This evening Jim Olson spoke at the Eden Prairie Library on his self-published novel Boomer. Olson served as a chaplain's assistant near Củ Chi, Vietnam, in 1967. Before rendering several passages from the novel, he read a moving memoirish piece about his Jackson, MN childhood friendship with Charlie Ryberg, later a gifted young man who published an anti-Vietnam War piece in the local paper, earning him ridicule. After graduating from Harvard, Ryberg enlisted* (perhaps in response to the dissing he'd received for opposing the war), went to Vietnam and was killed there. Olson's passages on Vietnam elicited a few tears and stimulated quite a bit of discussion in the audience, which included a number of people fully jiggy [to invoke a Madia family term of endearment for you-know-who] with Team Madia, including Ash's Osseo High social studies teacher--in red, above [name?]--who accompanied Olson on a cathartic 2001 trip to Vietnam, himself having lost a beloved brother in the war.
In the current presidential campaign, John McCain's Vietnam narrative is being repeated in ever more vivid detail. It bears remembering that a lot more Vietnamese human rights got violated, during the war, than did American human rights. I made this point today within a discussion thread--and got called an 'Obamabot,' a moral equivalence proponent and 'a cocksucker.' (In the spirit of the weekend just passed, I take offense at the first two of these charges.) In acknowledging this reality, I am not momentarily justifying McCain's treatment as a POW, nor am I diminishing the sacrifice of our Vietnam veterans. But were I a newspaper-reading citizen of Vietnam who was trying to follow the US election campaign, I'd be irritated that the American political discussion was constantly revisiting McCain's horror in a manner implying most war crimes were visited by the VC upon us. Pshaw.