Someone once told me 'if you can remember the Sixties, you weren't there for them.' Well, I do remember them and I was there, so go fish. On the other hand, I can't remember who told me that Sixties line, so perhaps everything is everything....how ironic would that be?
I was in high school in the late Sixties and in college to start the Seventies, with a draft lottery number of four. I can remember Jane Fonda, not so much for Barbarella ( how could anyone forget her in that?) or "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" but for her non-cinema activities during the Vietnam War. There are a lot of people, all these decades later, who are as passionate today about "Hanoi Jane" as they were at that time and if you weren't there, or haven't read American (and World) History of that era, go read about it now (the fourth link, above, is an EXCELLENT start) because none of what follows has any meaning without context (Sort of like Zen stand-up or knock-knock jokes in Esperanto).
When I moved offices last week, one of the items I moved myself, aside from the photos of my family, was a rubbing from the American Veterans' Traveling Tribute Wall that helps me remember a prep school classmate, Roy O., a handful of days older than I, who joined the Army and died in Binh Dihn Province, South Vietnam, less than four months after arriving in country. I've finally accepted we are everyone we've ever met, and despite the urge at times to run from who we see in the mirror, there's nowhere to go.
I thought about Roy, Hanoi Jane and a whole book, if not library, of my life yesterday while reading about Colleen LaRose, who calls herself (the accounts say) Jihad Jane. I cannot wrap my head around the world view required to be the person the news reports describe. As Jackson Browne sang, 'It's like a song I can hear, playing right in my ear. I can't sing it, but I can't help listening.'
I can't carry a tune, but I can now remember the words. As military intervention in Southwest Asia began, I signed up for Department of Defense news releases. I continue to receive electronic advisories identifying US military casualties, because someone has to bear witness to the selfless sacrifice without judging or putting a thumb on the scale. I still remember opening a news release a year (maybe more) ago reporting the death of a soldier whose name was the same as my son's. I dissolved into tears, DESPITE knowing this was NOT my son...I cannot imagine the heartbreak of a parent whose child is actually on such a list.
And then I read another news account about Jihad Jane, and realize the world still makes no sense. I hoped,and perhaps actually believed (if only for a time), that knowledge was power and learning was critical to understanding (so eventually we get smarter as a species and unspecified wonderfulness ensues) and then I come face to face with Jihad Jane and realize, learning and progress are seamless but hatred and violence are mindless and relentless.