Sunday, July 2, 2017

Validation of the creative process and mind.

There must be something in the water or the food I've eaten since a few days ago when I posted my bi-annual blog.  But I was on the internet doing some research; looking for some reviews on some of my plays.  I came across an article that was a scholarly study done in the early 1990's on the effects of Black men in Vietnam.  That's great because I'm a Vietnam veteran who mostly keeps it confidential because people don't seem to be interested in looking back at or studying that time of military and racial animosity mainly  because it was a dark time for America dealing with a very unpopular war.  But what surprised me the most about this article entitled  A White Man's War: Race Issues and Vietnam was the fact that my fictional play, "L.B.J. (Long Bien Jail)" was quoted extensively throughout the massive scholarly document.  What an honor!  What a surprise! What an epiphany!  I'm sure I gave my permission for one of the authors to quote from my play, but knowing how low-keyed I've been with accolades and awards from my many plays, I never thought of using it to market or promote myself; possibly even forgetting about it.  Probably to my own detriment; keeping me off theater honoring websites and theater producers contact list.  But I was told many years ago that the "work" will always find its way and the playwright doesn't always have to spend a lot of timing crowing about what a good writer they are.  LOL!  That's somewhat true, but it also can be a way to keep producers and artistic directors from searching out someone they've never heard of.  Oh well... Anyway, I'm so proud of this old study.  I actually cut and pasted nine pages of a 165 page dissertation.  And I'm posting it on this blog.  


Vietnam Generation Volume 1 Number 2 A White Man's War: Race Issues and Vietnam Article 1 4-1989 A White Man's War: Race Issues and Vietnam William M. King
Three plays by black veterans, set in-country during the peak of racial tensions in 1968, dramatize the anger and the frustration of black soldiers who consider themselves patriotic Americans, but who find themselves at odds with the society for which they are fighting. Fred Gamel’s Wasted (1984) involves a fragging plot on the night that troops in Vietnam learned of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Charles Michael Moore’s The Hooch (1978) takes place several weeks after King’s death, as inter-racial tension between bunkmates builds toward violence. Jamal’s LBJ (1986) recreates one of the most infamous prison riots in Army history in which 200 black inmates gained control of Long Binh Jail and injured scores of white prisoners. In all three plays, black moderates are tom between a moral vision of racial tolerance and an emotional bond with their militant brothers. In Wasted, a black sergeant named Bassett must decide whether or not he will conceal a plot by one of his men to frag a white “nigger-hating” sergeant in symbolic retaliation for the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. In a climactic scene, Bassett vents the frustration of a moral man and a loyal citizen fighting in a war he knows is no longer 46 Vietnam Generation his own: What’s supposed to be eating me...a leader of my people gets wasted in the land of the PX, nobody even sends word of it to us at the firebase...we get a deadhead nigger-hater for a platoon sergeant.... I’m fighting a war for a country where I’m a second-class citizen...and I'm supposed to sail on like nothing’s ever been wrong in my life.38 Although Bassett remains reluctant to halt the fragging of a white racist, he must eventually shoot a black soldier to end the escalating tension on the base camp. Charles Michael Moore’s The Hooch is also set within a basecamp tense over racial issues, where black grunts guard a military radar unit controlled by while technicians. The symbolic significance of this hierarchy is unveiled late in the play when a black soldier discovers that the equipment on the hill, which the whites have carefully hidden and which the blacks are expected to give their lives to protect, is a worthless invention which has never worked and which the white technicians do not know how to repair. The radar unit on the hill, like America’s involvement in Vietnam, is unveiled as a white man’s cause, and a worthless one at that, for which blacks are expected to die. The black soldier who discovers this folly is a radar specialist— the first black to hold such a position on this base. His name is Corporal Promus (i.e.. Promise), and he is a redemptive figure of high moral fortitude, racial tolerance, and intelligence. In revealing the false god on the hill, he manages to disarm the aggression building between blacks and whites in camp. His philosophy is a simple one: “What goes around, comes around.” He convinces a fellow black soldier not to sink to the level of the white racists by shooting a white corporal who they believe has killed one of the black grunts. In Jamal’s LBJ, an unlikely inter-racial trio of prisoners band together in the face of certain death by rampaging black inmates. Wade is a level-headed but independent-minded black who has made an enemy of Big Man, the dangerous leader of the rioters. Wade is forced to share a hiding place with Chacon, a Chicano who is generally friendly with neither whites nor blacks, and Christopherson, a white pacifist. These three are trapped together inside Long Birth Jail during the race riots of 1968. By calling an end to their petty differences and combining forces, they defeat Big Man and his murderous cohort. Weasel. The message, as in The Hooch and Wasted is one of interracial solidarity and tolerance as an alternative to white or black extremism. Soldados Razos 47 Juxtaposed against the moderate protagonists in all three of these plays are black militants who find themselves driven to acts of violence against whites by a system which refuses to recognize their rights. “They make you prove it to them, Bro,” Chacon laments in LBJ. “They hate to give you your respect."39 In Wasted, the hot-headed Spider Evans, who joined the military in lieu of a prison sentence for assault, plots against the white sergeant who has made his distaste for blacks well known. In The Hooch, short-timer Horus Brown plans to kill a white soldier who he believes has murdered one of his men. Brown looks upon relationships with whites in terms of war. He tells Promus he wants blacks to “infiltrate" all areas of white military duty because, in his words, “this is war.”40 His white counterpart, Seebold, believes that the army is training blacks to kill whites. “These people are at war with us,” he tells another white technician. These images of races at war accurately reflect the conditions in Vietnam as described by numerous veterans in interviews between 1968 and 1973.41 Some veterans expressed the concern that blacks in Vietnam saw the real war as one they would fight, with their new and deadly skills, on the streets of America. “The big question," one black GI told the New York Times, “is whether the black cat can walk like a dragon here in South Vietnam and like a fairy back in the land of the big PX.”42 In LBJ, Big Man claims that the war “has been giving the real brothers the experience they'll need when they get back home." Vietnam is giving me an education: a chance to leam about life. Ain’t my fault the man turned loose the beast over here. You, me, Weasel and 500,000 more. He thought he would ride the back of this beast making it do his killing, blindly, obediently. And he’s been riding it into the ground. But then he forgot something...one day he had to get off that beast's back and when he does...(laughs] The beast would still be hungiy and the man would be devoured. Wallace Terry, Jr. notes, as does Thomas Johnson in the New York Times, that black militant groups were not uncommon in Vietnam. The Black Panthers, the JuJus, the MauMaus, and the Zulu 1200s were all represented. “I dig the militant brothers,” one black soldier told Terry. “Non-violence didn't do anything but get Martin Luther King killed."43 Many black veterans returned from Vietnam to communities where the rate of unemployment for blacks was “at least three times the national average” and where the unemployment rate for blacks between 20 and 25 (the age of most veterans) “was likely to be eight or nine times the national average.”44 In the words of playwright Tom 48 Vietnam Generation Cole’s Medal of Honor winner, DJ, the average black veteran became “just another invisible Nigger, waiting on line and getting shit on just for being there."45 Many black vets, like Spec 4 Anthony Brazil in Stephen Mack Jones’ Back in the World (1984), found that Vietnam had trained them for one job only: So here I am. right? At home. Back in Indianapolis. Back in the world. If you can call Indianapolis “the world." And all I'm trained to do is kill. Twenty years old now and that's all I know how to do. Not exactly the kind of thing you put on a resume.... Two months later. I re-up. Four months, I'm back in the ‘Nam. Don't need no resume. No references.46 Combat veterans could expect to be pressured about reenlistment while still in Vietnam, or approached back in the States by National Guard or State Police forces who hoped to use them as riot control troops. Although many veterans accepted service with these organizations, the outcome was often further racial confrontation. Wallace Terry, Jr. cites at least one instance in which 43 black soldiers from Fort Hood. Texas, refused an assignment at the Democratic National Convention for fear of being ordered to battle the black youth of Chicago.47 Black vets were also solicited by militant groups eager to capitalize on their battle training and their escalating resentment of white America. In 1968, Bobby Seale said veterans had been steadily joining the ranks of the Oakland Black Panthers: that same year, Clarence Guthrie of the Zulu 1200s estimated that about one-third of his members were vets. The majority of black vets interviewed by the New York Times said they were opposed to the war. Many said they would never fight for the United States again. One black vet expressed the intensity of the rage felt by many of his brothers: “I find myself hating this [white] man so much that [Uncle] Sam couldn’t kill me, melt me, or pour me back into the Army or back into the Nam."48 Despite such sentiments, there were only scattered incidences of “insane veterans’ militancy" in the wake of the war, and most of the violence came, not from black veterans, but from right-wing white mercenaries and KKK veterans.49 Two plays, both by non-veterans, directly address the helplessness, rage and resentment experienced by black veterans upon their return to civilian life. Black playwright Adrienne Kennedy’s AnEvening withDeadEssex{ 1973) and Tom Cole’s Medal of Honor Rag (1975) are both based on true stories of black veterans who met with violent ends after their return to the United States. Kennedy’s play recounts the death of 23-year-old Mark Essex Soldados R azos 49 in Januaiy 1973. Firing his high-powered rifle from the roof of a New Orleans Howard Johnson, Essex carried on a 32 hour shooting spree in which seven people were killed and 21 others wounded. He was eventually overcome by 40 police sharpshooters and a military helicopter; over 100 bullets were found in his body. In what amounts to more of a memorial service or documentary than a conventional drama. An Evening with Dead Essex attempts to reach a sympathetic understanding of the events which led a young black man of highly spiritual upbringing to randomly gun down passers-by from the roof of a hotel. A company of black actors use quotations from Essex’s family and friends, stories of his youth and his military service, pictures from his life and from the day of his death, and fabricated testimony to summon the spirit of dead Essex. Essex is revealed as an innocent Kansas youth, deeply religious, who believed in the benevolence of his white neighbors and in the goodness of God and country. While serving in the Navy, Essex’s profound faith was shattered by the cruel bigotry of the white military hierarchy. Kennedy’s play relates how Essex comes to believe that white men are his enemy, that America is the white man’s country, and that Christianity is a “white man’s religion.” According to Kennedy, it is the subversion of Essex’s faith which makes him pursue, with religious zeal, the destruction of the society which has brutally betrayed him. Although Essex served in San Diego, not Vietnam, his death is presented by Kennedy (as it was viewed by the American press in 1973) as an emblem of the brutality which the Vietnam war had brought to America’s streets. Kennedy illustrates the militarization of civilian culture with two news clippings, recited in sequence by an actor: 1972—B-52 bombers made their biggest raid on the Vietnam war demilitarized zone to date dropping nearly 200 tons of bombs. 1973—at 9:25PM the helicopters lumbered past again. (Pause] When the sharpshooters opened fire, a slight figure, rifle in hand, bolted into the open. Trapped in a withering crossfire between the helicopter overhead and marksmen in two adjacent buildings, Jimmy Essex was literally ripped apart by at least a hundred bullets. The police kept firing even after he went down, his body twitching with the impact of each slug and his rifle shattered beside him.50 Because the actor finishes the first quotation and begins reading the second before pausing, the distinction between the two events—the 50 Vietnam Generation bombing in Vietnam and the violent death in New Orleans—is blurred. As one of the actors comments, the two events “very much continue into each other”51 and the war in Vietnam becomes indistinguishable from the violence on America’s streets. Elsewhere in the play, one of the actors speaks with shocking directness on the significance of Mark Essex’s death to the black community. He speaks for a generation of black veterans, many of whom feel betrayed by their country, and who see Essex as a spokesman and a martyr: About a year ago five of us ex-G.I.s were arrested.... They said we had a plot to kill all white people. We didn’t. But we did meet in the cellar almost every day and talk, just talk. We wished we had a plot to kill white people—we had a lot to say to each other—about our confusion about the deep racial significance of the war between the U.S. and Viet Nam. white against non-white—about our joblessness—we did want to kill but we had no plot—we had a lot to say and we still have a lot to say—about Mark Essex—to us he is a hero—we believe he was carrying a banner—we believe he saw himself as a soldier of mercy—we have a lot to say about dead Essex.52 While few would readily recognize a sniper, randomly firing at pedestrians, as either victim or martyr, Adrienne Kennedy’s play draws attention to the tragic stature of the “slight figure” on the roof. She successfully creates a documentary image of an innocent young man from Kansas who enters the Navy in order to serve his God and his country, and who is transformed into a genocidal killer by the bigotry and racial hatred he finds there. Mark Essex’s acts of violence and racial hatred may have made him an unlikely subject for sympathetic dramatic portrayal. By contrast, Dwight Johnson, fictionally characterized as DJ in Tom Cole’s Medal of Honor Rag, immediately captured the sympathy of the American public in 1971 when he was shot to death while robbing a grocery store in his home town of Detroit. Unlike Essex, who chose violence to express his personal sense of rage, Johnson ran from the rage he had found within himself in Vietnam. Johnson returns from Vietnam to find he is unemployable. Trained to kill, he feels roughly discarded alter his service to his country. As recounted in the play, DJ's tour of duty in Vietnam ends suddenly and dramatically with a firefight in which he single-handedly wipes out an entire North Vietnamese unit after witnessing the deaths of his closest friends. In a mortal frenzy, DJ is dragged from the scene Soldados R azos 51 of the battle and tranquilized. Within 48 hours, he is on a plane headed for Detroit with a medical discharge. Several months later, two MPs suddenly appear at DJ’s door and question his mother about his activities. He is asked to take another sudden plane ride, this time from the Detroit ghetto he calls home to the White House, where he is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. DJ expresses the bitter irony of his country's treatment of him: "Yesterday afternoon for all they knew I was a junkie on the streets, today the President of the United States can’t wait to see me....”53 The country that exploits his services as a trained killer, then throws him back into the ghetto, now needs him again. DJ becomes the token black hero at an awards ceremony conceived of by the Johnson administration to counteract the war's bad press. Despite the obvious status and social mobility which the medal offers DJ, he cannot help but see it as a reward for acts of violence which he considers heinous. “I got that medal,” he tells his psychiatrist, “because I went totally out of my fucking skull and killed everything in sight.”54 He fears that he may again lose control of himself and repeat his violence in his home town. “Man, if I lose my cool again— just, freak out,” DJ asks, “what’s to stop me from going up and down the streets of Detroit killing everything I see?”55 Though DJ feels that the medal brands him as a crazed killer, he cannot reject it without disgracing his family, his community, and the black race. The prestige which accompanies the medal reflects not only on DJ, but on the community at large: I am an authentic hero, a showpiece. One look at me, enlistments go up two hundred percent.... I am a credit to my race. Did you know that? I am an honor to the city of Detroit, to say nothing of the state of Michigan, of which I am the only living Medal of Honor winner! I am a feather in the cap of the army, a flower in the lapel of the military.56 In need of someone to pass judgement on him, DJ enters a grocery store in a white section of Detroit. He has a pistol, but never fires it as the white cashier pulls his gun from behind the counter and shoots him repeatedly. In the words of the real Dwight Johnson’s mother, he “tired of this life and needed someone else to pull the trigger.”57 Medal of Honor Rag and An Evening with Dead Essex were written at a time when the Vietnam war was still a gaping wound in the lives of most veterans. In the early 1970s, the vast majority of vets did not dare to speak of their war experiences, let alone express their confusion and hatred on the stage. Among veterans of this period, only David Rabe chose the stage as a means of openly venting his anger. His 52 Vietnam Generation vitriolic anti-American plays. Sticks and Bones and The Basic Training o/Pavlo Hummel raised great controversy and resentment when they were produced in 1971, alienating far more people than they converted. But Rabe was the exception, and several years passed before other veterans took to the stage. Of the veteran plays discussed in this essay. Sierra’s Manolo and Escueta’s Honey Bucket (both produced regionally in 1976) were the first to appear. These works portray Vietnam veterans who survive the war only to self-destruct after returning to their homes. Manolo is a crime-world melodrama in which a Latino soldier returns unscratched from Vietnam only to find that his mother has died in his absence and that his little brother has been stabbed to death by a neighborhood pusher. Manolo dies taking his revenge on the pusher who would never have come to power in his neighborhood if Manolo had not been sent to Vietnam. Andy, the veteran protagonist in Escueta’s Honey Bucket, finds his recurrent flashbacks of Vietnam far more vivid than his real life. He is haunted throughout the play by the ghosts of his friends who died in battle. At the end of Honey Buckel Andy, alienated from his wife and family, speeds out of control on his motorcycle while his dead companions encourage his suicide with screams of “Come on home,” and “You’re better off with your buddies." Both Escueta and Sierra make it clear that death could seem the only way out for troubled minority veterans of this period. Plays by black veterans from the late 1970s and into the 1980s still express the anger and despair of the immediate postwar years. But the sense of hopelessness and of hatred, directed both at whites and inward at the self, has evolved in these plays into a positive, sometimes therapeutic energy. The Hooch, Wasted, and LBJ advance the portrait of a protagonist who transcends the racial hatred of his companions, black and white, and offers hope of tolerance and racial harmony. The placement of this type of character at the heart of these plays suggest that veteran playwrights are attempting to instill their Vietnam experience with a sense of redemption in order to leave behind their lingering rage. The evolution of Escueta’s Honey Bucket offers an excellent example of the conversion of anger and hopelessness into therapeutic regeneration. After the first production in 1976, Escueta frequently revised the play until in 1982, having determined that isolation and death were not the only way out for his veteran protagonist, Escueta rewrote the final scene so that Andy lives. Instead of urging Andy toward suicide, the ghosts of his dead comrades cease to haunt him, granting him permission to start living again. The play in its revised form still contains a strong message about a Filipino veteran’s anger at America’s treatment of minorities, but Honey Bucket is now Soldados R azos U therapeutic rather than destructive. Instead of promoting the image of an inevitable dead-end. the play speaks of a veteran making the long mental journey back to the World. That same therapeutic journey and re-emergence can be found in Jones’s Back in the World. (1988). In a series of monologues, much like a veterans’ rap session, five black vets tell their stories in turn while the others listen and occasionally comment. Some part of each of these characters is still trapped in Vietnam. Among them are the man who refuses to believe the war is over, insisting it could still be won if ignorant liberals would not interfere; the soldier who searches photographs of Saigon for the Vietnamese wife and child he was forced to leave behind; and, the exile who lives in Belgium with his white wife and his children. In each of these characters, one can sense a powerful desire to “come home”. Sharing their stories, they help each other approach that end. A letter from a stateside friend (a disabled veteran), read by the exile, expresses this common desire: “I wish to God you’d save me some postage and come home. For better or worse, America is home, James. And if you can’t stand proud at home, it’s hard to do it anywhere else in the world.” While the individual monologues all conclude on a similar note of longed-for homecoming and healing, the play is open-ended. The final lines are spoken by the one character who will never be able to return to the World. He is a homeless veteran, known only as The Man, who is first seen curled up with his radio in an alley. He lives on the edge, struggling each day with the flashbacks that send him screaming for cover. He tells us that he works occasionally with “black kids off the street” at a local community center: “Trying to help 'um, you know, make somethin’ outta theyselves." He wants the present generation of young ghetto dwellers—a generation facing an all-time high unemployment rate for black youths58—to see what has happened to him, and to be sure that they never allow themselves to be swept without question into war by a government promising to reverse “the downward spiral of decay” for minorities. The Man’s message to the present generation of draft-age minorities recalls young Johnny’s words to his Vietnam era friends: “Please,” Johnny writes to his mother, “tell Sapo and all the vatos how it’s like over here. Don’t let them...”59 But his warning is cut short by a bullet to the head, fired by the gleeful figure of Muerte as he sings the ballad of “El Soldado Razo.” 1 1 Luis Valdez, Vietnam Campesino, in Ados (Fresno, CA: Cucaracha Press) 1971: 117. Hereafter, Valdez, Vietnam. 2 Ibid: 108. 54 Vietnam Generation 3 Charles Fuller, A Soldier's Play (New York: Hill & Wang) 1981: 28, 72. Hereafter, Fuller. 4 Ibid.: 90. 5 Thomas A. Johnson, “The US Negro in Vietnam," The New York Times , April 29, 1968: 16. Hereafter, NYT, 4/29/68. 6 August Wilson, Fences (New York: New American Library) 1986: 94. 7 “Democracy in the Foxhole,” Time, May 26, 1967: 15. 8 Ibid.: 1 9 Ibid.: 15. 10 Luis Valdez. Soldado Razo, in West Coast Plays 19/20 (Los Angeles: California Theatre Council) 1986: 62. Hereafter, Valdez, Soldado. 11 Ibid.: 56. 12 Ibid. 13 NYT, 4/29/68: 16. 14 All quotations from Jonathan Greenberg, Casualties (unpublished script) 1987. First produced February, 1987 at TheatreWorks, Palo Alto, CA. 15 MyraMacPherson, Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation (Garden City, NY: Doubleday) 1984: 559. Hereafter, MacPherson. 16 NYT, 4/29/68: 16. 17 Wallace Terry. Jr., “Bringing the War Home," The Black Scholar (2:3), November 1970: 12. Hereafter, Terry. 18 MacPherson: 560. 19 Whitney M. Young, “When the Negroes in Vietnam Come Home,” Harper's, June 1967: 66. Hereafter, Young. 20 Paul Starr, The Discarded Army: Veterans After Vietnam (New York: Charterhouse) 1973: 190. Hereafter, Starr. 21 MacPherson: 559. 22 MacPherson, citing a 1970 Defense Department Study: 559. 23 Terry: 12. 24 Young: 66. 25 Terry: 7. 26 David Rabe, Streamers, in Coming toTerms: American Play s&the Vietnam War, James Reston, ed. (New York: Theatre Communications Group) 1985: 32. Hereafter, Rabe. 27 Terry: 15. 28 Ibid: 11. 29 Terry: 14. 30 Rabe: 16. 31 Thomas A. Johnson, “Negro in Vietnam Uneasy about US," New York Times. May 1, 1968: 14. Hereafter, NYT, 5/1/68. 32 Quoted in Starr: 193. 33 Terry: 7. 34 Thomas A. Johnson, “Negro Veteran is Confused and Bitter,” New York Times, July 29. 1968: 14. Hereafter, NYT, 7/29/68. 35 All quotations are from Melvyn Escueta, Honey Bucket (unpublished script in two drafts, 1976 & 1988). First produced October 1976 at the Asian American Theatre, San Francisco, CA. 36 Young: 64. Soldanos Razos 55 37 NYT, 7/19/68: 14. 3 Fred Gamel, Wasted, In The Best Mays of 1983-1984, Otis L. Guernsey, Jr., ed. (New York; Dodd, Mead) 1984: 55. 39 All quotations from Jamal, LBJ(unpublished script) 1968. First produced January 1986 by SEW/Lorraine Hansbeny Theater at the San Francisco Repertory Theater. 40 All quotations from Charles Michael Moore, The Hooch (unpublished script) 1978. First produced May 1984 at the New Federal Theater, New York City. 41 As well as the examples cited from the New York Times (1968) and from Terry (1970), these attitudes are expressed in interviews with veterans in David F. Addlestone and Susan Sherer, “Battleground: Race in Viet Nam," Civil Rights, February 1973. 42 NYT, 5/1/68: 1. 43 Terry: 14. 44 NYT, 7/29/68: 14. 4 5 Tom Cole, Medal of Honor Rag, in Coming to Terms: American Plays and the Vietnam War, James Reston, ed. (New York: Theatre Communications Group) 1985: 146. Hereafter, Cole. 46 All quotations from Stephen Mack Jones, Back in the World (unpublished manuscript) 1988. First produced April 1987 at the Attic Theater, Detroit. Produced in its current form October 1988 by the Vietnam Veterans Ensemble Theatre Company, New York City. 47 Terry: 10. 48 NYT, 7/29/68: 14. 49 MacPherson: 568. 50 Adrienne Kennedy, An Evening with Dead Essex, Theater (9:2), Spring 1978: 71. 51 Ibid. 52 Ibid.: 67-68. 53 Cole: 142. 54 Ibid.: 143. 55 Ibid.: 141. 56 Ibid.: 126. 5 John Nordheimer, “From Dakto to Detroit: Death of a Troubled Hero," New York Times, May 26 1971: 16. 58 MacPherson: 554. 59 Valdez, Soldada 65. FORQOTTEN WARRiORS: AlMERiCAIN iNdiAN

46 Vietnam Generation his own: What’s supposed to be eating me...a leader of my people gets wasted in the land of the PX, nobody even sends word of it to us at the flrebase...we get a deadhead nigger-hater for a platoon sergeant.... I’m fighting a war for a country where I’m a second-class citizen...and I'm supposed to sail on like nothing’s ever been wrong in my life.38 Although Bassett remains reluctant to halt the fragging of a white racist, he must eventually shoot a black soldier to end the escalating tension on the base camp. Charles Michael Moore’s The Hooch is also set within a basecamp tense over racial issues, where black grunts guard a military radar unit controlled by while technicians. The symbolic significance of this hierarchy is unveiled late in the play when a black soldier discovers that the equipment on the hill, which the whites have carefully hidden and which the blacks are expected to give their lives to protect, is a worthless invention which has never worked and which the white technicians do not know how to repair. The radar unit on the hill, like America’s involvement in Vietnam, is unveiled as a white man’s cause, and a worthless one at that, for which blacks are expected to die. The black soldier who discovers this folly is a radar specialist— the first black to hold such a position on this base. His name is Corporal Promus (i.e.. Promise), and he is a redemptive figure of high moral fortitude, racial tolerance, and intelligence. In revealing the false god on the hill, he manages to disarm the aggression building between blacks and whites in camp. His philosophy is a simple one: “What goes around, comes around.” He convinces a fellow black soldier not to sink to the level of the white racists by shooting a white corporal who they believe has killed one of the black grunts. In Jamal’s LBJ, an unlikely inter-racial trio of prisoners band together in the face of certain death by rampaging black inmates. Wade is a level-headed but independent-minded black who has made an enemy of Big Man, the dangerous leader of the rioters. Wade is forced to share a hiding place with Chacon, a Chicano who is generally friendly with neither whites nor blacks, and Christopherson, a white pacifist. These three are trapped together inside Long Birth Jail during the race riots of 1968. By calling an end to their petty differences and combining forces, they defeat Big Man and his murderous cohort. Weasel. The message, as in The Hooch and Wasted is one of interracial solidarity and tolerance as an alternative to white or black extremism.
Soldados Razos 47 Juxtaposed against the moderate protagonists in all three of these plays are black militants who find themselves driven to acts of violence against whites by a system which refuses to recognize their rights. “They make you prove it to them, Bro,” Chacon laments in LBJ. “They hate to give you your respect."39 In Wasted, the hot-headed Spider Evans, who joined the military in lieu of a prison sentence for assault, plots against the white sergeant who has made his distaste for blacks well known. In The Hooch, short-timer Horus Brown plans to kill a white soldier who he believes has murdered one of his men. Brown looks upon relationships with whites in terms of war. He tells Promus he wants blacks to “infiltrate" all areas of white military duty because, in his words, “this is war.”40 His white counterpart, Seebold, believes that the army is training blacks to kill whites. “These people are at war with us,” he tells another white technician. These images of races at war accurately reflect the conditions in Vietnam as described by numerous veterans in interviews between 1968 and 1973.41 Some veterans expressed the concern that blacks in Vietnam saw the real war as one they would fight, with their new and deadly skills, on the streets of America. “The big question," one black GI told the New York Times, “is whether the black cat can walk like a dragon here in South Vietnam and like a fairy back in the land of the big PX.”42 In LBJ, Big Man claims that the war “has been giving the real brothers the experience they'll need when they get back home." Vietnam is giving me an education: a chance to leam about life. Ain’t my fault the man turned loose the beast over here. You, me, Weasel and 500,000 more. He thought he would ride the back of this beast making it do his killing, blindly, obediently. And he’s been riding it into the ground. B u tthen he forgot something...one day he had to get off that beast's back and when he does...(laughs] The beast would still be hungiy and the man would be devoured. Wallace Terry, Jr. notes, as does Thomas Johnson in the New York Times, that black militant groups were not uncommon in Vietnam. The Black Panthers, the JuJus, the MauMaus, and the Zulu 1200s were all represented. “I dig the militant brothers,” one black soldier told Terry. “Non-violence didn't do anything but get Martin Luther King killed."43 Many black veterans returned from Vietnam to communities where the rate of unemployment for blacks was “at least three times the national average” and where the unemployment rate for blacks between 20 and 25 (the age of most veterans) “was likely to be eight or nine times the national average.”44 In the words of playwright Tom 48 V ietnam Generation Cole’s Medal of Honor winner, DJ, the average black veteran became “just another invisible Nigger, waiting on line and getting shit on just for being there."45 Many black vets, like Spec 4 Anthony Brazil in Stephen Mack Jones’ Back in the World (1984), found that Vietnam had trained them for one job only: So here I am. right? At home. Back in Indianapolis. Back in the world. If you can call Indianapolis “the world." And all I'm trained to do is kill. Twenty years old now and that's all I know how to do. Not exactly the kind of thing you put on a resume.... Two months later. I re-up. Four months, I'm back in the ‘Nam. Don't need no resume. No references.46 Combat veterans could expect to be pressured about reenlistment while still in Vietnam, or approached back in the States by National Guard or State Police forces who hoped to use them as riot control troops. Although many veterans accepted service with these organizations, the outcome was often further racial confrontation. Wallace Terry, Jr. cites at least one instance in which 43 black soldiers from Fort Hood. Texas, refused an assignment at the Democratic National Convention for fear of being ordered to battle the black youth of Chicago.47 Black vets were also solicited by militant groups eager to capitalize on their battle training and their escalating resentment of white America. In 1968, Bobby Seale said veterans had been steadily joining the ranks of the Oakland Black Panthers: that same year, Clarence Guthrie of the Zulu 1200s estimated that about one-third of his members were vets. The majority of black vets interviewed by the New York Times said they were opposed to the war. Many said they would never fight for the United States again. One black vet expressed the intensity of the rage felt by many of his brothers: “I find myself hating this [white] man so much that [Uncle] Sam couldn’t kill me, melt me, or pour me back into the Army or back into the Nam."48 Despite such sentiments, there were only scattered incidences of “insane veterans’ militancy" in the wake of the war, and most of the violence came, not from black veterans, but from right-wing white mercenaries and KKK veterans.49 Two plays, both by non-veterans, directly address the helplessness, rage and resentment experienced by black veterans upon their return to civilian life. Black playwright Adrienne Kennedy’s AnEvening withDeadEssex{ 1973) and Tom Cole’s Medal of Honor Rag (1975) are both based on true stories of black veterans who met with violent ends after their return to the United States. 


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