Abandoned by the Corps
I have been in prison for nearly thirty-five years. I am writing in response to Kathy Dobie’s wonderful article “Denial in the Corps” [Feb. 18]. I am a decorated veteran of the Marine Corps who served in Vietnam in 1965 and ’66, forced to retire by wounds received in action.
When I first came to prison, in 1973, there were several other Vietnam veterans with “problems.” At the time PTSD was not part of the American lexicon, but we all knew where our problems stemmed from, and it did not require a name. No one kills another human being without killing a large part of themselves… and it does not go away.
I am told that one out of six veterans ended up in prison within their first year after returning from the war, and none received any sort of treatment other than talks with one another in support of what we were feeling. The PTSD level today is going to be far worse because of the type of warfare and the multiple deployments. When they come to prison–and they will–there is no treatment for them still.
It is not unusual for me to sit down and read your publication cover to cover in one sitting. But the story about Lance Cpl. James Jenkins, and his photo, made my eyes sting with memories, things I’ve seen. It hit me where it should hit everyone–where we really live, in our hearts. Staring out the window at the trailing woodsmoke from my warm stove, I watch as it is lifted by a gentle wind. Somewhere in that wind is Corporal Jenkins, his breath along with so many others, the same we all breathe. I was once a corpsman. I, too, have been drunk and crazy in Oceanside. Bad drunk and mad crazy. This story about Jenkins, James or Jimmy, I know how it ends. I know the CO’s words and the sickening sound of his “manly man” voice, too. Nothing’s changed after thirty-seven years. Even so, I read on. Even so, it takes me two days to get through “Denial in the Corps.” The Nation shows the truth where other journalists fear consequences of a complicit corporatocracy. The Nation and only a handful of others seem to give a damn about Jenkins. Real people, real blood, real life and the horrifying reality of how little our elected officials know about real death.
Hillary or Barack?
Christopher Hayes’s February 18 “The Choice,” making the case that Barack Obama is the candidate most likely to bring about a new progressive majority, drew much mail, evenly divided between readers who agree with Hayes and those who do not. Below is a sample. –The Editors
Christopher Hayes has fingered exactly my own dilemma: vote for a “closet neocon” Hillary or a centrist-leaning Obama? The answer: Obama by default. But I bristle at the use of the term “progressive” to describe either.
THERON P. SNELL
Mercer Island, Wash.
I grew up in South Africa during the worst years of apartheid. My mood has been dark as the prospect of the end of the American experiment has loomed large. It all felt so familiar. I have been depressed. But Obama has changed my mood. He has given me hope. I see the excitement for Obama in my children–two first-time voters in the next election. I am excited by the massive crowds at his stump stops and the massive turnout of young voters at the primaries. My vote, the votes of my teenage boys and my wife, an ultrafeminist, is with Obama. He inspires us, encourages us, gives us hope.
I am surprised Hayes went with the decaf latte crowd supporting Obama. With all her faults, Hillary Clinton is much stronger on healthcare and other domestic issues. She has been tested. Obama has not. The zeitgeist, and Clinton, are moving in a progressive direction. It is high time we had a woman in the White House.
Chevy Chase, Md.
I have supported Obama from the very start because he is very inspiring and is trying to engage ordinary folks in politics and civic life. After his election to the Senate, he was invited to join the DLC, and he refused! I think the election of a black man with a commitment to the poor and the ability to attract a sizable white vote would be close to revolution in a society still burdened with the legacy of slavery.
All the white boys are freaking out over this woman candidate. Obama is being given such a pass on details. Obama and Clinton are not that different on the issues–he is in fact to the right of her on many things. This is a boy thing, I am convinced.
Obama cannot win the Southern states in November. If he is the nominee, the Republican smear machine will roll out in full force. Once the right-wing pundits start stressing Barack’s middle name, Middle America will flock to the polls to vote for John McCain.
We are told Obama is the one we must throw our support behind. Why? Because he’s popular and conciliatory. Well, I don’t want a conciliatory nice guy. Unless Obama loses the vague bon mots where policy statements belong, I’m not interested.
Cherry Hill, N.J.
I am enthusiastically supporting Barack Obama because I believe he will bring about the changes our nation so badly needs by working with members of both parties. Obama has proven he can work with those whose views differ from his to find common ground and get legislation passed to benefit all Americans.
MARK JEFFERY KOCH
Et Data et Criteria et Bacteria, et Cetera…
State College, Pa.
When I read the first three words, “The media are,” of Katha Pollitt’s February 4 column, my heart leaped up. Someone remembers that “media” is a plural! The fellowship thus established enhanced the ethos of a writer whose work I already respect. Complimenting a writer’s grammar may seem mere pedantry. But I argue that remembering what words mean should be a requirement for anyone who would enter the public conversation and that as we forget what words mean, it becomes harder to remember what anything means.
Two Corrections of Last Week’s Issue
In the “Noted” item on Joshua Kors’s George Polk Award, it should have said that the VA “refused care to soldiers by misdiagnosing them with ‘personality disorder,'” not PTSD.
The photographs accompanying Tom Hayden’s “The Old Revolutionaries of Vietnam” should have been credited to Barbara Williams.