Still In Saigon—In My Mind

"The earth outside is covered with snow and I am covered with sweat. My younger brother calls me a killer and my daddy calls me a vet." So the Vietnam veteran appears in a popular song recorded a few years back by Charlie Daniels (written by Dan Daley). The Vietnam War is over, but the matter is not settled in my mind, and more importantly, in the imagination of the American people. Officially, the consensus on the war is nearly complete. "Everybody knows or else should know" what editorial writers and college professors tell their more or less captive audiences: the evil of the war, the careless blundering of the Washington technocratic elite, the glorious victory of the Vietnamese people as the justice of their cause was presented on television to the American people. Yet in the rag and bone shop of the heart that provides the themes for popular art and entertainment, questions echo and re-echo that editorial writers do not address: How could such a strong and wealthy nation lose a war to a small and weak one? What happened to us in those days? What happened to our soldiers, the ones who hurried back and the POW's who came later and the MIA's who never came back?

The Received Version of the War is a Märchen, Jack the Giant Killer or David and Goliath, with the pleasingly simple folkloristic motifs of brave young warrior defeating his bulky, conceited, but vulnerable foe. In this case the...

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