First, an excerpt from the opening pages of the rock and roll detective novel I just started shopping around:
“Somebody must have died,” Robbie said.
His brother was a preacher.
Red kicked the block in place before he looked up.
“Well, if it’s your sister, at least you won’t catch any more hell about all them babies you killed in Nam.”
Robbie brushed his dirty blonde mustache with the back of his forefinger.
“Damn straight. And if it’s the kid, I won’t have to hear any more about Iggy and the goddam Stooges either.”
Even without context, you can probably judge that my detective, Robbie Boone, and his drug-smuggling partner, Red Coombs: a) have a sardonic view of life and death, b) that Robbie has a testy relationship with his siblings, and c) anything his radical sister may have said to him about his time in Nam has nothing to do with anything that actually happened and doesn’t annoy him near as much as having a little brother who prefers the Stooges to Creedence or an older brother who wants to save his soul.
Still, if I’m published and my novel becomes the stone cold classic it deserves to be, I can expect to find myself chastised for perpetuating a myth–in this case, that Viet Nam vets were routinely subjected to humiliation by lefty war protesters which included being spat upon, denied sex by beautiful women and just generally being made to feel bad for things they never did.
Or maybe even harangued by their sisters.
I mention all this because Ken Burns’Vietnam (why we use one word when the Vietnamese themselves use two, I’ve always been too slow to understand–gee, I hope it’s not the old Ignorance/Arrogance thing) has just started. I can’t watch it in real time because there’s a tree branch growing in front of my satellite dish and there’s not much point paying the bill until I can afford a service to come and remove the impediment.
But it’s already stirring up discussion and the discussion is already forming around predictable patterns with Myth and Counter-Myth being put through one more spin cycle and everybody pretending that if one or the other finally prevailed we would “heal” (a word the dread Burns–still living off the Civil War series that is the only half-good thing he ever did–has apparently used in interviews), or, in other words, finally walk away from 1968.
Hell, even my novel won’t help us do that. The best it might do–that anything might do–is hammer out a warning to a future we will not live to see.
I am comforted, however, in knowing that when the Thought Police come for me in the much nearer future, it will be in the name of Nuance and a Better Understanding….Same as when they implant the microchip that will help me finally become the Better Person I will then be convinced I always dreamed of being.