“Well, there’s only one thing I can say about the war in Viet Nam.– Forrest Gump
Sometimes when people go to Vietnam, they go home to their mommas without any legs. Sometimes they don’t go home at all. That’s a bad thing. That’s all I have to say about that.”
In the 1994 box office smash and critically acclaimed movie “Forrest Gump” there is a re-enactment of the massive May, 1970 Anti-War Rally, at the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting pond, on the Mall in Washington, DC. In the movie, the eponymously named lead character is inserted into the speakers’ program, and he gives a short speech.
Most of the speech was not heard by the crowd. Movie viewers didn’t hear it either. That’s because – per script – the sound system was disrupted by an anti-anti-war protestor, disguised as a part of the security detail, just before Tom Hanks, as Forrest Gump, stepped up to the microphone. [Forrest Gump’s unheard speech before the Reflecting Pond anti-war rally, in DC, with the whole scene. — early link was taken down, I suppose for copyright issues.]
That doesn’t mean he didn’t have anything important to say. The words above are what Tom Hanks claims to have said into the dead mike.
I recently came across some old essay notes that reminded me what happened when Wes Studi – a Viet Nam war Veteran, accomplished actor, and full Cherokee Indian – spoke at the 2018 Academy Awards. The reaction of “the Academy” was if he hadn’t spoken at all. Hardly louder than crickets. He was only asking for recognition for films that honor those who fought for freedom around the world – especially when it wasn’t at home.
Much of the US population dealt with Viet Nam war veterans rather disrespectfully, especially from 1968 until about 1980. Instead of treating them as youthful wide-eyed 18 to 20 year olds, sent off to do their country’s dirty work in a proxy war of the Cold War era, they were spat upon and derided as “baby killers.” This was most unfair.
Hollywood and the media treated them rather shabbily and ungraciously as well, usually depicting them as damaged goods and misfits. This is well-documented, and doesn’t even touch upon the disturbing “Full Metal Jacket” and “Coming Home.” From last year’s Oscars … it seem the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences still feels that way. [I stopped watching awards shows a while ago].
I touched on this in an earlier essay, but it was longer and the treatment of Viet Nam vets, particularly with regard to Hollywood, was part of a broader context.
I don’t have much more to add. But: Now that we have learned that the Pentagon has been lying about progress in Afghanistan for 18 years, we can justifiably cite the refrain of the 1970 protest at the Lincoln Reflecting pond: it’s time to bring our boys home. Dying in Afghanistan it appears is as worthless as dying in Viet Nam.
Staying in a war 6,000 miles away for 18 years? “You break it, you bought it” is not an intelligent foreign policy. Stupid is as stupid does. [H/T to Rep Barbara Lee (CA), the only person in either House to vote against the Afghanistan War Resolutions (2001), which she did on the basis that it was too broad, and had no “end game.” Even Ron Paul voted “Yea.” Astonishing.]
By the way, Hanks’ co-star in Forrest Gump, Gary Sinese, is doing wonderful things for veterans and first responders through his actions, words and foundation. Bravo, sir.
That’s all I have to say about that.
Joe Girard © 2019
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 Screen Play for “Forrest Gump.” http://www.imsdb.com/scripts/Forrest-Gump.html