Paul Henry Rosenberg rad at gte.net
Sun Sep 13 17:38:22 PDT 1998

James Devine wrote:

> When Jerry presented his thesis in the L.A. TIMES, some Vietnam veteran
> wrote in to say that he -- the vet -- had been spat upon. I doubt the guy
> was lying.
> Nonetheless, I think Jerry's thesis still makes sense: a little incident
> got blown into big mythology, especially after 1980, years after it occurred.

Actually, Lembcke makes two relevant points here:

(1) There are extent records aplenty of vets who claimed such events happened, but

(a) these records do not appear until significantly after the period when they purported events took place -- after crucial changes in public mythologoy which made the myth both compelling and believable, and

(b) such accounts frequently contain elements that are clearly impossible -- such as veterans returning with guns, when the guns were, after all, military property and were routinely repossesed by the military before discharge -- or highly improbable -- such as women frequently being the spitters, when women in American culture do not spit (with ethnic exceptions of course, and certainly much less gender conformity now than in 1965-73), but women as spitters make perfect symbolic sense representing betrayal as an excuse for losing the war.

This points to the extreme likelihood that such memories are fabricated--albeit by no means intentionally. (As an example of how widespread this is: My sister & I have so much experience with memories that involve both of us, but are remembered by only one and denied vehemently by the other that we have invented fictive dopplegangers to explain the phenomenae and do away with endless and fruitless arguments over past occurances.)

(2) There was so much intense emotion floating around then that it's entirely possible that *something* like the mythic stories happened. Some vet somewhere got spat on by somebody--there's good reason to think that anti-war vets, or even just long-hair Vietnam Vets upsetting to the "clean cut" image America demanded, got spit on by "patriotic" Americans (which it would not do to remember that way now), this certainly DID happen to anti-war protesters. It's certainly possible that the reverse MAY have happened on occassion as well. You simple CANNOT prove a negative such as this.

But if this DID happen, then why didn't we hear about it at the time? The pro-war forces were not immune to making things up out of thin air. So if something this striking happened that was true, then why didn't it come out contemporaneously???

Add to this the similarities to the stories of betrayal invented by the German right after WWI -- which included similar stories of vets getting spat upon by women -- and it looks more and more mythic, less and less historical.

-- Paul Rosenberg Reason and Democracy rad at gte.net

"Let's put the information BACK into the information age!"

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