“Taking A Knee” for War and Peace … of Mind
“L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés ou désirs.”
[“The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”]
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – 1153)
“The road to Hell is paved with deceit and equivocation.”
Steve & Olivia Maynard
In the first episode of Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s PBS documentary “The Vietnam War”, they claim that the war “…was begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and Cold War misunderstandings”.
That’s a fancy way of saying it was based on “good intentions”. Okay. That may be the way it started. But what’s clear from their film is that the continuation and escalation of American involvement was based largely on President Johnson’s deceit and equivocation.
LBJ went out of his way to conceal increased military activities — keeping them secret. At the same time, he equivocated — seeing it as a mistake but lacking the political will to follow his gut instinct to stop the war. Lacking the courage and resolve to continue, Johnson chose not to run for re-election in 1968.
But that didn’t end JBJ’s bail-out and abdication of responsibility. Although intelligence had caught Richard Nixon red-handed engaging in treasonous communications with South Vietnam’s President Thieu, Johnson lacked the courage to expose “Tricky Dick”. Based on promises by Nixon, three days before the election Thieu announced that South Vietnam would not participate in the Paris Peace Talks. His withdrawal gave Nixon enough added momentum to win his run for the Presidency over VP Humphrey.
Our intention is not to turn our blogs into political commentaries, but sometimes one simply has to “take a knee”. Our intention — good or not — is to use the consciousness of Big Love to avoid letting history repeat itself by calling each other to a higher place.
Avoiding historical redo’s is far from easy. We’ve experienced the false reports of “WMDs” to justify the Iraq War. And more recently, there is evidence of possible malfeasance in the 2016 campaign similar to Nixon’s in ’68 (think possible Trump campaign collusion with Putin and Comey’s inappropriate commentaries on the FBI’s investigation of HRC’s emails).
As frustrating as these are, it is important to hold the high watch — to insist on ever more integrity and adherence to the spiritual principles of truth and justice. Even if politicians will be politicians, it is right to demand “the truth and nothing but the truth” and to hold them accountable.
And the same is true for people who make documentaries. While the Burns-Novick film has confirmed a lot of suspicions about behind the scenes politics, we’re finding it lacking in terms of being a full, well-rounded account of the Vietnam War.
Perhaps its most serious deficiency is the almost total absence of the logistics and infrastructure of the American involvement. To date (through 7 of 10 episodes), that has been reduced to a single statement (paraphrased here): “During the war, 9 out of 10 of our military personnel were in support roles.”
Think about that. At the highwater mark, there were 500,000 American troops in Vietnam. At the 9 to 10 ratio, that means that there were 50,000 combatants and 450,000 support troops. The Burns-Novick account creates the impression that all American’s were wading through rice paddies, slogging up hills, and flying bombers or helicopters. Truth is, that only applied to 10% of our troops.
The rest were building and maintaining roads, airfields, and fuel pipelines, establishing and maintaining communications networks, organizing and delivering bullets, bombs, beer, and other supplies, or caring for the wounded and sick, etc. Steve knows about this. He served in the Army’s 8th Transportation Group that had 2,500 soldiers and over 500 vehicles (5- to 12-ton trucks and tractor-trailers).
So, in many respects, the combat troops represented the tip of the iceberg. To fully appreciate the dimensions of American involvement in Vietnam, it’s important to have an understanding the the immensity of the logistics. Burns-Novick provide a lot of time to presenting North Vietnam’s effort to move troops on the so-called “Ho Chi Minh Trail”. Certainly, that was an awesome effort. But, their film almost totally overlooks the American equivalent of the supply and support chain.
Why is that significant? Because the same game is being played today. We may have only 5,000 troops in Afghanistan. But it may take the equivalent of 40 – 50,000 private contractors to support them. Anyone heard about them? We should ask for a full accounting to appreciate the “actual” extent of our commitment to that war (and the effort vs. ISIS as well).
All too often, our attention to matters centers on the proverbial “sizzle” and not the “steak” — or “the main course”. At the risk of taking an uncontrolled leap of faith, we’d suggest it’s important to make sure to keep your spiritual life in similar perspective as well. It’s easy to be preoccupied with the highs (and lows) of spiritual experience. At the same time, it’s equally important to remember and honor all of the other dimensions of every day life — what we call “The Nitty-Gritty”. The more we’re “taking care of business” — every day in every way — the easier it is to find Peace of Mind in the midst of daily “warfare”.
Take a Knee to Appreciate All of Life Today!
Olivia & Steve
It’s Your Turn!
Whatever your opinion of what we’ve written above, we’d recommend viewing “The Vietnam War” documentary on PBS. It provides some important new (we think) insights. For example, the clips that feature Vietnamese people (from both the North and South) are quite interesting to consider.
Whether you’ve watched it or not, do you perceive that as Americans we’ve learned lessons from the Vietnam experience? If so, are those lessons being heeded? What else might we do? How can we — as individuals and a country — take a higher road in dealing with situations like this? What role would “spirituality” play?
If you’re willing, please share your responses in the comment section under this blogpost as it appears on the Big Love Community Facebook page.
If there are topics you’d like us to address, please send us an email from our “Contact Us” web page.