Even at the Golf Course

So this guy at the course asks me what I “used to do.” Rather than spew out the entire resume, I said, “teach.” Well, he has a friend who used to be a teacher. None of his students messed with him because he was a Vietnam vet and they all figured he was, you know, crazy.

When I taught at Rumson-Fair Haven in the ’70s, the movie Deer Hunter came out. A teacher who saw it–a history teacher, mind you–asked me if I ever played Russian Roulette when I was in Vietnam. Imagine that!

It is comments like these that make me wonder: why did I not talk about the war for many years? Was I practicing selective mutism or were people around me avoiding the subject because they thought I might do something ugly? This thinking both over-simplifies and over-generalizes. Moreover, speaking for myself, it forced pseudo-amnesia of what would later become indelible images.

I did not want to talk about war with people who had not been to war. I wanted neither praise or pity, although I’ve received both over time. And this begs the question of merit, i.e., what, if anything, do I deserve? Veterans, in general, are lauded for “service to the country.” Vietnam veterans, in particular, are viewed as unfortunate victims of “the draft.” And so others both praise and pity us at different times for different reasons.

All I wanted to do yesterday was play golf.

5 thoughts on “Even at the Golf Course”

  1. I never spoke about the war with you because I thought you did not want to.At a recent lunch you mentioned that you had not forgiven yourself for having to kill in the war. Well here it is, I am glad you were the better shot or whatever. I believe that that you are not God and never decided who would live or die. You were an instrument of a greater will and plan. If we do not know evil, how will we know good.If I could lift the weight of you memories off you, I would.But maybe, those memories have helped you become the good man that you are.

  2. Hello Paul,

    I’ve known you enough years now to be able to say that you matter in my life. Just reading this has shown me more of the person you are. I always knew there was more going on inside of you; yet, feared to cross that boundary and ask… You are an inherently good and deeply respected man and not only because of your experiences in Vietnam. Yes, everything you were exposed to and lived through and with, has left indelible marks on your very being . You are expressing your innermost thoughts and perceptions… That’s all good for you and those of us who getting to see through your eyes. Hope the golf game was good in the end! Peace… connie

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