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My Vietnam War, 50 Years Later (Part Two)

Memory, Writing and Politics

Truth and Fact are at the core of all this. It’s interesting that the Vietnam war correspondent Ward Just wrote his eloquent 1968 memoir To What End and, then, shifted his career to fiction and novel writing. Dealing purely in reality was not enough. Just was ahead of his time in this respect, anticipating the fact-free, truth-phobic Age of Trump where the art of bullshit prevails. Just quotes the playwright Harold Pinter as an epigram in To What End: “There is no hard distinction between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. The thing is not necessarily either true or false. It can be both true and false.” A writer’s mind is unlike a lawyer’s mind, which is always dependent on a citation from some governmental legal book. A writer’s mind is free and, accordingly, dangerous. The philosopher/longshoreman Eric Hoffer in the 1950s said: “We’re geniuses at six, and it’s all downhill from there.” Today, we’re drowning in information, data and stories. Ironically, surveillance, secrecy and power dominate our lives like never before. Violence becomes a cynical tool like never before. Still, human connection is the key to getting anywhere, leading to the disaffected left’s cry-in-the-street, “The people united will never be defeated.” Trouble is, that kind of unity is much easier said than done, given all the distractions of culture and technology.

Frank Corcoran, left, and the author in Vietnam, and at the Maine International Film FestivalFrank Corcoran, left, and the author in Vietnam, and at the Maine International Film Festival

In 2002, I made a film in Vietnam and motor biked west of Hanoi with two friends, a seriously wounded Marine veteran named Frank Corcoran living and working in Vietnam, the subject of the film, and a Vietnamese woman who did translating. In 1968, Frank, also a kid, was in Vietnam 45 days when he was seriously shot in the stomach. As he lay bleeding-out under fire, two men crawled out to help him. Between them, these men managed to bandage him up, before they were both shot and killed. Frank healed physically but still deals with classic PTSD. In the 84-minute film called Second Time Around, he speaks eloquently about the humanity -- the human love! -- that drove these more experienced men to save his young life. It’s a tale that will make you shake your head in admiration for the sacrifice and bravery under fire of infantrymen in Vietnam. As Frank emphasizes, their actions had nothing -- zero! -- to do with country and patriotism.

story | by Dr. Radut