Ideology and "Psychology", was Re: identifying with the enemy

Gordon Fitch gcf at
Sat May 19 19:27:46 PDT 2001

Yoshie Furuhashi:
> ...
> Tim O'Brien is simply pointing out the nearly complete lack of
> sympathy among probably the majority of Americans for the
> non-Americans who got "killed, maimed, & disappeared" in the war.

No, he is not, as a matter of fact. Whether some Americans are concerned with the fate of their relatives is a separate from their other concerns; it does not prohibit a sympathy for Vietnamese or anyone else. O'Brien is evidently embarrassed because he looks on the situation from the point of view of those who started the war (the American ruling class) but did not suffer much for it, rather than that of the communities who did the actual fighting and dying there and are now trying to deal with their great injuries in their funny ways. But he conveniently transfers his embarrassment, his disgust, from the ruling class to those they used.

The ruling classes want to feel sorry for the Vietnamese from a distance, roll around in their warm guilt for awhile, and then go off and smash somebody else -- the Serbs or the Iraqis or the Somalis or whoever needs smashing. Then they can feel sorry for _them_ and.... I think we could do without this sorrow.

> In
> their minds, the Vietnamese, the Laotians, etc. are not their class
> brothers & sisters. Neither in your mind, probably, since you think
> of only Americans whose remains couldn't be recovered.

What I think about them has no relevance to this discussion. As for the lower classes whom O'Brien despises, it may be overly clannish of them to be more concerned with their own kith and kin than with people from the other side of the planet, but this is not a particularly American failing; you will find it in some other places, including, it's my guess, Vietnam. Those who dislike and disrespect such people will not find it easy to improve their perceptions or morals.

Carrol Cox:
> ... The same racist feelings formed the ideological basis for
> lynching and for believing in the MIA myth. ...

In that case we ought to see explicit racist content in almost all POW/MIA mythography, as we do in almost all lynching mythography, and we don't -- at least not in the material I've come across. Most of it could be called paranoid, except paranoia is supposed to be delusionally pathological, and the lower classes in America _are_ the victims of plots, e.g. the War in Vietnam, and the POW/MIA mythography is an attempt to give their reasonable anxiety a visible form. After all, the O'Briens are not going to help them out -- they think they're too awful.

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