Thursday, April 20, 2006

"It reached the country as the country hasn’t been reached"

Lots of Kerrycrats are going stark-raving crazy anticipating Senator Kerry's address at Faneuil Hall Saturday. And who can blame them? It's starting to look like C-SPAN is going to air the speech Sunday, somewhere in the programming vicinity of American Politics and Road to the White House. (I am naturally hoping for RttWH, what with my penchant for the symbolic and sentimental, but as long as I get to see what goes down, I'd even settle for Tonight from Washington.

In the interest of getting properly psyched, I checked out the 1971 interview that Diane of Tough Enough was kind enough to recommend. I thought it would be cool to use the internet to spend some time looking at what people my age used to do before they started spending all their time on the internet, so I watched it with great curiosity.

Apart from being completely blown away by seeing John Kerry before he was, you know, JOHN KERRY (he was, now that I bring it up, sort of a Beatle look-alike with a little bit of a William Daniels accent), I couldn't believe how much of what was said could be applied to Iraq today. And so it's worth pointing out that, while I spend a lot of time lauding Senator Kerry's experience and his legislative record (and I don't think I'm wrong to do so) I was reminded that, from the very beginning of his public life, there's been an emotional maturity that's given him an authority to evaluate whether or not the government's policies were reflecting the moral priorities of our nation.

And even if you're not a Kerry fan (and if you're not, I am beginning to lose my patience with you), even if you're not a Democrat, this video is refreshing just because it comes from a time when an interviewee could finish a sentence, and not have Chris Matthews or Katie Couric jumping in after ever third word with hard-hitting questions about why what he ordered for lunch makes him a total flip-flopper.

The interviewer is Betty Groebli, and the program was called Viewpoints. It aired November 6, 1971, and, according to The Washington Times, "Mrs. Groebli, who is retired and lives in her native Santa Barbara, Calif., doesn't remember much about the chat, except Mr. Kerry's stature. 'He is so big. I think he makes a point when he meets women of sitting down right away so as not to intimidate them,' she said."


Again, you can watch the interview here, or, since I couldn't find a full transcript of the interview anywhere online, I typed one up below. Just call me "Democrazy."

The Kerry comments, if not immediately obvious, are signified by that little JK's head bullet point that I am WAY too proud of.

So, without further coment from me, Betty Groebli, John Kerry on Viewpoints, November 6, 1971, transcribed from video.

Groebli: You’re looking at a picture of a veteran who is throwing his medal away. This is one of the photographs included in a new book by our guest, John Kerry, former lieutenant. The book is called The New Soldier: Vietnam Veterans Against the War, by John Kerry and David Thorne and George Butler. Will you explain this picture, please?

  • Well that, Betty, is a picture of one of the many veterans who came to Washington last April and decided that the last resort that they had to try and wake the country up and tell it what was happening in Vietnam, as well as what was happening back home to men who were Veterans, was to renounce the symbols which this country gives, which supposedly reinforces all the things they had done, and that was the medals themselves. And so they decided to give them back to their country, and –
Groebli: How many did you give back, John?

  • I gave back – I can’t remember. Six, seven, eight, nine medals.
Groebli: Well, you were awarded the Bronze Star, a Silver Star, and three Purple Hearts.

  • Well, and above that. I gave back my others.
Groebli: Do you think this did any good?

  • I think it did, yes. I think it did. A lot of people are shocked by it. A lot of people feel that it was the wrong thing to do, in terms of showing respect for those things and everything, but I think it basically, it reached the country as the country hasn’t been reached in terms of telling them that veterans who came back were against the war, that they were not all that they were made up to be – that is, the Vice President and the President had said they didn’t consider themselves the best men of America. They didn’t like what they’d done, and they didn’t like what was being done in America’s name, and it was terribly important that America come to understand that there were these men who were part of the so-called establishment or structure who were also against the war, and, as such, I think it was a very important stepping-off point for bringing a lot of other people to the level of disgust which they felt inside of them, but they didn’t know how to show.
Groebli: Has anyone called you a hypocrite? Because one wonders when you - as a lieutenant in the navy serving in Vietnam - when you had a moment of truth.

  • I’ve been called a lot worse than a hypocrite. Sure they have. Of course they have. And they do call me worse things, for a lot of other reasons. But as far as when I learned, we just all come into our consciousness at a different stage, and I unfortunately was one of those – I mean, I joined the Navy in 1965, before the first draft cards had been burned - and my consciousness just didn’t really come around, full-scale, until I got to Vietnam. But once it did, there was a consistent effort on the part of myself and the other people who were opposed to it to oppose it right there in Vietnam: to continually raise it as a point of discussion with our commanders, and to fight it, and to fight the policy from there to when we came back and got out.
Groebli: Was there any question about you being dishonorably discharged?

  • Oh, no. No. That has never been a question.
Groebli: I’d like to quote something from your book and have you comment on it. You say, “The country doesn’t realize it yet, but it has created a monster in the form of thousands of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence."

  • Well, I think that’s very true, Betty. The point is that men were taught how to kill. You are made into a killing machine if you are an infantryman or a Marine – the grunts of the war. And you have to be depersonalized to a point that you are willing to pull triggers against other people and see them blown away. And that’s what killing is. That’s what war is. It’s settling political differences by killing other people, and I don’t think it’s a natural part of man to that; I just don’t believe that. So you have to teach them how to do it, and in that sense, thousands of men are sent to Vietnam, have gone through the training, have been through that depersonalization process and come back with an intense sense of bitterness about it. And for a lot of these guys, particularly – and these are the most significant numbers of people who saw combat in Vietnam – your minority groups, they come back to a country that isn’t realizing the promises that have been made to them for years and years, for chances for jobs, for equal housing, for pay, for anything. And the one thing they have been taught to do, as one of them said very well, he said this at hearings before Congress, he said, “You know, I learned how to do two things in the Army. One was to be an accountant, and I can’t get a job as an accountant in this country, and the other thing I was taught how to do was kill.” And I think that all of these men have an intense capacity for violence. Now, on the other hand, thank God, for some reason they also come back as very gentle people, in a sense, because they have seen so much violence, and that has done another thing to them: it’s turned them away from any desire to see more. And I think The New Soldier is really trying to say that. It’s trying to point out what caused those changes, what they have as hopes for the future and how they want to realize them, but most realistically, it has pointed out how they are just meeting a wall, a barrier of frustration which can make them turn toward that violence…
Groebli: John, when people ask you, “Why can’t the war be stopped?” what do you say?

  • Well, I say it can be. There’s no excuse for it not being stopped. The only reason that it hasn’t been stopped is that the president and the people who hold the keys to stopping it just still see an important something to be won in Vietnam. It’s not a question of their wanting just to get out. They see it as being important to our commitments in the world, to the question of American security. And they are committed to a non-communist government, which is the old policy of containment, the extension of John Foster Dulles’ theory that got us in there, the containment of communism. And they’re still playing that game, and that’s why we’re not out, in the last analysis.
Groebli: What is your reaction when you hear the body count at night on the news.

  • I get sick. Like a lot of other Americans. I cannot believe that America’s conscience is at the point where it is willing to accept a body count that says "only so many men have been killed." I think that everybody in America really believes that one man is too many in Vietnam now. And I, I –
Groebli: But isn’t there another factor here? The credibility of assuming that someone has actually counted the bodies? Isn’t this a repugnant –

  • Well, of course it is, but you see, it’s repugnant but it’s hard to summon all the indignancy [sic] to express it at this point because it’s no more repugnant than all of those statistics that say we’re still winning the war. It’s just one more computer aspect of this war which says, “we’re doing this, we’re doing that,” which reduces the war to statistics. And as someone once said very poignantly, statistics don’t bleed. And that’s the problem, is that we’ve become accustomed to listening to it in terms of statistics, and of course it’s repugnant.
Groebli: Now, you’re working with these “statistics” that are in the VA hospitals, and I’d like you to tell us some of your impressions.

  • Well, my impressions are very hard to convey because…
Groebli: Maybe you can tell us about one person.

  • It’s difficult to convey an image of somebody who’s lying in a bed, who, who can’t move, who has to be fed, who isn’t aware of what’s going on around him, or somebody on drugs. Drugs is one of the ones – I’ll tell you about a guy; his name is Joey, I don’t need to say his last name, but he’s been – he came back from Vietnam, got back in 1965. He’s been a hardcore heroin addict for six years.
Groebli: Over there as well as here?

  • Over there as well as here.
Groebli: Started over there?

  • Started over there, he was shipped to Japan. They then shipped him back here and they discharged him. He walked out of El Toro Marine base with nothing, except the desire to have more drugs. Only in this country, it costs a lot more. So he’s robbed stores, he’s robbed private homes, he’s sold stuff, he’s been all around the country, ripping off places in order to pay for his habit. He’s been on it for six years. He’s OD’d – he’s taken an overdose – on heroin seventeen times. He’s taken an overdose of barbiturates six times. He’s cut up his girlfriend with a knife when he was on the stuff once. He’s been in a room with another girl who OD’d and died, and he left that place and went out to a phone booth and called the police and told them the girl was there, and they went and got her. He’s, you know, now he’s off it. But he’s not off it for good, because there is no cure, you see. And this is the terrible thing. We have, there’s a veteran who literally has given up his life to be with Joey, to walk around with him, to take every day to see that he doesn’t go out and get on it again. But it’s like alcoholism; it’s that kind of disease. You are never really cured, and you always have the chance to go back on it. Well, that’s just one of them. There, there’s 6000 – Joey tells me himself there’s 6000 of them that he estimates, anywhere between 6000 and 10,000 on the streets of Boston. There are anywhere between, he says, about 20 to 30 thousand in New York, and I think the statistics of the city confirm that. They are all over this country.
Groebli: John Kerry, are you going to attempt to see anyone in this administration while you’re here, or have you in the past?

  • I have. I’ve called and asked for an appointment to see Mr. Kissinger, and I – it’s my own fault I haven’t followed up on it; I haven’t had time yet. I do want to see people at this point, yes, because something has got to be done. They have got to get the money, and they’ve got to appropriate it. And they’ve got to take a different attitude about it.
Groebli: Appropriate money for what?

  • Appropriate money for drug centers that are not necessarily going to be within the context of the VA. They’ve got to have more methadone maintenance programs, but they’ve also got to have more therapeutic communities wherein people can seek help. They’ve got to have an outreach program that’s going to reach these thousands of veterans and let them know there’s something that can help them.
Groebli: Will you please let me know, personally, what happens when you see someone?

  • I certainly will.

Groebli: Thank you very much. Our guest, again, former lieutenant John Kerry and his book, The New Soldier. Thank you very much.

  • Thank you, Betty, very much.


At 8:37 PM, Anonymous Thomas said...

Just curious, but how can you tell it's looking likely they will air it? Can't wait to see him.


At 8:50 PM, Blogger Democrafty said...

Hey Thomas,

When you call C-SPAN and ask if they are airing it, they say yes. :)

Sorry I can't provide a link or programming info yet.

At 9:59 PM, Anonymous Thomas said...

Thanks a lot. I'll be sure to tune in.

I wasn't questioning you or anything, I was just curious.

At 10:01 PM, Blogger Democrafty said...

Don't worry, we're all anxious and curious :)

We'll keep you posted regarding times and stuff.

At 3:45 PM, Anonymous Thomas said...

According to that, we won't be seeing the Senator's speech tonight.

At 12:36 AM, Blogger Democrafty said...

Hey Thomas - 10 am and 5 pm est on C-SPAN, Sunday :)

At 6:57 PM, Anonymous Thomas said...

What a speech! Run again, John, run again!


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