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.