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Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam (MacColl)

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Wolfgang 11 Feb 00 - 06:59 AM
Mary G 11 Feb 00 - 11:27 PM
Brendy 11 Feb 00 - 11:36 PM
MarkS 12 Feb 00 - 12:23 AM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Feb 00 - 08:24 PM
canoer 12 Feb 00 - 10:11 PM
Wolfgang 17 Feb 00 - 07:26 AM
Mary G 17 Feb 00 - 09:12 PM
Amos 17 Feb 00 - 09:16 PM
McGrath of Harlow 17 Feb 00 - 09:30 PM
Amos 17 Feb 00 - 09:34 PM
Sorcha 17 Feb 00 - 09:37 PM
Amos 17 Feb 00 - 09:55 PM
freight train 18 Feb 00 - 12:43 PM
canoer 18 Feb 00 - 03:20 PM
McGrath of Harlow 18 Feb 00 - 06:43 PM
Amos 18 Feb 00 - 07:25 PM
Greg F. 19 Feb 00 - 09:37 PM
joeler 20 Feb 00 - 12:46 AM
McGrath of Harlow 20 Feb 00 - 07:05 AM
MarkS 21 Feb 00 - 12:19 AM
McGrath of Harlow 21 Feb 00 - 10:02 PM
GUEST,Jonathan 27 Feb 00 - 08:45 AM
McGrath of Harlow 27 Feb 00 - 11:09 AM
Amos 27 Feb 00 - 12:12 PM
Greg F. 27 Feb 00 - 08:57 PM
canoer 27 Feb 00 - 11:47 PM
McGrath of Harlow 28 Feb 00 - 08:48 PM
Greg F. 28 Feb 00 - 09:53 PM
canoer 28 Feb 00 - 10:08 PM
canoer 28 Feb 00 - 10:12 PM
McGrath of Harlow 29 Feb 00 - 10:07 PM
Wolfgang 17 Mar 04 - 06:59 AM
Steve in Idaho 17 Mar 04 - 09:43 AM
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Subject: Lyr Add: THE FIELDS OF VIETNAM (Ewan MacColl)
From: Wolfgang
Date: 11 Feb 00 - 06:59 AM

Now with the recent interest in Vietnam songs, I just had to post this. It made an enormous impression on me then, now I have some second thoughts. But I still like it. Found, e.g., on 'We have met together' with Mick Moloney.

Wolfgang

THE FIELDS OF VIETNAM
(Ewan MacColl)

Oh brothers though we're strangers and your land and mine are far apart,
and though your name lies awkwardly and strange upon my tongue.
As the needle's drawn towards the pole,
so I am drawn both heart and soul,
to sing of your great struggle in the fields of Vietnam.

Your barefoot farmers would not wear the yoke and chains of slavery -
for four long bitter years they fought the armies of Japan;
your flesh opposed their armoured might
you harried them by day and night -
and you drove them from the jungles and the fields of Vietnam.

Before you could draw peaceful breath more death was raining from he skies,
the French came, and for nine more years your land they overran;
but the enemy could not subdue.
They broke at Dien Bien Phu -
and their dead lay all around them in the fields of Vietnam.

The French had scarcely left your shores when more invading armies came,
equipped with all the latest tools men use to kill a man;
?We've come to show you," was their cry,
?all the ways a man can die -
and we'll make a bloody desert of the fields of Vietnam."

The skies by day were dark with planes, with hungry flames the nights were red,
the stench of death lay on the air with reek of spent napalm;
death bloomed in every paddy field,
and still your people would not yield -
to American invaders in the fields of Vietnam.

For thirteen years the U.S. Army's sown your soil with blood and tears,
impartially they deal out death to women, child and man,
and still no victory - instead
they count their own dishonoured dead,
and contempt's their only harvest in the fields of Vietnam.

O, brothers, where did you find the strength to fight so long for freedom's cause?
A quarter-century has passed since first your fight began;
long have you fought, and valiantly,
and as long as men love liberty -
they will sing of your great struggle the fields of Vietnam.
^^


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: Mary G
Date: 11 Feb 00 - 11:27 PM

I am a veteran and I find that song extremely offensive...the part about the dishonored American dead. When people post these things and say these things, do they think, do they care, or are they deliberately trying to wound those who lost the "dishonored" dead.

mg


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: Brendy
Date: 11 Feb 00 - 11:36 PM

Ang to think, Mary G. if you hadn't opened this thread, you wouldn't have had to read the song, and you wouldn't have been offended.
I suppose if your government hadn't gone into Veitnam, you wouldn't have been a veteran, and there would have been no songs about it.
B.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: MarkS
Date: 12 Feb 00 - 12:23 AM

It is curious that Ewan MacColl never found time to mention the role of the NVA and the modest part they played in the drama. And has anybody written a song about the Boat People? One wonders.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Feb 00 - 08:24 PM

The wars against Vietnam were a tragedy, and the main victims were the civilians who were slaughtered, and driven from their homes.

There were other victims, and the young men from Japan and France and America and Australia who were sent there, and the Vietnamese who fought on both sides were some of them. Including some who did terrible things which they would never have done in different circumstances.

And the villains? Politicians and war leaders and generals and patriots, in all the countries involved.

"Dishonoured dead"? I think the song would be better without that verse. And yet that is how many Vets have said they were made to feel when they came back home - treated as if they were to blame for a war that America wanted to forget.

What has impressed me from what I have heard about Vietnam is the extent to which ordinary Vietnamese do not seem to hate Americans, including American ex-soldiers. As I understand it, they recognise them as fellow victims of a cruel war.

And I think that Vets, even those who may still believe this was a "Just War" by America, owe it to them to recognise that the enemy they fought was incredibly brave, and suffered even worse than they did.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: canoer
Date: 12 Feb 00 - 10:11 PM

Dear Mary, if you happen to come back;

I've read a few of your other posts.

It breaks my heart, this fierce divide felt between some vets who fought in the war, and some of us who fought against the war.

I'll probably say this way too clumsily.

I hate the divide as much as I hated the war. What I fought against was the war. I did not fight against those who had to go. The teen-agers who were sent from here to the foxholes and emplacements, who were put into situations where they had to do terrible things and have terrible things done to them ? they were, and still are, victims of all the various devastations of war. The number of deaths of veterans by suicide, in these years after the war, amounts to more than the number whose names are on the Wall.

Does it change anything that the people and the land of Vietnam were and are victims at a rate maybe 500,000 times greater? Does that for some reason make the wounds and suffering of American vets less painful? Or more to be ignored or slighted? Sometimes I do hear that tone in discussions like this. But I don't agree. Folk music, founded as it is on the experience of the common people, includes in its records the experiences of soldiers sent to battle and death by powers both high above them and alien to them. Some of the most moving songs are those written without regard for which side was right and which side was wrong ? just a sympathy for what the common soldier has to endure. On both sides.

Viet Nam can be seen in the same way.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: Wolfgang
Date: 17 Feb 00 - 07:26 AM

I had not the slightest intention to deliberately hurt anyone by posting these lyrics. If I have done that, I'm very sorry.
Many if not all good songs telling a tale are one-sided. I could imagine a great song about the boat people, but I can't imagine that adding verses about the NVA or the boat people for the sake of balance would make anything else but ruin the above song. Just try to imagine any old ballad with added verses à la "now let's hear the story from the other side".
MacColl's song expresses beautifully how many youths in Europe (including me) felt about that war then.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: Mary G
Date: 17 Feb 00 - 09:12 PM

I would ask you or anyone else to please not sing that song out of respect for the dishonored dead. But if you do, sing it knowing exactly what you are doing to their comrades. And don't bother to ask why there are so many veterans of that war sleeping under bridges and in jail and dead of suicide. Because, ladies and gentlemen, that is why. mg


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: Amos
Date: 17 Feb 00 - 09:16 PM

Hard cases, hard facts; the dead on both sides were dishonored many times over during and since. Let us not further division if instead we can extend our compassion to all those who bore (and still bear) the pain of it, honor those who were left behind and try to use what we have to build a better alternative. ABove all, may it never recur.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 17 Feb 00 - 09:30 PM

Well said Amos. The essential thing is to avoid the mistakes of the past, and where possible undo some of the evil effects which linger on. But I think it is important for Americans to recognise that the suffering in Vietnam, has been, and still is in many ways, vastly greater than anything that has ever been known in the States, in any war.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: Amos
Date: 17 Feb 00 - 09:34 PM

It would probably help in recognizing the breadth of suffering (in any war), to notice the pain on both sides no matter how much of it was on your own. War is an imbecilic, catastrophic thing to begin.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: Sorcha
Date: 17 Feb 00 - 09:37 PM

<Á>ine--I am not responsible for this. I, for one, did not want any Viet Nam thread (re)opened. It is still too painful for too many of us.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: Amos
Date: 17 Feb 00 - 09:55 PM

Mary:

I will not sing this song. Not just because of your words, although that is why I am saying so, but because I feel nothing is harder to dissolve than the terrible wounds of loss, terror, calamity, anger, bitterness, grief, physical numbness and all around brokenness that comes from such experiences as Vietnam. I respect what you say about those who went to far places, faced the ultimate terror, and came home to have it thrown in their faces. I hope you can see and extend compassion, as well, for others whose pains have different forms but are no less deep, and no less real, and need as much healing.

With fond regards,

Amos


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: freight train
Date: 18 Feb 00 - 12:43 PM

Hi folks, being a vet I can honestly say that it has taken years to put the Vietnam incident behind me and begin living a better life. We went and did what we were told many of us without thinking of the repercussions. Luckily I can home to be treated like a leper. Now I have respect for those who protested and I can feel for those that were injured to killed in the process as in the Kent state incident. We all have to put the bad times behind us and help each other in the healing process. Music cannot be censored. I don't care for the wording in the song and being a folk singer don't think I will ever perform it but only out of personal reasons and not just what the words try and say. To all the vets out there that read this if they didn't say it then, then its never to late, Welcome Home.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: canoer
Date: 18 Feb 00 - 03:20 PM

Here's to you, 'train.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Feb 00 - 06:43 PM

"We all have to put the bad times behind us and help each other in the healing process." And "each other " includes the people who were "on the other side", soldiers fighting on both sides, civilians killed on both sides, refugees driven from their homes on both sides, children still growing up with terrible diseases caused by chemical weapons. Most of these in Vietnam.

And my understanding is that that is what is now happening, after a long shameful period when the powers that be tried to turn their back, both by ignoring the situation of those Vets in America who had been damaged by the war in their ability to cope, and through a boycott of Vietnam and a refusal of any kind of help.

Inevitably, as someone who grew up during the Blitz, my first sympathies were always to the people in the bomb shelters rather than the people doing the bombing, and for me - as for most people in the anti-war movement in England, "Hey Hey LBJ - how many kids did you kill today" was primarily about children in Vietnam rather than about American conscripts, though it was about them as well.

But I never joined in chants of "Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, We shall fight and we shall win" - for me the war was the enemy not the soldiers, not the soldiers on either side, and the people in Vietnam I identified with were the ones who opposed the war, and were killed by both sides.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: Amos
Date: 18 Feb 00 - 07:25 PM

Here's to you, McGrath!


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Subject: Lyr Add: TOMMY (Rudyard Kipling)
From: Greg F.
Date: 19 Feb 00 - 09:37 PM

Mary & all-
A grand example of 'thread creep' I suppose, but possibly germaine to the discussion- some historical perspective on the treatment of soldiers of whatever ilk: [hope I haven't messed up the formatting]

TOMMY
(Rudyard Kipling)


I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!



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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: joeler
Date: 20 Feb 00 - 12:46 AM

I spent twenty-seven months in Vietnam and what I hope came out of the whole mess was that we would never make that mistake again. The country said, "We will not do this again", and you know what, we never did. The gut retching feelings of those times will never be forgotten by anyone who ever kissed the terror and agony of the horrors of that war. To every man or woman who has ever served his/her country, right, or wrong,or whatever, I salute you. Joel Wise Lathrup Village, Michigan 2000


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 Feb 00 - 07:05 AM

The Barrack Room Ballad which is more immediately relevant to the song that started the thread is "Fuzzy-Wuzzy" - a tribute put in the mouth of a Tommy to the enemy in a colonial war in the Sudan.

And I don't think anyone has thought that this was an insult to the British soldiers who fought in that war:

"We've fought with many men acrost the sea
An' some of them was brave and some was not:
The Paythan and the Zulu and Burmese:
But the Fuzzy was the finest of the lot.
We never got a hap'orth change of him, 'E squatted in the scruib an 'ocked our 'orses, 'E cut our sentries up at Suakim, An' 'e played the cat and banjo with our forces. ... Then 'ere's to you Fuzzy Wuzzy, an the missus and the kid;
Our orders were to break you, and of course we went an did
We sloshed you with Martinis, and it wasn't 'ardly fair, But for all the odds against you, Fuzzy-Wuz, you broke the square."

For the rest of it (and the rest of Barrack Room Ballads), try here


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: MarkS
Date: 21 Feb 00 - 12:19 AM

Speaking of protest songs and Kipling, can't help but wonder if "The Widow at Windsor" might qualify as the as the original.

"Walk wide of the Widow at Windsor, "With her hairy gold crown on her head," etc MarkS


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 21 Feb 00 - 10:02 PM

I's an odd un - on the one hand Kipling is saying "watch out what you're doing, or Queen Victoria's soldiers are going to come and get you." Straight imperialism.

But at the same time, since in stead of speaking in his own voice, he puts it in the mouth of a Tommy, the effect is to bring out the human cost which is involved, so that it's bitter rather than triumphalist. Or both at the same time.

Kipling was a much more complicated and subtle writer than people often assume. He often gets quoted out of context and misunderstood. (For example it's often assumed that when he wrote "lesser breeds without the law" he was being insulting about Indians and Africans - but in fact the "lesser breeds" he was talking about were the Germans.)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: GUEST,Jonathan
Date: 27 Feb 00 - 08:45 AM

Who was it said 'Old men make wars for young men to die in'? Or was it 'to fight?'. Going back to McColl's lyrics, this is one that I for one would have none of......Redgum's 'Walk in the light green' is better, and less tainted by one-sided value judgements. It was the politicians who were dishonoured by Vietnam.

Funny, I don't have a problem with the completely partisan 'Jamie Foyers', though! Aye, that's Fascism for you!'

Jonathan


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 Feb 00 - 11:09 AM

The politicians, and the people who put them in power.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: Amos
Date: 27 Feb 00 - 12:12 PM

When only psychos vote, or run for office, democracy is ruled by psychos.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: Greg F.
Date: 27 Feb 00 - 08:57 PM

Puts me in mind of a saying of Bruce Murdoch's (see previous thread) ca. 1966:
BR>"The government may be full of s**t,
But its the people who put it there."

At least as true today, if not more so.

Best, Greg


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: canoer
Date: 27 Feb 00 - 11:47 PM

Greg, the people have damn little choice in deciding who are pre-selected to be our only choices (tweedledum or tweedledee). And no choice at all in the army of government appointees who actually run everything.

Unless Bruce disbelieves that "Money talks."


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 08:48 PM

From what I read in the papers the acting Russian President Putin is reckoned to be a sure fire winner in the coming election, basically because the war in Chechyna is popular.

The trouble,is, at certain times, people really do like to have their country involved in foreign wars which they assume will be won easily. Wars only become unpopular when the human cost at home builds to too high a level, or maybe when accurate media coverage of the carnage sickens enough people at home. Both these things happened in the American war on Vietnam. It didn't happen in the British war against Argentina, and we had the most unplesant givernment of the 20th century round our neck for a generation as a consequence.

Polticians know this kind of thing, and take advantage of it. But I think it is as true to see them as pandering to a public that sees war as a kind of extension of show business rather as it is to see them as driving a reluctant public into accepting war.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: Greg F.
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 09:53 PM

Canoer-

Sorry to see that you've given up. :)

Can't (and wouldn't)speak for Bruce, but I'm hardly naive about political realities. But that doesn't mean we should throw up our hands & turn things over to Amos' psychos, does it?

McGrath'd 'pandering' point is well taken.
BR> Best, Greg


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: canoer
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 10:08 PM

Hi McGrath, it's nice to read posts by someone as interested in politics as I am. We can just bore everyone else to tears, huh?

I think there are "the public," and then there are "the public." What I mean is there are differences of opinion, sometimes in many shades, across the spectrum of the poor, working, and middle classes that comprise "the public." It's real handy for politicians and others, who prefer that "the public" be viewed as contemptible and backward, to take one section of "opinion" (the section they prefer) and promote it as representing all of "the public." Resistance to the war in Vietnam, for instance, was widespread from the first among the U.S. black population. And, the manufactured "hard hat" image notwithstanding, it was the workingclass communities which voted most strongly, when referenda made the ballot, to "leave the Vietnamese to manage their own affairs." (wording of a ballot ref back then in Dearborn, MI).

'Nuf for now. Cheers! ?Larry C.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: canoer
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 10:12 PM

Thanks for the re-invite, Greg, it's just that I'm so darn slow on these newfangled inventions. :-)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 10:07 PM

The resistance to the Vietnam War in America was enormously impressive and moving, and pretty well unique. The downside to it perhaps was that the sense that traumatised returning servicemen felt rejected and dishonoured because people saw them as perpetrators of the war rather than as victims of it.

In time people understood this, and gestures of reconcilation like the memorial wall helped heal some lf the wounds.

But the downside of this seems to have been an tendency for Americans to focus on the wounds that America had inflicted on itself, and to turn away from the wounds that had been inflicted on a small country far away, which had been devastated, and yet was still for so many years treated as an enemy to be punished. Reconciiation has to take all this fully into account.

That includes honouring the people who fought in Vietnam against the Americans, the French and the Japanese. Ewan MacColl's song was an attempt to do that in a time of war, and in a spirit of war.

I'd like to see a song doing the same thing in a time of peace and a spirit of peace.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: Wolfgang
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 06:59 AM

I have no intention to reopen the old wounds. But for the sake of completeness, the MacColl songbook writes that the tune is trad. from 'Grand conversation on Napoleon'.

There are some similarities of MacColl's tune as I know it with the tune for 'Grand conversation of Napoleon' in the DT, but only in some lines.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Fields of Vietnam
From: Steve in Idaho
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 09:43 AM

I'll add my .02 - as a ground pounder in the war I never thought of the Viet Cong, or the NVA, as anything but fine troops. They were respected by us as folks not to be taken lightly. We called them Mister Charles.

The song doesn't open any old wounds for me. I struggled with the "dishonored dead" part though. It's always odd though to see how others perceived the struggle and acknowledged the other side. Many of my old unit have returned to Viet Nam and say that the warriors we encountered are just like us now. Some have forgiven, some are still angry, and some are dead in the same way we have passed since the war. By and large the Vietnamese have welcomed us back.

As one who fought in the war and then fought against the war I've always felt like I was a person divided. And still do in some ways when I encounter veterans continuing to struggle with racism, bitterness at our coming home, and the tragic memories of our times over there.

In some ways this country is still very much divided over the war. I would cite the example of Senator Kerry's service and President Bush's service. It brought a lot of ugly back out and I suspect that division will haunt our generation to our graves.

Bottom line I am proud of my service to my country. On both sides of the war. Was I always honorable over there? No. Was I always right? No. And do I continue the struggle? Yes. I don't think I could sing the song but certainly understand its intent. Thanks for posting it Wolfgang - we need to see other views and accept them as such. Doesn't make it right or wrong - just another view.

Steve


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