Bertolt Brecht, the cultural left’s most astute perceiver of poignant ironies embedded in social injustices, never commanded our rapt allegiance, yet we wouldn’t mind listening to what he might have said about the Memorial Day spectacle. Watching it, we thought we could have appreciated, at that particular moment, some of his biting existential sarcasm, always directed at the bourgeois democratic arrangement, a sarcasm that would have been oddly appropriate for evaluating that particularly perturbing mockery of probities and rectitudes. Here was the glittering pompously solemn parade to honor the Vietnam War veterans, all military glamour at hand, with flags, artillery salutes, and an emotionally aroused President, and, at the end of the cortege, we could see a limping ragtag band of veterans in tattered fatigues and blue jeans. Some in wheelchairs, most of them teary-eyed but fiercely devoted to their past, to what they did. All of them seemingly aware of what they received in return for their blood, sweat, and wounds from the nation they represented in one of its most important trials. Never before was it so clear to us, the TV-watchers, that what they did receive and were paid for their highest sacrifice were humiliation, contempt, injustice, and blind cowardice from a society which had been stultified by modish “humanitarians.”
Who is to be blamed that those who offered themselves for something larger than selfhood have been spurned and insulted by those they defended in the fetid jungles half the world away from home? Is there anybody guilty in this land for the most repulsive ideological scam in this nation’s history? Where are all those who enriched themselves with fame, money, and stature by spitting upon those who did not hesitate to combat–even if unsuccessfully–evil? Yes, evil, now in hindsight so clearly visible as evil, but what over the years has been portrayed by the modern war profiteers in journalism, academia, publishing, TV, the movies as the noble moral spirit of little people in black pajamas, allegedly better than ourselves. Villainy rewarded with riches is nothing new in human experience, but was it ever so glaringly visible? The man who commented on the hobbling veterans from the CBS News’ anchor chair, and who himself had mightily contributed to the fact that those who had been killed and tortured were there after forgotten and rejected, looked at us–on that Memorial Day–with fake, hypocritical uninvolvement in his eyes, allowing the cameras to reveal for only a moment that those who fought for us are still offering no apology for what they did. But wouldn’t it be fair to know what murky linkage exists between his smug certitude that he had contributed to terminate an “immoral” war, his current close to-a-million dollar salary, and their ordeal, torment, and oblivion? The fortunes made by those who saw the halo of sanctity in Hanoi are now discreetly consumed in Martha’s Vineyard and Hollywood, and none of the brahmins or celebs seem to feel the slightest pang of remorse for how those who shielded their right to be repulsively demented look and feel now. Men and women who prohibited those soldiers from winning, robbed them of their dignity, and orchestrated national repudiation of their spilled guts and mental anguish, who worshiped the soldiers’ slayers and torturers, and therefore made the entire world an easier object for the communist takeover are now consuming the lucre for their skulduggery in the glowing spotlights of perverse “professional” accolades. And even now they have not enough sense of shame to lower their eyes when they stare at us from our TV screens before announcing a few repugnant platitudes about those whom they have so obviously wronged.