Boston: The Vietnam Re-education Camp

Boston: The Vietnam Re-education Camp

: As a (graying, middle-aged) child of the ’60s, I’m amazed that Vietnam became a key campaign bragging point in Kerry’s acceptance speech.

Vietnam had become such a dirty word to both sides. To the antiwar side, it represented a wrong; to the prowar side, it represented failure; to both, it came to mean shame. And today, in Iraq, Vietnam came to mean quagmire to the antiwar side. The word was as loaded as a bomber headed for Hanoi Harbor.

Yet here was John Kerry — ten-hut! reporting for duty! — masterfully playing every side to his favor: He fought in Vietnam, so he can run an army. He fought against Vietnam, so he can keep us out of a quagmire.

Vietnam, the word, had been rehabilitated before our eyes. There was not a moment’s hesitation, not a decibel’s hush surrounding the word in Boston. Vietnam suddenly became a happy word, something to brag about: Mom, apple pie, and Tet.

I never thought I’d live to see this day. Vietnam, the word, truly divided this nation — nothing like red-state-blue-state hype we endure from talk-show twits these days. Vietnam brought war to the streets around that Democratic convention. Vietnam divided families (almost mine). Vietnam ousted a President.

Clearly, Kerry is counting on Vietnam ousting another President. He hopes the doves (’60s word) will see him as the guy to avoid fighting another Vietnam. He hopes the hawks will see him as the guy to avoid losing another Vietnam.

And so, he surrounds himself with vets and pictures of war and pictures of protest and he salutes and we are all re-educated like ARVN officers let out of camp in Hanoi. Vietnam is now a happy word, an honorable word, a word that means success by avoiding failure. Vietnam is frigging nostalgia. Vietnam is a word meant to unite, not divide.

Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh.