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Tigers Johnson

Ken Burns Vietnam War documentary

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I've been meaning to reply to you, Tigers, about the Marlantes excerpt you posted. What he has to say is quite chilling, imo. His novel, Matterhorn, is a very good read. I'd also suggest another bit of fiction that came out much closer to the end of the war: The 13th Valley, by John Delvecchio.


I served with a lot of guys who did tours and have been friends in civvy-life with a lot of Viet vets. Many of them are/were truly fucked up. What Marlantes and others show is that, even for people who have more or less re-assimilated in "socially-acceptable" ways, the dichotomy of that war still lives on in less obvious ways. I would like to have a chat with Marlantes and ask him if his view on human nature is completely pessimistic or if he thinks along the lines of what I think: that humans have the capacity for both great evil and great good. It is heart-breakingly sad what that war did to otherwise fine, decent people.


In another portion of the email exchange with my friend we discussed whether or not Vietnam "broke the back" of American society (when combined with other developments during the 60s.) Marlantes puts his finger on one aspect of the dissonance towards the end of the excerpt you posted: maybe we ought to consider that we aren't always right before leaping into these conflicts. We haven't learned that lesson, obviously, so now we have an even more brutal attitude towards American exceptionalism which portends the eventual end of American prominence in world affairs. It won't be soon like tomorrow, but like other "empires" it will happen and it'll be fairly soon, perhaps within the lifetimes of some of the middle-aged and younger folks here. And it's almost certain to be laden with even more unnecessarily broken lives and nations.

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