Article claiming MIA POW flag is racist an easy favorite for dumbest thing ever written
Stupidity, thy name is this article titled "It’s Time to Haul Down Another Flag of Racist Hate."
I don't know if this guy is honestly this dumb, this insane, or crafty enough to have written a piece of drek so stupid that people can't help but click and read it. My assumption is the third, that he said something provocative and asinine in order to get people to click and read it. Unfortunately, it's going to work this time, because it truly is so reprehensible and sophomoric that it almost begs me to discuss it.
So let us begin with the Magnum Opus of the venerable Rick Perlstein, obviously the predicted Ubermensch of Frederich Neitzsche:
You know that racist flag? The one that supposedly honors history but actually spreads a pernicious myth? And is useful only to venal right-wing politicians who wish to exploit hatred by calling it heritage? It’s past time to pull it down.
Oh, wait. You thought I was referring to the Confederate flag. Actually, I’m talking about the POW/MIA flag.
Ah yes, that symbol of hatred, malice and racism. Tell me more Rick, I stand ready to suckle at your overflowing teat of wisdom...
Then the war ended, the POWs (yes, all the POWs) were repatriated to great fanfare, one of them declaring: “I want you to remember that we walked out of Hanoi as winners”—a declaration that seemed to suggest, almost, that by surviving, the POWs had won the Vietnam War.
The moral confusion was abetted by the flag: the barbed-wire misery of that stark white figure, emblazoned in black.
It memorializes Americans as the preeminent victims of the Vietnam War, a notion seared into the nation’s visual unconscious by the Oscar-nominated 1978 film The Deer Hunter, which depicts acts of sadism, which were documented to have been carried out by our South Vietnamese allies, as acts committed by our North Vietnamese enemies, including the famous scene pictured on The Deer Hunter poster: a pistol pointed at the American prisoner’s head at exactly the same angle of the gun in the famous photograph of the summary execution in the middle of the street of an alleged Communist spy by a South Vietnamese official.
Wait, you're referencing a movie to make a point? Why not Red Dawn? Or perhaps Soylent Green, or even Apocalypse Now. I'm not exactly sure how one scores a war, but for my own part, coming home, getting married and having a daughter was "winning" it as far as I was concerned. War isn't played on a gridiron with rules dictating the proper pounds per square inch of the ball, it's never truly "won" or "lost"; only fought. Even if the objectives set forth are met, lives are lost, dreams are shattered, and the "victors" pay a price with every night they wake up sweating and fearing for his fellow man. For a POW, yeah, coming home was winning.
This exemplar of imbecilic logical yoga then goes on to bash one of my personal heroes, Admiral James Stockdale.
Actually, as I document in The Invisible Bridge, it’s more complicated than that: many of the prisoners were anti-war activists. One member of the “Peace Committee” within the POW camps, Abel Larry Kavanaugh, was harassed into suicide after his return to the U.S. by the likes of Admiral James Stockdale, who tried to get Peace Committee members hanged for treason.
Stockdale would become one of the nation’s most celebrated former POWs and a vice-presidential candidate. Kavanaugh took his life in his father in law’s basement in Commerce City, Colorado, in June 1973. Americans would agree that one of them—Stockdale or Kavanaugh—is not a hero—though they would disagree about which one is which.
That damned flag: It’s a shroud. It smothers the complexity, the reality, of what really happened in Vietnam.
We’ve come to our senses about that other banner of lies. It’s time to do the same with this.
First off, I love how he keeps citing to previous works of his. That's generally speaking a sign that the person believes they speak with some sort of absolute authority on the subject. If there is an audio version of this book available, I'd like to get it, and if it could be read by Gilbert Gottfried or Vizzini from The Princess Bride, so much the better.
Second, I can't tell you how much I would love to take Rick Perlstein to the Montagnard Village in Ashboro, North Carolina that I visited a few years ago. The Montagnards were mountain people of Vietnam who joined with Special Forces units to try to save South Vietnam. When we left the country they were hunted down and exterminated, save for some that the SF guys were able to get into the United States. The extraordinary efforts to save those people by American Soldiers belies the idiotic "racism" notion of Rick. These Montagnards weren't "other" people, they were brothers to our Special Forces Operators, who did everything in their power to save them after the war. The racism charge is the crockedest arrow in the quiver, as should be obvious by looking at how the US takes in refugees of all races, colors, creeds and religions on a regular basis when they are targeted for extinction by a totalitarian regime.
But let's turn to Admiral Stockdale (pictured above receiving his Medal of Honor). While he will likely always be remembered as a POW and as the Vice Presidential candidate who turned off his hearing aids during the debate to avoid having to listen to Quayle and Gore, to me he was the President of The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, my alma mater.
Honor is just a word to some people, and for people like Perlstein, it is either used incorrectly or ironically. If you want to see honor, read the Medal of Honor citation for Admiral Stockdale.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while senior naval officer in the Prisoner of War camps of North Vietnam. Recognized by his captors as the leader in the Prisoners' of War resistance to interrogation and in their refusal to participate in propaganda exploitation, Rear Adm. Stockdale was singled out for interrogation and attendant torture after he was detected in a covert communications attempt. Sensing the start of another purge, and aware that his earlier efforts at self-disfiguration to dissuade his captors from exploiting him for propaganda purposes had resulted in cruel and agonizing punishment, Rear Adm. Stockdale resolved to make himself a symbol of resistance regardless of personal sacrifice. He deliberately inflicted a near-mortal wound to his person in order to convince his captors of his willingness to give up his life rather than capitulate. He was subsequently discovered and revived by the North Vietnamese who, convinced of his indomitable spirit, abated in their employment of excessive harassment and torture toward all of the Prisoners of War. By his heroic action, at great peril to himself, he earned the everlasting gratitude of his fellow prisoners and of his country. Rear Adm. Stockdale's valiant leadership and extraordinary courage in a hostile environment sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
The man was so concerned that he would be used in propaganda against the country that he loved that he smashed his own face with a stool. That's honor. That's bravery. That's patriotism.
At Legion events we have a POW/MIA ceremony, which ends with the following:
The chair is empty. They are NOT here. The candle is reminiscent of the light of hope, which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home, away from their captors, to the open arms of a grateful nation. The American flag reminds us that many of them may never return - and have paid the supreme sacrifice to insure our freedom. Let us pray to the Supreme Commander that all of our comrades will soon be back within our ranks. Let us remember - and never forget their sacrifice. May God forever watch over them and protect them and their families.
When I hear those words, I feel a lump in my throat, and a hole in my heart. And when I read the reports of our comrades remains being found and repatriated, I stop to thank the Almighty that their families can now get some closure. And when I see that flag, I think about all of those still missing, lying there waiting for friends and family to locate them,
Apparently Rick Perlstein sees racism. I can't even really muster any anger for Rick, he has nothing but sympathy from me. Because he'll never know the fraternal love that comes from standing shoulder to shoulder with men and women who were willing to lay their lives down for something greater than themselves.
Rick would rather sell his soul for a few clicks and maybe some extra advertising revenue.
[UPDATE: so right after I wrote this up, the writer and editor printed an "apology". They should have just remained silent, as any good lawyer would tell an idiot who is a client. The apology is almost as insulting as the original piece, but I add it here for sake of clarity:
A Writer’s Apology
I sincerely regret the use of the word “racist” to describe how the POW/MIA flag distorts the history of the Vietnam War. The word was over the top and not called for.
I’m deeply sorry it hurt people—especially people who’ve selflessly served their country. Most of all, I’m sorry because many of the people offended by the word “racist” are the same people who were hurt when the experiences and feelings of common soldiers and veterans were manipulated to serve the powerful interests and individuals who blithely and perennially send men and women to war, then don’t take care of them when they return home. And, of course, I regret the pain caused to the families of those who gave the last full measure of devotion to their country in Southeast Asia.
I would ask the people I angered to consider carefully reading the article, which explains, for example, that the Chinese Communists cynically leaked lies about the existence of live POWs in the years after the war in order to harm their rival Vietnam.
Most of all, I wish to express my regrets. Other than that, I stand by my article. —Rick Perlstein
The Editor’s Response
We published Rick Perlstein’s article on the POW/MIA flag, because it insightfully examines the cynical manipulation of public opinion at the expense of the downed pilots and foot soldiers the creators of the MIA movement claimed to represent. Perlstein is an accomplished historian who has spent years researching the Nixon and Reagan years. He knows this material. Our prolonged national discussion of the tragic Southeast Asian war that extended beyond Vietnam is often framed in what can be reasonably described as racist terms. The defenders of an Asian country that was invaded, bombed, defoliated and savaged (see: Kill Anything that Moves by Nick Turse) are vilified, while the invaders are beatified. Neither position is correct or fair. It was a persistent yet perhaps understandable disregard for the “other” victims of a war, beyond our own nation’s tragic losses, that informed the piece.
Nowhere is it suggested, nor do we imply, that individuals who remain devoted to the POW/MIA flag are racist. And it was neither Mr. Perlstein’s intent, nor ours, to dishonor those who served in Vietnam, although based on comments of readers, many were offended. A more careful editor would have moved the term “racist” lower in the body of the story and kept it out of the headline, where it was an unintended red flag that provoked the understandable ire of many readers. —Lou Dubose
Short Perlstein apology: Sorry not sorry, and all you rubes who were upset by my original piece are still rubes.
Shorter Editor's Response: We're sorry we said it so early in the piece, but frankly we appreciate the clicks and our revenue is way up thanks to you angry people.
Short Response of Mothax: Stop sniffing glue.