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Every May, for more than a decade, an ever-increasing number of motorcyclists have made the “Run for the Wall,” a cross-country journey from Southern California to the “Wall,” the Vietnam war memorial in Washington, D.C. While the journey’s avowed purpose is political — to increase public awareness about those who remain either prisoners of war or missing in action in Southeast Asia — it also serves as a healing pilgrimage for its participants and as a “welcome-home” ritual many veterans feel they never received.
Run for the Wall is a highly readable ethnographic account of this remarkable American ritual. The authors, themselves motorcyclists as well as Run participants, demonstrate that the event is a form of secular pilgrimage. Here key concepts in American culture— “freedom,” and “brotherhood,” for example—are constructed and deployed in a variety of rituals and symbols to enable participants to come to terms with the consequences of the Vietnam war. While the focus is the journey itself, the book also explores other themes related to American culture and history, including the nature of community, the Vietnam war, and the creation of American secular ritual.
In moving, first-hand accounts, the book tells how participation in the POW-MIA social movement helps individuals find personal and collective meaning in America’s longest and most divisive conflict. Above all, this is a story of a uniquely American form of political action, ritual, pilgrimage, and the social construction of memory.
|Preface and Acknowledgments|
|1||I Thought I Was Just Going for a Ride": Introduction||1|
|2||The Parade They Never Had: Chronicle of a Cross-Country Pilgrimage||23|
|3||"We Will Leave No One Behind": The Politics of Remembering an Uneasy War||65|
|4||"We're Not Motorcycle Enthusiasts. We're Bikers!": Veterans, Bikers, and American Popular Culture||105|
|5||"Pilgrims for America": The Power of Ritual||150|
|6||All-The-Way Women and Their Warriors: Gender on the Run||190|
|7||"I've Said My Piece": Individualism and Community in a Folk Organization||217|
|8||Forgetting and Remembering: The Pathway Toward Healing||250|