Richard Rodriguez


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"I want what they want, what every other guy who came over here and spilled his guts and gave everything he had wants: for our country to love us as much as we love it," Rambo / First Blood Part II (George P. Cosmatos, 1985) the plea of every Vietnam vet who went to a war they didn't want but did the best they could.
It is often argued that lack of public support doomed the Vietnam war effort. In this line of reasoning, public protests against the war undermined troop morale and the military's ability to fight effectively. I would argue that this is wrong. It is true that opposition to Vietnam was intense by the late sixities. And that opposition was closely linked to the radical cultural politics of the sixties--to rock and soul music, to hippies and the alledged drug culture, and to the general critiques of "the establishment." Most of you have probably seen a famous picture of a Vietnam war protestor placing flowers in the barrels of soldier's guns. This picture can serve to symbolize the clash of two distinct worlds: the technological, regimented, uniform world of the "military industrial complex," and the free, unstructed and anti-establshment approach of the hippies. Instead of being treated as heros, this argument goes, the soldiers were treated like the enemy when they returned home. You may even have heard that returning soldiers were spat on by protesters.
There is no historical evidence that this ever occurred. The American public had deeply mixed feelings about the war. And the fact that college students were exempt from the draft added to the gap, and the resentment, between student protestors and the soldiers and their families. Veterans often resented the fact that they served while others--often the more wealthy and priviledged--protested on college campuses. And opponents of the war had come to consider it, by the late sixties, as not just a misguided policy but an outright evil--an opinion I share. They sometimes regarded soldiers as complicit in this evil. The revelations of the My Lai massacre (see below) only strengthened this opinion. Vietnam dramatized class divisions, and divisions of political opinion, that Americans had not wanted to confront. Individual veterans may feel, and indeed may be right to feel, that their service to the nation went unappreciated. Students should be careful to sort out popular folklore--like the story that veterans were spat on--from historical fact.
The morale of troops in Vietnam was often quite low. The average age of soldiers in Vietnam was only 19. Again, draft deferments were available to those in college--if you were in college, you were exempted from the draft. As a result, the war was fought mostly by the children of the poor and less advantaged--and they knew it. Racial divisions emerges--see the recollections of Michael Rodriguez. 1/3 of US troops were estimated to be drug addicted.
The Vietnam war was often a horrendous experience for Americans. The soldiers lacked a clear sense of what the war was about--why are we here? In the field--"in country" there seemed to be no secure places--the enemy was everywhere. It seemed to some like a moral quagmire.
Lack of public support for the war intensified as evidence of the full awfulness of the war effort mounted. In March of 1968 an American unit was patrolling the village of My Lai in Central Vietnam. They had suffered recent losses, were frustrated by their inability to find the enemy and anxious for revenge. They rounded up unarmed women, children, and elderly civilians, raped the women, then opened fire. The killed over 300 Vietnamese civilians, mostly women and children: Private Paul Meadlo recalled:
We huddled them up. We made them squat downI poured about four clips [several hundred bullets] into the groupthe mothers were hugging their childrenwell we kept right on firing. They was waving their arms and beggingI still dream about it. About the women and children in my sleep. Some days, some nights, I can't even sleep.
Under the command of Lieutenant William Calley, the soldiers of Charlie Company took a break for lunch, then went back to killing and burning. They were finally stopped by two American two soldiers from an ... more

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Susan Griffin Our Secret




Susan Griffin’s “Our Secret” is an essay in which she carefully constructs and describes history, particularly World War II, through the lives of several different people.  Taken from her book A chorus of Stones, her concepts may at first be difficult to grasp; however David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky say that,
“Griffin writes about the past - how we can know it, what its
relation to the present, why we should care.  In the way she
writes, she is also making an argument about how we can
know and understand the past…”                  (pg. 844)
Griffin strikes all of these aspects in her essay. What is most compelling about the essay, however, is the way Griffin incorporated personal, family, and world history into a chilling story of narrative and autobiography, without ever losing the factual evidence the story provided.  The chapter reads like an entire novel, which helps the audience to understand the concepts with a clear and complete view of her history, not needing to read any other part of the book.  Two other authors, Richard Rodriguez, and Ralph Ellison, who write about their experiences in life can possibly be better understood as historical texts when viewed through the eyes of Griffin. Rodriguez explores his own educational history in his essay “The Achievement of Desire” and Ralph Ellison depicts his own journeys and personal growth in his essay, “An Extravagance of Laughter”.  Both essays, which when seen through Susan Griffin’s perspective, can be reopened and examined from a different historical view, perhaps allowing them to be understood with a more lucid view of history and what it is really about.
What is history?  Many believe that history is what is read in textbooks, or what is seen on the news.  If Susan Griffin were asked that question, she would probably argue that history is much more than that.  It is about the minds and souls of the people who went through the historical event, not simply what happened. In her essay, Griffin incorporates stories of people from totally different backgrounds, and upbringings, including herself, all to describe their account of one time period.  Each person’s history is somehow connected with the next person’s, and each story contributes equally to the larger view of history.
Griffin inputs three types of histories in her text; personal, family and world history.  In her personal history, she describes her life, and her childhood, which intertwines with her family history.  However, she not only talks about her histories, she talks about the histories of the other characters in the essay to bring across the larger world history.  One of the technique’s that Griffin uses to help the audience understand her concepts, is explaining two other story lines while telling her main story.   The first one is a description of a cell.  Throughout the essay, italicized sentences explaining the intricacies of a cell are placed seemingly randomly between passages.  The description begins with a nucleus, and as the story progresses, so does the nucleus.  Griffin tells what happens to the nucleus, and how the inner-workings of the nucleus develops into a cell, which gives rise to many cells, which will eventually become an embryo.  He other story line, also italicized sentences, goes through the making and beginning of missiles.  Later in the essay, Griffin explains how the one missile develops into a bigger and more effective missile.
 These separate story lines are placed within the story to explain that everyone has a background, and a past.  The background and past are factors in developing the present and future; and certain characters in the story had a tendency to try to forget their past, not realizing that there is no escape from it.
Griffin illustrates this technique most vividly with Heinrich Himmler, a prominent Nazi figure during WWII.  In great detail, she describes Himmler’s childhood, and the harshness of his father.  As Griffin traces Himmler’s life, it is evident that there is always a marker, or base from his childhood and father, approaching the conclusion that a childhood can affect the decisions made later in life.  At no time does she condone any of his actions; Griffin merely does this to help provide an understanding of how such behavior develops. ... more

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  • Law and order Law and order law and order Selected Supreme Court Cases in Education and Religion Free Exercise Clause | Establishment Clause | Teachers Rights | Students Rights | Powers of School Board/State | General Right to Run a School | Parents Rights | Equal Protection Clause | Race | Right to an Education | Special Education | Statutory Rights | Misc. First Amendment | Other Miscellaneous -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Barunfeld v. Brown 1961 (stores closed on Sun...