Hyman & the McCarthyism
In the latest of his ongoing "Kerry & . . . " series, Mark Hyman goes after John Kerry for his participation in anti-war protests in Washington D.C. in the spring of 1971. Hyman paints a picture of wild-eyed activists breaking into congressional offices, throwing simulated blood on innocent staffers, and communist agitators defiling American flags.
Given this nightmarish picture, it seems more than a little odd that an organization devoted to preserving the Mall in Washington (the site of much of the protests) considers these 1971 demonstrations one of the historic highlights in the Mall’s long history.
Maybe it’s because the protests brought not only Vietnam veterans to Washington, but 500,000 people from all walks of life, including many “Gold Star” mothers—women who had lost sons in Vietnam—to voice their opposition to the war.
Maybe it’s because the “civil disobedience” practiced at the demonstrations was largely simply the result of ad hoc rules passed specifically to thwart the rights of demonstrators, such as not allowing the Gold Star mothers to enter Arlington National Cemetery, not allowing veterans into the Capitol building, and a hasty last-minute injunction against camping on the Mall, which was never enforced.
Maybe it’s because the protests were not the act of some rogue fringe elements, but a mainstream voicing of a popularly held belief: in the spring of 1971, half of the country felt the war in Vietnam was “morally wrong,” and a large majority felt the current policies were hurting the country.
Maybe it’s because it was the first time in history when veterans of a war openly spoke out against a war they had participated in.
Maybe it’s because many members of Congress and other prominent politicians acknowledged the validity of the protestors’ concerns.
Maybe it’s because protest is not anti-American, but a right cherished by Americans since the founding of the country. The half-million people on the Mall were motivated by the threat to Americans from the continuation of the war, not a hatred of their own country. The upside down American flag became a symbol of the anti-war movement not because, as Hyman would have you believe, it’s a sign of disrespect, but because (according to the official flag code used by the military), the upside down flag is a sign of distress.
Maybe it’s because these protests are seen as a significant moment in the efforts to bring Americans home from Vietnam and stop the killing and dying.
Maybe it’s because the protestors, from the young 23-year-old vet in a wheelchair to the gray-haired Gold Star mother who lost her only son at Khe San, were right.
Hyman claims to have several sources to back up his version of events, but if you follow the link on the Newscentral website, you simply get a brief excerpt from an unnamed biography of John Kerry that includes references and brief quotations from news articles written at the time.
Hyman counts on you not bothering to find out the actual history of the event. But if you want a more accurate picture of what went on in the spring of 1971, you can check out a summary of the events from the BBC, or take a look at this detailed chronology of the demonstrations. You can also read accounts of the events from people who were actually there written by a Vietnam vet and a National Guard chaplain. These give you a feel for what actually motivated those involved, not Hyman’s politically driven distortions of what brought Kerry and half a million others to Washington that spring.
Once the facts are out there, you realize that Hyman is attacking Kerry for helping organize a historically significant mobilization of citizens from all walks of life to speak out in a moral cause that was shared by a large percentage of the American people, and which contributed to the ending of military policies that had led to tragic loss of life without anything to show for it. Sort of sounds like principled leadership, doesn’t it?
Of course, Hyman’s criticism implies that he is more approving of the actions of George Bush, who supported the war but used family connections to avoid serving in it; who finagled his way out of even his modest commitments to the National Guard; who spent the closing years of the war at business school at Harvard, where his own professor says he was a vapid, unprincipled, dope; and who as president has led America into a war of choice that looks about as unwinnable as Vietnam was
Then again, Hyman probably thinks the 1963 Civil Rights march on Washington was anti-American and that Martin Luther King was a communist agitator.
And that’s The Counterpoint.