Seeking Truth About Vietnam, Eugene Weekly Article | September 14, 2017

Seeking Truth About Vietnam
Eugene Weekly Article | September 14, 2017
By John Henry, Mike Kimball, Michael Peterson, Michael Carrigan, Guy Maynard and Carol Van Houten

Beginning Sunday, Sept. 17, PBS will present a 10-episode, 18-hour documentary, The Vietnam War, by noted filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.

Coming 50 years after a pivotal year of escalation of both the war and the anti-war movement, the filmmakers say they hope the documentary will serve as a catalyst for long overdue reconciliation and healing of the deep divisions that war created among Americans.
“The seeds of disunion we experience today, the polarization, the lack of civil discourse, all had their seeds in Vietnam,” Burns told the New York Times.

The U.S. war in Vietnam has indeed left deep wounds, most dramatically among those who answered their country’s call – or in many cases, obeyed their country’s orders – to serve.
But many at home were also deeply affected, including family and friends of soldiers, as well as millions of Americans whose lives were forever changed by their fervent opposition to a war they believed to be unjust, immoral and contrary to our country’s best interests.

And, as Burns suggests, our national sense of self was fractured: How do we go forward as a nation responsible for the devastation of a country (three million dead, environmental destruction) from a war that many of us believed to be wrong, and that we ultimately lost?
Healing and reconciliation are noble and desirable ends. But ask any mental health expert, and they will tell you that no real healing can take place until there is acknowledgment of the underlying causes – that reconciliation cannot happen without some common understanding of the truth of the circumstances that led to the division.

Burns and Novick, in a New York Times op-ed, indicate that the film may avoid some of the most difficult truths about the war in Vietnam: “Many questions remain unanswerable. But if, with open minds and open hearts, we can consider this complex event from many perspectives and recognize more than one truth, perhaps we can stop fighting over how the war should be remembered and focus instead on what it can teach us about courage, patriotism, resilience, forgiveness and, ultimately, reconciliation.”

“More than one truth” sounds dangerously close to “alternate facts.” Certainly, the war was a complex historical phenomenon, and those who experienced it can bring many distinct perspectives to its discussion. The film can serve a valuable purpose by exploring that complexity and showing us those perspectives. But the ultimate objective of studying history should be to get at historical facts – the truth – so we can learn from them.

Americans have had trouble learning from the Vietnam experience for at least two significant reasons.
One, much of what has been established as historical facts shows a sinister U.S. role in the creation and manipulation of a repressive south Vietnamese state, which challenges the notion of American exceptionalism – that we are always on the side of the “good.”

Second is the largely successful proliferation of the cynically false notion that to acknowledge our fault in Vietnam is to challenge the bravery and sacrifice of the American men and women who served there.

That notion gives cover to all wars. All soldiers sacrifice, but war is a matter of policy that should always be questioned – because expecting that sacrifice for an unjust and unwinnable war is unconscionable.

So we encourage people to watch the Burns-Novick film. Watch with friends, with family, with neighbors or at community gatherings. Folks who lived through that era should watch it with younger people who only know it as history.

Watch it critically. Follow up with other sources. Use it as a basis of discussion. As you watch, think of these questions, based on a list developed by Veterans for Peace:
* What was the U.S. motive?
* What was the motive of the Vietnamese enemy?
* Did the U.S. mistakenly stumble into the war or was it part of a conscious strategy?
* Were U.S. intentions honorable?
* Who was most responsible for the suffering of the civilian population?
* What were the motives of the anti-war movement and was it effective?
* Why did the U.S. lose?
* What are the basic lessons of the war?
* Does the film tackle the hard lessons?
* How do the divisions created by the Vietnam War express themselves today?
* Is there a path to healing and reconciliation? How do we get there?

Let’s take this an opportunity to honestly face this difficult history, so we can stop repeating it.
John Henry, Mike Kimball and Michael Peterson are Vietnam veterans and members of Chapter 159 of Veterans for Peace; Michael Carrigan, Guy Maynard and Carol Van Houten are members of Community Alliance of Lane County.

Wyden Votes to Repeal 15-Year-Old War Authorizations

Following is a press release just sent out by Senator Wyden today, Sept.13.
We appreciate that he remembers that issues of war and peace are still important to Oregonians

Michael C

Wyden Votes to Repeal 15-Year-Old War Authorizations

Calls for New, Targeted Authority to Go After ISIS and Terrorist Groups

Washington, D.C. –Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today voted in support of an amendment by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to repeal the war authorizations for Iraq and Afghanistan. Wyden supports passage of a new, targeted authority to go after ISIS and other terrorist groups abroad.

“Relying on 15-year-old laws to go after today’s threats isn’t acceptable. By abdicating its responsibility, Congress is enabling the creeping, unchecked expansion of presidential power to wage war around the world. It’s long past time to repeal these outdated authorities and replace them with a new, targeted authority to go after ISIS and other terrorist groups that pose very real threats to American interests.”

Wyden has consistently opposed endless overseas wars, and use of military force without clearly defined goals. He voted against the original Iraq War resolution in 2002, and has repeatedly called for redeployment of combat troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now I Am Your Neighbor Play

Now I am Your Neighbor banner

Produced by CALC, in partnership with Minority Voices Theatre (MVT), the stories, generously shared, were woven together in a creative narrative by local playwright Nancy Hopps. Directed by Carol Dennis with original music by Ricardo Cardenas, the play will be produced as a staged reading by readers who are immigrants themselves or very close to the immigrant experience.

The play will be performed at The  Very Little Theatre Stage Left, 2350 Hilyard St., Friday and Saturday, September 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, September 24 at 2 p.m. ASL interpretation is available at the Sunday performance.

Our readers include Isabel Smythe, Rosie Hernandez, Antonio Ochoa, Alex Reyna, Alex Aguilar, Stephanie Sarnoff, Brett French, Bill Campbell, Berri Hsiao, Ken Wong, Retoyia Ole Ronkei, Ibrahim Alessa.

A community discussion will follow the one-hour performance. The play is also accompanied by the recently updated “We Are Neighbors” photography exhibit, which celebrates immigrants living in Lane County.

Tickets are available at the door only, with a suggested donation of $5- $25. For more information, contact CALC at 541.485.1755 or

Check out the CALC Facebook page for additional information.

SE Neighbors Open to Homeless Rest Stop at 3500 Hilyard St

At its meeting Weds. night, the Southeast Neighbors (SEN) board discussed possible expansion of the Nightingale Health Sanctuary from a “car camp” to a “rest stop”, but delayed a vote on a recommendation to the City Council until Sept. 19. The camp is on the Good Samaritan parking lot at 3500 Hilyard Street.

The SEN board asked a lot of questions that were answered by the NHS onsite managers, Nathan Showers and Tracy Forest, and members of their steering committee, including Vickie Mindel Nelson and CALC’s Michael Carrigan.

Most of the questions seemed to center around *control*, with apparently lots of concern about whether expanding the camp would lead to problems. The NHS folks had good answers. It appears that NHS is trying to make a deal with SEN where they will be allowed to turn the camp back into a rest stop, with up to 20 residents, but will do so very slowly to reduce the impact on the neighborhood. It’s a political move, but NHS also seems to have other reasons for expanding slowly. One is that they want Conestoga huts for all residents rather than tents on platforms like they had before. Right now they have six huts for six residents, the maximum that is allowed with a “car camp”.

Community Supported Shelters is planning to do a workshop on building the huts. Vickie Nelson said that if they build the huts themselves they will only need $1,000 each for materials. If CSS builds them the price is more like $2,500, although discounts may be available in some cases.

After the meeting SEN board chair David Monk said no vote was taken because no one put a motion on the table, he knew it would be a long discussion and there wasn’t enough time left after they went over all the questions.

My guess is that it will pass on Sept.19. Then we’ll see how soon the City Council will put it on their agenda. Cold weather is less than two months away.

Lynn Porter, “Homeless Action” ,

CALC Spring Newsletter is Here



There’s a lot going on – check it out!




To Standing Rock from Rural Oregon


From our friends at Rural Organizing Project (ROP):


rop_classic_logo_100Last month, the water protectors at Standing Rock celebrated an unprecedented victory when the US Army denied the permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross the Missouri River. This partial but critical victory, along with a brutal blizzard marking the beginning of a particularly harsh North Dakota winter, changed the dynamics and priorities for water protectors on the ground. Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II, as well as many indigenous leaders and organizations at Oceti Sakowin, asked water protectors who were not prepared to stay for the winter to head home.


The fight for clean water at Standing Rock is far from over. Most of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is already built, and the US Army’s denial of this permit only delayed drilling on one river crossing. Notably, the decision to deny the drilling permit was actually made by the US Army — the Army of Corps of Engineers recommended the approval of the river crossing. The Trump Administration could reverse this decision, making the situation at Standing Rock all the more tenuous. Alarmingly, the US Senate just named Sen. Hoeven, former North Dakota governor and outspoken supporter of DAPL and the Keystone XL pipelines, the chairman of the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.


This decision came down a couple of days before a contingent of over 50 rural Oregonians was scheduled to depart for Standing Rock. We engaged bus riders in a decision-making conversation, and reached consensus around sending a smaller crew of rural Oregonians with supplies once the weather improved (now scheduled to leave tomorrow — weather permitting!).


In preparation for the arrival of this contingent, ROP had a small “advance team” of six rural Oregonians, including builders, human dignity group leaders, and ROP staff, already on the ground in Standing Rock with all of the supplies needed to set up shelters for over 50 people. After we shifted our plans to send a smaller contingent, the six of us in Standing Rock immediately put these much needed supplies and our resources to use at Sacred Stone Camp.


Sacred Stone Camp is the original resistance camp in the movement to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, established in April on land owned by LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Standing Rock Sioux tribal member and Lakota historian. There are many people committed to living at Sacred Stone through the harsh winter who gathered there as early as April, including elders and families with small children. LaDonna has asked that people remain at Sacred Stone to see the fight through.


The ROP advance team arrived right after a blizzard had swept through the area, with the temperatures continuing to drop. In below-zero temperatures, cold is not just a passive discomfort, but a force to reckon with. Even as we kept moving and working throughout the day, we had to take shelter and stand around woodstoves every hour or so to warm the tips of our fingers and toes before heading back into the cold.


Fortunately, we had a wonderful team of rural Oregonians equipped with skills in construction, winter truck driving, community organizing, and cold weather camping. We set up three sturdy winter tents after building solid wood floors, insulation and wood stoves to support a kitchen, dining area, and emergency sleeping area. We helped clean up camp by hauling garbage and recycling, and moved and repaired vehicles that were stalled out by the weather (the extreme cold kills car batteries and gets people stuck in ditches!). Despite the cold, we felt warmed and welcomed by the incredible people we met at camp.




Amidst the harshest of winter conditions, we heard from many campers who were steadfast in their commitment to stay until the fight is over — “until there is oil running through that pipeline” or “until the black snake is dead”, with great hope for the latter. Many people on the ground do not trust that the Army decision will be upheld, and have heard that construction is still underway on other segments of the pipeline route. We were amazed by the resilience of the people who continue to keep watch over the water as others look away. For many people at Standing Rock, looking away is not an option. The survival of their culture and community depend on this fight. They are fighting for their home.


We learned so much about the resilience of the community at camp, with people meeting each other’s daily needs in a rural and under-resourced area, assisting each other in daily survival in conditions that are shutting down major roads and interstates. When there are blizzards or extreme cold snaps, volunteers walk the camps to make sure that people have what they need to survive the night. Cooks prepare warm meals, thawing food that has frozen in transport, creatively navigating the challenges of food preparation in cold and crowded tents with camp stoves. Medics tend to people who are suffering from injury, illness, and trauma — a service that has been critical in light of police road blockades and poor road conditions that have blocked or delayed access between emergency responders and the reservation. For those of us who live in rural counties and unincorporated communities, we understand that things like emergency response, mental health services, or basic road maintenance are not a given. Among so many lessons, Standing Rock teaches us what it looks like to reach out to each other to creatively solve problems in the spirit of mutual aid.


Hundreds of rural Oregonians across the state gathered supplies, fundraised, and organized in their home towns to raise awareness of the inspiring work of water protectors at Standing Rock. Another team of rural Oregonians is gearing up to head back to Sacred Stone tomorrow, January 9th. The supply run will take remaining supplies that we gathered in November, updated with specific requests from our contacts at camp, including propane tanks, a huge walled tent, stoves, and sleeping bags. While at camp, they will set up the gear they’re bringing, participate in work crews, and make supply runs. Shifting from one big bus trip to two smaller supply runs has allowed volunteers to remain more flexible with timing (our winter weather sure hasn’t been cooperative!) and to show up in solidarity in ways that are requested by and accountable to indigenous leadership. We could still use your support! All of the funds that we collectively raise will be used to purchase additional top priority supplies for the water protectors at Standing Rock, such as firewood and propane.


After we decided not to take an entire bus to Standing Rock, many of the folks who had planned to be on that bus gathered in Cottage Grove to discuss the ways that rural Oregon could continue to stand with Standing Rock. An amazing crew of riders from Klamath, Jackson, and Josephine Counties decided to organize a rally in Grants Pass to urge people to withdraw their money out of Wells Fargo, a major funder of DAPL.



On December 15th, dozens of people gathered outside of the Grants Pass Wells Fargo with banners and a megaphone, engaging customers in conversations about the connections between the bank and DAPL, and the impact on the Standing Rock Tribe! This action in Grants Pass was one of hundreds of events planned in December as part of a global month of solidarity for Standing Rock.


Now is critical chance for water protectors to defeat DAPL! On January 1st, the contract for the pipeline expired, which means investors and oil buyers are now able to end their relationship with DAPL. Continued visible pressure on investors like Wells Fargo and US Bank could further weaken DAPL during a time when water protectors have already succeeded in an
unprecedented victory.


unnamed-2Divestment campaigns work by starving an unethical company from their main motivation for doing harm: money. Because our money is connected to DAPL through the places we do business at home, divestment is a campaign that we can hold in our small towns, with our neighbors and elected officials. Public colleges and town budgets are often invested in banks like Wells Fargo. Many people across the country are now standing with Standing Rock by pressuring their elected officials to move public money away from funding DAPLNow is a great time to move your own money (be sure to share with your friends, neighbors, and on social media!), hold a rally outside of your local branch of one of the major banks that hope to profit from DAPL, or talk to your local elected officials about where public money is being held and invested.


The struggle in Standing Rock has felt deeply personal for many people across Southern Oregon, where we’ve been engaged in our own struggle to stop the Jordan Cove Project and Pacific Connector Pipeline, a 234-mile fracked gas pipeline that would cross all the major rivers in the Southern half of the state. The pipeline would go under the Klamath River, impacting tribal communities from the Klamath Basin to the Yurok reservation at the mouth of river in Northern California.


Many people from throughout the Klamath watershed spoke out against the pipeline here at home, and also put their lives on the line traveling to Standing Rock and supporting the resistance there. While I was in North Dakota I got an exciting call from home — the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission upheld their decision to deny Pacific Connector — we won! This is the first natural gas export pipeline in the US to be denied by FERC. As with DAPL, the fight to stop fracked gas export through Southern Oregon and Coos County is not over: the Trump administration could overturn this decision. If this happens, it will be critical that we stand with water protectors here at home.


The fight for clean water continues across the country, including in Flint where folks still are still hauling bottled water home because of the lead in their tap water. As we continue to send love and resources to water protectors in Standing Rock, we must also look to the land we live on. This is an opportunity to connect the dots between the fights for Indigenous lands and clean water in Standing Rock to what is happening in our hometowns. This is a crucial moment for human dignity groups to build relationships with Indigenous and Native communities and leadership locally. Seek out the unsung stories about the longer history of where we live. How can we be showing up locally for human dignity and justice? When we allow the fight to change us, to build our resolve for community and solidarity here at home, that becomes one lasting legacy of the sacrifices that people have made at Standing Rock. Water and life depends on it!




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