Coming to terms with the Vietnam War -- the war that America lost -- has been a long, grueling struggle, mired by historical denial and distortion and, as Franklin so formidably reveals, myths that have become entrapped in American culture. He presents a scholarly, yet personal and lucid investigation of how these myths evolved and why people depend upon them to answer the confusing questions that have become the legacy of the war.
Franklin has written on other subjects over the years, but Vietnam has inspired some of his most probing work.... Cogent cultural criticism.
A brilliant reinterpretation of the Vietnam War, showing how this dreadful war continues to infect the political imagination of America. Of particular value is Franklin's unique capacity to link the fantasies of science fiction with the construction of grotesque political myths glorifying warrior illusions. At a time when the mainstream is struggling to put a silver lining around the collective memory of the Vietnam War, this book is indispensable.
What marks this provocative and engaging book is H. Bruce Franklin's steadfast resistance to a society that takes 'plausible deniability' as its first principle. The range of subjects considered, Franklin's clear-headed analysis, and his impressive knowledge all make this an important contribution.
"Human memory," Primo Levi once wrote, "is a marvelous but fallacious instrument." Memories change and reconstruct the past, and in this provocative study, Rutgers cultural historian Franklin argues that the American memory of Vietnam has left fact and experience behind so that what remains is myth and denial. The Vietnam War, says Franklin, was an imperialist war of aggression built on lies and deception. But as this is an unacceptable truth, we have had to create images in films, books and the popular imagination to dispel such a notion. In film, lone heroes like Rambo battle both the Vietnamese--portrayed as heartless monsters--as well as timid American bureaucrats to win a war we could not win for real. Cynical politicians, Franklin says, perpetuate the myth of the "POW/MIA." War protesters have been demonized as mindless dupes; the "alternative press" of the 1960s, which, Franklin contends, covered the war more honestly and deeply than its mainstream relatives, is now all but forgotten. More subtly, he argues, cultural conservatives battle in academia to restore "Western" values that were shaken and challenged by America's participation in and loss of the war. Franklin thus wanders far afield in exploring the unreality that is now called "Vietnam." His analyses are at times strained, his conclusions overwrought, but he is never uninteresting or timid in challenging accepted wisdom. Though not always successful in its argument, this is an honest attempt to remember the complex legacy of Vietnam. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A former antiwar activist and author of M.I.A. or Mythmaking in America, Franklin (English and American studies, Rutgers) offers an all-inclusive cultural history of the Vietnam War and its continuing impact upon contemporary American society. Like Fred Turner in Echoes of Combat (LJ 11/15/96), Franklin shows how the proliferation of books, plays, films, and television programs whose scenarios reflected the conflict in Vietnam influenced a generation raised on superheroes and John Wayne stereotypes. Not just obvious examples such as the Rambo films or Coming Home but war-era sf such as Star Trek and underground comics are viewed in a Vietnam context. Franklin also demonstrates how mythmaking influenced support for the war--even in the face of the harsh realities of what Vietnam had become--causing a generation to protest government policies. Often citing underground sources and other antiwar activists, he shows how the divisive schisms took place within the power structures of government. This well-documented study presents another facet of this important and controversial period of American history and its cultural aftermath. Recommended for academic and large public libraries with lively Vietnam collections.--Geral Costa, Brooklyn P.L. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Coming to terms with the Vietnam Warthe war that America losthas been a long, grueling struggle, mired by historical denial and distortion and as Franklin so formidably reveals, myths that have become entrapped in American culture. He presents a scholarly, yet personal and lucid investigation of how these myths evolved and why people depend upon them to answer the confusing questions that have become the legacy of the war.
Franklin teaches literature at Rutgers University and is the author or editor of seventeen books, including M.I.A. or Mythmaking in America, on which he relies to make a convincing case that there are not, nor have there been, POWs held in Indochina since the Americans departed in 1973. The POW/MIA issue was conceived by President Nixon and accepted by all his successors until President Clinton normalized relations, as an excuse not to live up to the treaty obligation to help rebuild Vietnam. The 2,020 American's unaccounted for is a small number compared with the 8,100 not accounted for in Korea and the 79,000 from World War II. Unaccounted, however, does not mean imprisoned. The myth of the POW was readily accepted by the public because it allowed the war to be transformed from remorseless accounts of Vietnam peasants massacred and napalmed by American and South Vietnam troops and thousands of Americans shipped home in body bags, into visions of American POWs brutalized by Asian communists.
President Reagan, who presided during the "rambofication" of Vietnamese history, falsely claimed that there was always a communist North Vietnam intruding on a democratic-seeking South and the antiwar movement and media were responsible for the loss of the war. Franklin, himself a pre-Vietnam vet, convincingly shows the strength of the antiwar movement within the armed forces. From 1963-73, 13,518 civilians were prosecuted for draft evasion or resistance, but during 1966-73, more than 500,000 men deserted.
Franklin, fired from his tenured position at Stanford University in 1971 for criticizing American imperialism, shares his experience as a leader of the national boycott against Dow Chemical Corporation for its "perfection" of napalm. He also includes a fascinating look at the alternative press that sprang up to counter the mainstream media, which was less than up-front about the war's progress until the Tet Offensive in 1968. By the following year, there were 500 public underground newspapers and almost twice that number in high schools, and nearly 300 similar papers put out by GIs. Numerous examples are included of how television, books, and most explicitly, movies were used to promote such false myths of drug-crazed vets being attacked by drug-crazed protestors.
America recognized Vietnam in 1973 as the one country it had always been. South Vietnam was an American invention created in 1954 at the Geneva Conference; elections formally uniting the country were to take place two years later. They were never held because America refused to honor this commitment and South Vietnam struggled to survive until its collapse in 1975. Sadly, as Franklin expounds, America is the country that was and is divided by the war.