The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam

The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam

by Jerry Lembcke
     
 
One of the most resilient images of the Vietnam era is an undocumented one of an anti-war protester spitting on the uniformed veteran just off the plane. In this startling book, sociologist Jerry Lembcke provides a forceful antidote to the myth that relations between Vietnam veterans and the anti-war Left were unremittingly hostile.

Overview

One of the most resilient images of the Vietnam era is an undocumented one of an anti-war protester spitting on the uniformed veteran just off the plane. In this startling book, sociologist Jerry Lembcke provides a forceful antidote to the myth that relations between Vietnam veterans and the anti-war Left were unremittingly hostile.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Images of antiwar protesters, almost always women, spitting on returning Vietnam veterans have become a shameful part of America's collective memory. Lembcke (sociology, Holy Cross University), a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, here presents a stunning indictment of this myth -- an illusion created, he maintains, by the Nixon-Agnew administration and an unwitting press to attribute America's loss in Vietnam to internal dissension. In fact, the antiwar movement and many veterans were closely aligned, and the only documented incidents show members of the VFW and American Legion spitting on their less successful Vietnam peers. But Lembcke's most controversial conclusion is that posttraumatic stress disorder was as much a political creation -- a means of discrediting returning vets who protested the war as unhinged -- as it was a medical condition. The image of the psycho-vet was furthered through such Hollywood productions as 'The Deer Hunter' and 'Coming Home.' This forceful investigation challenges the reader to reexamine assumptions about the dark side of American culture that glorifies war more than peace. -- Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Township Library, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
From the Publisher
"Lembcke builds a compelling case against collective memory by demonstrating that remembrances of Vietnam were almost at direct odds with circumstantial evidence."

-San Francisco Chronicle

"Well-argued and documented"

-Berkshire Eagle

"The best history I have seen on the impact of the war on Americans, both then and now."

-David Dellinger

"The myth of the spat-upon veteran is not only bad history, but it has been instrumental in selling the American public on bad policy."

-Maurice Isserman,Chicago Tribune

"The image is ingrained: A Vietnam veteran, arriving home from the war, gets off a plane only to be greeted by an angry mob of antiwar protesters yelling, 'Murderer!' and 'Baby killer!' Then out of the crowd comes someone who spits in the veteran's face. The only problem, according to Jerry Lembcke, is that no such incident ever has been documented. It is instead, says Lembcke, a kind of urban myth that reflects our lingering national confusion over the war."

-Los Angeles Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780814751466
Publisher:
New York University Press
Publication date:
07/01/1998
Pages:
217
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

What People are saying about this

David Dellinger
The best history I have seen on the impact of the war on Americans, both then and now.
From the Publisher

"Well-argued and documented"

-Berkshire Eagle,

"The image is ingrained: A Vietnam veteran, arriving home from the war, gets off a plane only to be greeted by an angry mob of antiwar protesters yelling, 'Murderer!' and 'Baby killer!' Then out of the crowd comes someone who spits in the veteran's face. The only problem, according to Jerry Lembcke, is that no such incident ever has been documented. It is instead, says Lembcke, a kind of urban myth that reflects our lingering national confusion over the war."

-Los Angeles Times,

"The myth of the spat-upon veteran is not only bad history, but it has been instrumental in selling the American public on bad policy."

-Maurice Isserman,Chicago Tribune

"The best history I have seen on the impact of the war on Americans, both then and now."

-David Dellinger,

"Lembcke builds a compelling case against collective memory by demonstrating that remembrances of Vietnam were almost at direct odds with circumstantial evidence."

-San Francisco Chronicle

Meet the Author

Jerry Lembcke is Associate Professor of Sociology at Holy Cross College. In 1969 he was a Chaplain's Assistant assigned to the 41st Artillery Group in Vietnam.

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