London— On the way to looking for something else, I came across some stories about a new documentary film about Vietnam. Except it wasn’t filmed in Vietnam (save for a few snippets) and it records only play-acting by people most who have never been to Southeast Asia. By several accounts, it’s a fascinating glimpse at the latest in America’s endless effort to come to terms with the Vietnam War.
It’s a reality show set among the pines of Oregon.
The movie is called “In Country,” and debuted in New York the other day. It follows the meticulous re-enactment of Vietnam war battles by a group of aficionados. Some of the participants are veterans of the era. Others took part in other conflicts among our now copious and growing list. Still others are newbies who want to see what combat like, sort of. Maybe Bill O’Reilly and Brian Williams ought to go.
It’s evident that the debate about Vietnam, a war fought based on a series of false assumptions (and the falsehood of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution) won’t end until the last Baby Boomer has gone to that great Call-in Talk Show in the Sky. And why not? Around 58,000 American troops died. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese. It was a war that ripped up Viet-Nam and tore apart the American social and political fabric.
We’ll get to hear more about it again now that Baby Boomer and anti-war activist Hillary Clinton is running for President. Something along the lines of, “How can that wife of wimpy draft dodger Bill Clinton keep our country safe?” So why re-enact?
The popular Civil War re-enactments are usually light-hearted, picnicky affairs that attract history buffs. This seems different– a combination of cathartic adventure, a chance for gung-ho camaraderie and a safe if noisy introduction to war (something like my basic training forty-some years ago, except on occasion we did use live ammo and grenades and had to withstand a dose of real tear gas). Or maybe the war game is really just another excuse to get away from the wife and kids for the weekend.
In another couple of decades, we’ll probably have some similar activity based on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Set it up in Palm Springs? Who gets to play Chris Kyle?
Oh, wait. We won’t need that. There are already more than two-dozen video games set in Iraq and a dozen and a half in Afghanistan. Imagine when you can play one through your Google glasses! Or can you do that already?
Here’s a trailer of “In Country.”
And a review.
Salon provides an overwrought opinion piece somehow linking this to the Republicans.