Ken Burns' Vietnam

I have reluctantly sat through, so far, more than half of the Ken Burns series on the Vietnam War. “Reluctantly”, I say, because that war is not something I very much wanted to relive, having been aware of that war from start to finish as a student and graduate student and then a young professor of sociology who had participated in demonstrations, signed petitions, and gave lectures saying how purposeless was the war and all the suffering it imposed, trying as best I could to give aid and comfort to those who left the United States to go to Canada so as to avoid the draft. When some years later, during the Reagan Era, I mentioned to a class that I had been opposed to the war and demonstrated against it, something I thought of as very conventional behavior, many of my students were flabbergasted that this amiable and still young professor could have turned against his country. For them, the war was over, just unsatisfactory in the way it was settled. But It seemed to us anti-war people who had stood on the sidelines, having ourselves somehow legally avoided the draft, I through a series of student deferments and then because of age, that, while it was going on, the war was never going to end, and so there was a great sense of despair about the war, nothing like what I took to be the satisfaction felt by those who had made it through World War II, and this is the sense of despair that Ken Burns captures very well, that on top of the fact that he got the facts right, at least as I remember them. So let’s probe the wound.



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