fell victim to cancers

caused by people like John McCain

John McCain was shown far more mercy

by Vietnamese peasants

after he was shot down

while bombing a power plant,

than America showed them

throughout the entirety of the war

or afterwards.

 

John McCain saw the power

of the bombs that he dropped

up close, for the first time

when some of those bombs exploded

after an accident on his aircraft carrier

took the lives of 134 sailors

but, even after that,

he flew more missions

and he dropped more

of those same bombs

onto Vietnamese peasants

who became collateral damage.

 

He knew that Vietnam was a political war,

a war of aggression

against peasants

who posed no threat to America

but he flew more missions

and he dropped more bombs

and created more collateral damage.

 

And during the presidential campaign in 2008

he certainly defended Barack Obama

against the slanderous claim

made by one of his supporters,

an old woman

at a town hall meeting

who said that Obama was,

-gasp-

“An Arab…” the woman said

McCain shot back,

“No Ma’am…

He’s a decent family man and citizen

that I just happen to have disagreements with

on fundamental issues,

and that’s what this campaign is all about.

No, he’s not an Arab

he’s a decent family man

and citizen…

definitely not an Arab

as if it were a pejorative term

like Gook

as in “I hate the gooks…I will hate them as long as I live”

which is what candidate John McCain said

in the year 2000

in reference to his Vietnamese captors

while running in the republican presidential primary

and he said he would always describe them this way

using a term whose sole purpose during the 1960’s and 1970’s

was to dehumanize the people of Vietnam

and the rest of South East Asia

and make it easier for the military to kill them

and easier for John Q. Public

to not care about the growing list

of dead civilians.

 

John McCain lived to be 81 years old

that’s a long life by many standards

I wonder how many Vietnamese children

would have been grateful

to have lived half those years

or even a quarter of them

had their lives not been cut short

during the war and after

by men like John McCain,

men we call heroes.

 

He may have been,

in the words he used to describe Barack Obama,

“A decent family man and citizen”

he certainly served the American government

for all his adult life

and he may have been heroic

in surviving his imprisonment

and he may have been honorable

for not accepting early release

because of his family connections

but a war hero?

A war hero?

The heroes are those who knew,

like McCain knew

that the war in Vietnam

was illegal

and unjust

and immoral

but instead of dropping bombs

on villages of peasants

instead of dropping bombs on schools

instead of scorching the earth

and everything on it,

instead they went to prison

some serving lengthy sentences.

 

When I was a kid,

people like John McCain were the heroes

and those who went to prison

for opposing the war in Vietnam,

well, they were fucking cowards

but in the years since I came home from Iraq

I’ve realized that there is nothing cowardly

about standing up for what is right,

standing up for truth and justice

standing up for the oppressed

and possibly losing your freedom

because of it.

The GI resisters who went to prison

maybe they weren’t treated as bad

physically

as the Vietnamese treated McCain

even though McCain treated the Vietnamese

pretty goddamn bad

before he was shot down

and he killed a lot of them

and they didn’t kill him

and he came home to a hero’s welcome

after he was released

and the resisters

were seldom welcomed back at home at all

or welcomed anywhere for that matter

and they became outcasts

for standing up for truth and justice

in a country that claims to stand

for truth and justice.

 

John McCain is dead now

so he no longer hates anyone

and he was 81

and 81 is is a good, long life

no matter who you are.

Dr. King was 39 when he was died

imagine if Dr. King lived to be 81…

Dr King was a hero.

In 1967, John McCain was shot down

and imprisoned

for following orders.

In 1968, Dr. King was murdered

for following his conscience.

John McCain was not a hero

he was a victim of torture

he was, in the end, a victim of cancer

but, most importantly

he was a victim of the idea

of American exceptionalism.

Above all,

John McCain was a human being

juts like any other human being

just like the Vietnamese.

For all of us

we are born

we live

and then we die.

 

Now he has joined the victims

of the bombs that he dropped over Vietnam

in death.

 

America mourns today

and I also mourn

but America mourns John McCain

and I mourn the people that he killed

in Vietnam

who have long been forgotten

who have largely been written

out of history.

 

Now, as the thunder again rolls

all I can utter is

“So it goes…”

 

 

 

About soitgoes1984

I was born and raised on land stolen from the Pocumtuc. I now live on a small island in the middle of the Pacific ocean, on land that was stolen more recently, from the Hawaiians. I am addict, struggling to kick the habit of fossil fuel. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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