It hit me hard for a bunch of reasons. One, I was walking with my son. We had just been in a toy shop to get some balloons and he was attracted intensely--as I was at his age--to the war toys. There was an attack helicopter that flashed lights and yelped "Incoming! Incoming!" There was a tank with a turret that revolved as it moved. There were water pistols that looked like Colt 45's. All this stuff --Chinese made, of course--would have been tremendously appealing to me as a kid. I guess the hunter/warrior is there in most of us. But I was wary of the toys--first, because while we were specifically there for balloons, we don't indulge in freelance shopping. Second, because his mum objects to war toys on principle--(& despises shopping as a recreational activity: a healthy attitude if you live in Freeport ME, with a downtown that is basically an outlet mall, and the most popular tourist destination! in an otherwise beautiful state.)
Anyway I was thinking about boys, toys, and war. Such thoughts were making me aware of my own vulnerability as a parent. Also, I've been reading Seymour Hersch's piece in the New Yorker, "The Scene of the Crime", about visiting My Lai, 45 years after he broke the story of what happened there.
Seeing the Chevy was just another reminder of how that war entered so many lives, so long ago, and how for so many--in Viet Nam, and here in America--it still lingers in the bloodstream.
I don't think it was different than any other war. I began to see as I got older--and as they got older, and let their guards down, a little--how much the men and women of my parents' generation had been shaped by their war.
Hersch writes clearly and lets no one off the hook for what happened at My Lai, including the generals, including Robert McNamara. Including us. We're all Americans. What's done by our soldiers in done in our name, and we own the responsibility for it. So we had better try to be clear and honest with ourselves about what we are doing in our foreign adventures, and why. Because somewhere along the way it seems there is always a terrible price to be paid.