During Vietnam, I used to argue frequently and bitterly with my father. A Stevenson Democrat but a World War II vet, he didn’t want to believe the USA was wrong about Vietnam or, worse, on the wrong side (as I did). Eventually, he came around, in part I’m sure because almost everyone he knew agreed with me. But I was never certain his conversion was real.
Norman Simon died over 18 years ago; he would have been 90 this summer. So I never had a chance to discuss the aftermath of Vietnam with him (the millions estimated murdered by the communist regime, etc.) and the beginnings of my own revisionist thinking. Or maybe I didn’t want to. But I was wondering last night what my father would have made of his party’s convention and the speech of its nominee – the bizarre spectacle of a man parading his war bravery when he allegedly opposed that war. I also missed my father tremendously; miss him more now than I have in years. He was a radiologist and worked at one time for the Atomic Energy Commission, helping to prepare for the horrific possibility of nuclear attack. (He treated the Hiroshima ladies.) I thought his view of things was too simple then, not sufficiently nuanced in modern parlance, yet he was one of the smartest people I ever met, inventor of operations to cure cancer of the cervix and an expert in Pre-Columbian art. I have a strong suspicion he would have seen at the convention what I did – his Democratic Party morphing into the Isolationist Party, while pretending it hadn’t. So I guess I’m writing all this to apologize to him. I can’t say for sure I was entirely wrong about Vietnam, but I’m willing to entertain the idea (how’s that for nuance?)
(photo above is by Ruth Orkin)