21 April 2005

A short comment on spitting.

Subject: A short comment on spitting.
From: MichaelRyerson
Date: Apr 21 2005 3:45PM

Happened to catch this morning's interview on The Today Show (with MattLaurer&KatieCouric) with Michael A. Smith, who is in the news for having stood in a bookstore line for 90 minutes so that he could spit a mouthful of tobacco juice in Jane Fonda's face. He was unrepentent, saying when he returned from Vietnam through LAX in Los Angeles, he was confronted with a 'line of anti-war protestors who proceeded to spit on me'. His grievance with Ms. Fonda is, of course, for her ill-conceived trip/photo-op to North Vietnam at the height of the war. One photograph shows her sitting, laughing, on an anti-aircraft gun, surrounded by her amused and delighted hosts. It was, and remains, a hurtful image to most vets. It seems the sleek Ms. Fonda, who has led a materially privileged life, suffers from a remarkable paucity of taste and decorum but has now, with a book to hawk, come to her senses and recognises that grainy photograph and the trip it frames, to have been a monumental lapse of judgement (although, I must say, one is hard pressed to find sufficient evidence that she's displayed good judgement frequently enough to make this occasion a 'lapse'). In any event, she's now sorry and can't we all be friends and just read a good book ('like, for instance, this one I'm holding') or maybe aerobicize together. But I really don't have a problem with Jane and, frankly, I didn't have a problem with her back when she took her trip to North Vietnam. I didn't much care one way or the other. She's always seemed kinda transparent to me, she still does. But Mr. Smith is another kettle of fish. I don't know if he's really a Vietnam veteran or not. He's 54 which puts him at the youngish margin for having served in the Nam but it's possible. This morning, he was wearing a sweatshirt with an embroidered Eagle,Globe&Anchor and the word 'Marines' under it. So I guess he's saying he was in the Marine Corps. I don't know, maybe. But this makes it even more difficult for him to have been in the Nam because in 1972-73 (he'd have been 18) there were few Marines left in South Vietnam but like I say it's possible. And I hope so because in the next few days, people are going to be digging into his background. It will be simple enough to find his service records and then we'll all know if he went to Vietnam and in which branch he served. My problem with Mr. Smith is his story about the lines of anti-war protestors he found waiting for him at LAX and that they 'spit' on him. I came back from overseas through Los Angeles and no one spit on me, there were no lines of antiwar protestors and if truth be told, no one seemed to notice me at all even though I was wearing a dress uniform with appropriate rank insignia and ribbons. No one even glanced at me. Further I'll say this, if anyone had spit on me (or at me) there'd have been an old fashioned melee, someone would have needed stitches and I'd have spent some time in the brig. I don't know where that part of Mr. Smith's story is. Did he just 'take it' passively? In all my friends who are veterans, we've heard this spitting story over and over again and none of us had a similar experience, not one. And if returning Vietnam vets had been faced with this kind of treatment at the airport, I'd have gone down to the airport to be with them and I wouldn't have gone alone. But no such incidents were reported in the Los Angeles Times, no local news anchor mentioned it, Los Angeles Police and airport security make no mention of it in their histories of the period. In fact, no such story appears in the New York Times either. It was a bad time for the country.
Even after all these years, its still painful to think about. But if we're going to think about it and talk about it, let's keep it real. Mr. Smith says he was acting on behalf of all Vietnam veterans upon whom Ms. Fonda spit all those years ago. Well, he's not doing it on my behalf, I'll be responsible for my own dance card, thank you very much. I think Jane Fonda and her opinion about Vietnam are and were nearly irrelevant. I can't imagine standing in a line for an hour and a half to be close to her for any reason. I think Mr. Smith needs to get over it and move on.


Subject: the spitting urban legend
From: Fracas
Date: Apr 21 2005 3:55PM

Sociologist Jerry Lembcke who wrote The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam thinks that it didn't. When a NYT columnist repeated the story in 2000, Lembcke challenged it:

I faxed a letter to the Times letters' editor saying that, "in research for my book….I found no evidence that such incidents ever took place. It would have been impossible for protesters with rotten vegetables to get close to a wounded soldier returning from Vietnam." I pointed out that, "stories of spat-upon veterans are apocryphal. They discredit the Americans who opposed the war and help construct an alibi for why we lost, namely, that we were betrayed on the home front by disloyal fifth columnists." My letter was never printed.

Subject: I got a kick out of Sean Hannity last night..
From: Jack_Dallas
Date: Apr 21 2005 4:26PM

He kept showing pictures of Fonda sitting on the AA Battery and called it a "Tank".

I hate the bitch, but I wouldn't stand in line for an hour and a half to see someone I like, much less someone I detest, just to tell her off. We do need to move on.

Our side lost, Fonda's, Kerry's and Ramsey Clark's side won. Let's get over it.


Subject: RE: A short comment on spitting.
From: zinya
Date: Apr 21 2005 4:32PM

hi rye,

thanks much for this posting. And for any of us who have followed and 'absorbed' your past postings about your vietnam years, i know and appreciate (well, as much as a contemporary who angsted from these shores, not those could) what it represents to you to relive those experiences and their fractured counter-interpretations then and still now...

Part of my response to your post is already in my reply above to Fracas' post.

What i decided to add here is that i had first-hand experience with something related which i can attest is NOT 'urban myth': In 1976, i volunteered in the US Senate campaign of Tom Hayden, already then married to Jane Fonda, an ultimately losing campaign. But one afternoon after work during the primary campaign, i was standing on the street in Westwood handing our campaign brochures, and out of the blue a relatively petite clearly upper-middle-class, well-dressed woman spit at ME as she looked at our signs for Hayden, seethed out the words "Jane Fonda" and her spittle landed at my feet. It was stunning.

Such was the venom then .. and i dare say the chances of more than just this one woman turning their hatred for Jane Fonda into their own spittings on whoever they came to view by association as the 'internal enemy' (us liberals!! eek!!) made me wonder to what extent the stories of servicemen being spit on were, instead, projections as 'cover stories' over conduct which instead was going in the opposite direction, toward -- not from -- the "left." Maybe my experience was a fairly isolated experience, i don't know, and it only happened once, most stunningly because of the appearance of 'decorum' from which it spewed ...

again, rye, a heartfelt appreciation for the thoughtful sincerity of your post ... good to see ya.

Subject: RE: I've no idea whether or not anyone
From: Ele_
Date: Apr 21 2005 4:56PM

sput on veterans upon their return from Vietnam. Yet, even if someone did this is no excuse for a man to spit on an old lady - and that's what Ms. Fonda is, regardless of her facelifts - thirty years later. I hope she will press charges and the brute will get something other than probation.

Having said that, I shall breathlessly wait for this top poster's article condemning delinquents who have thrown pies at Ms. Coulter

Subject: I heartily condemn anyone who would waste
From: MichaelRyerson
Date: Apr 21 2005 6:19PM

a pie on Ms. Coulter. There, take a breath.

Subject: RE: A short comment on spitting.
From: GeminiToo
Date: Apr 21 2005 5:48PM

I don't remember hearing about protesters spitting on vets until many years after the fact (in the eighties, I think). I knew a number of vets who returned and none of them reported being spat on. I also do not remember any contemporaneous reports of spitting, and I'm sure given the passions back then such incidents would have been reported had they occurred.

Subject: Well,
From: HawkEye
Date: Apr 21 2005 7:58PM

The Department of Veterans Affairs can't seem to find independent corroboration (or any Police Reports) for Vietnam Veterans getting "Spit On" upon returning to the United States of America.
There are Vietnam Veterans who "claim" (in more ways than one, as they file a claim for it) they were Spit On though... and say that they can no longer sleep well at ngiht thinking about it, or work, so they would like to be Service Connected for the injury suffered.... which they believe falls under PTSD. It does seem to have messed up Michael Smith, I wonder if he is getting Tax Payer Funds for the "Event"?

You know, a guy just off the plane from Vietnam getting spit on would most likely cause a little trouble... and there would have been a Report.... and strangely enough it is Republicans (or those who openly support Republicans) who most often report getting "Spit On" you would think they would have fought back a little bit.


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