This will be Camera 787.
Camera 787 Sound
Sound 13. Clapsticks.
mentioning the difference of draftees and enlisted people, how easy it
was when I was in the States for people to get in fights over whether or
not they were drafted or if they were enlisted. You might be in a bar
and if you had nothing else to fight about, you would fractionalize
yourself into groups of being... of the draftees and what they called
"lifers." It didn't matter if somebody only signed up for only three
years, anybody who'd signed up was a lifer.
so that was the stigma you placed on them. You know, you've got to give
everybody a name that you're going to hate. They were lifers, okay. We
were just um grunts, and ah it was like the grunts vs. the lifers in the
bar, and every time you wanted to fight, if you got you know, you just
got in the mood to fight, you'd call somebody a lifer, they'd call you a
grunt and you'd start fighting over it I mean people would punch each
other's faces off for no other reason than one had signed up and one was
When I got to Vietnam it was like a totally different thing. That
subject hardly ever came up. And when it did, it was just a matter of
conversation. Nobody was looking to fight or punch each other out over
some ridiculous thing, whether they were drafted or or whether they had
signed up. There was see there was just more important things to do and
more important things to concentrate on. Ah, people wanted to to simply
do the job, hang out and stay alive, get back home. Ah, it was much more
a camaraderie that had developed when a group of people were in a, you
know, halfway around the world, you have ah more important things to do
and naturally, I think, there was a glue that held you together.
were much more friendly towards each other than ah than in the States.
The same thing was true, I think, with respect to uh race, as far as I
was... people in bars... if they weren't going to fight over being
drafted or being volunteers, or they'd fight over race. Race problems
were prominent at the time when I was in the service. Especially in
, it was... you
couldn't go in a bar without fighting because of race. And so
consequently, you decide not to go. That was not the case in Vietnam. It
seemed to be much more of a brotherhood.
People... because people understood that, you know, it was important to
stay alive and and life was more important and that ah the color of
one's skin was irrelevant to staying alive. And they would forget all of
those stupid, irrelevant things that they would ordinarily fight about.
They would get together, you know, and identify with each other's
commonalities I guess you might say. And they'd ah it was a great ah,
it's just almost a shame that um you can't have a Vietnam, you know and
have everybody go to Vietnam without the killing.
Cause it would bring people together. It would open people's eyes.
‘Cause I learned in two years about racism and people being
fractionalized and dehumanization and loss of life and things like that.
It just you don't go through an experience like that without it sticking
with you. Without it effecting everything you think or do for the rest
of your whole life. Ah, and when I've been bothered today with the
advocacy movement and disabled movement in this country, it all I think
reflects from my experiences in Vietnam. And none of it hardly at all
reflects from anything before that. It was all...it was as if my life
really began at the time I got shot.
From the bullet severing my spinal cord, it was almost as if my whole
future opened up in front of me. You know, it was like the Red Sea
opening, almost, you know. I knew where I was going, almost. It took me
a little while to get my own self together, it took me awhile to regain
my self-respect, and the respect of others after I'd been shot. I came
back home, and I remember like trying to get those people who loved me
to hate me, because I think I hated myself. I didn't like my new body
image. I was... I wanted to be the 6'2", 190 lb macho dude that I was
before. And I wasn't... and I wasn't ever going to be that.
I went through that traumatic physical thing. And nobody ever thinks
seemed to put much emphasis on the mental trauma that I was going
through or that Vietnam vets were going through. It was as if, they just
when you got back, they wanted to forget you. They wanted to almost, you
know, they actually dehumanize you in the process. That you have almost
given your life, and 56,000 people did to save people, at least those
young people who died there, died for reasons in their mind that were
totally different from the reasons of the politicians that sent us there
see, they died to really save these people, to help them, to upgrade the
quality of their lives. They died for good reasons. They weren't bad
people. But the people back here, because you were identified as a
loser, you were dehumanized, you were degraded. You were treated as...
with disrespect. I mean you were spat on in bars. People would want to
pick fights with you when they found out you were a Vietnam vet. People
want to argue the pros and the cons about it without understanding
anything about it.
much less understanding what went on in your own mind and you own life,
what you had experienced. They had no idea of that. They wanted to treat
you physically, because that's all they could identify with. Your
physical bodies. And what they did was, they didn't like your physical
body, they didn't like your physical presence, they totally ignored the
mental, your emotional state. They start... they would start
stigmatizing you as a disabled person. Once you were disabled... by
putting negative connotations to the things they talked about like "you
are now confined to a wheelchair."
took me years to realize that I wasn't confined to this chair. That I
didn't bathe in it, I didn't sleep in it. That I didn't make love in it.
That I didn't get in my car. You know, I'm not confined to my chair. I'm
more confined to the shoes on my feet, but those people – the medical
people – say that I'm confined to my chair. I mean they started
confining me, restricting me in their minds because to them I was
confined. I was restricted, I was a pathetic. I was a handicap, I was a
mean it was sick what they were laying on these people. Instead of like
giving them programs to put them back into the mainstream of life, to
give them jobs that they could pay taxes, they want to sustain them on
benefits. You know, money. Give them money. We don't know any other way.
It's the American way. You know, it's either technology or money. But no
feelings. No feelings. Nobody nobody wanted to identify or talk, you
know try to help you emotionally. It was like he's a pathetic, put him
in a wheelchair, call him confined, dump some money on him and he'll be
And that that was our system. That's how we treated our disabled vets.
And and you wonder why, you know, so many disabled vets have a hard
time. Because nobody's treating, you know, what's bothering them.
They're over their wounds. I mean you get over your wounds fast. I was I
was healthy three months after I was shot. But emotionally, it took me
eight years to finally be willing to try to get a job. It was eight
years after I got shot, I was still sitting in a parking lot, afraid to
get in my wheelchair, out of my car because the public was coming by.
Walking by. I mean, I sat there in that car, thinking Jesus Christ, I'm
shaking here in this car because I'm afraid to get out of my car and my
wheelchair ‘cause I'm so ashamed of the way I look. And why am I ashamed
of the way I look? Because I've been trained by the medical people to be
ashamed by the way I look. Because every time I go down the street
people stare at me because I'm a deviant. Because they've been trained
to think of you as deviant. I mean I I'm obviously so pathetic I'm
And then I started realizing I'm really not confined. This wheelchair
is not a confining object. It's a liberating object. It's the thing that
gives me the freedom that I have. If I didn't have the chair I'd really
know what confinement was about. It's not... I’m not confined to this
chair, it's the thing that liberates me. But people want to to push you
in a corner, to put you in that ungeneral population, to keep you there,
to keep you down as a second-class citizen. You know, the the ironic...
not ironic but the odd thing about it is that it's not an intentional
systematic thing – well, it is systematic.
But it's not intentional. And people I've learned from the time I was
in the VA hospital ah until today, that once somebody has a policy,
they'll do anything to maintain that policy, no matter how stupid the
policy. They will create a policy bearing on peoples' lives, and I'm
talking about disabled people, there's thousands of policies dealing
with disabled people without ever asking disabled people what the hell
their needs are.
They will make policies without ever being aware of what their needs
are. You know, not being aware of what their needs are, they can't ever
be sensitive to them or insensitive to them. They're totally
oblivi—oblivious to them. And I'll tell you, if it's if it's one thing
worse than somebody treating you badly, it's somebody ignoring you
completely. Just, you know. And ignoring your needs completely. Total