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.(P.117)Clements got out of the hospital after four months, and in thespring of 1971 he was given a psychiatric discharge.In 1980, he grad-uated from medical school.During the 1980s Clements became famousfor his work providing medical aid in the liberated zones of El Salva-dor, spending many months on the ground with the men, women, andchildren who were under siege by that country s U.S.-backed militarydictatorship.As an officer and distinguished graduate of a military academy,Clements was, as he said of himself, a special case of the right stuffgone wrong.But on another level his case is instructive, in that itrepresents the experience of the entire generation of Vietnam veteransin microcosm.War veterans were, by definition, supposed to be madeof the   right stuff.  They were supposed to be the country s finest, andwhen a whole generation of them decline their assigned role theywere said to have   gone wrong.  Such deviance can be treated as acriminal matter or as a medical and psychological problem.In theearly 1970s, the story of their   badness  began to be rewritten, withthe discourse of psychological trauma supplied by mental health pro-fessionals displacing the more political discourse of pacifism and anti-imperialism that had characterized the anti-war veterans movement.Quite literally, mental health professionals reinterpreted GI and vet-eran opposition to the war to fit their own paradigm.Writing in theAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry in July 1973, Chaim Shatan pro-vided an acute example of this tendency:   By throwing onto the stepsof Congress the medals with which they were rewarded for murder ina war they had come to abhor, the veterans symbolically shed some oftheir guilt.In addition to their dramatic political impact, these dem-onstrations have profound therapeutic meaning  (649). From Badness to Madness 113In the context of the times, anti-war veterans would surely havebeen surprised to know that their actions against the war were a formof therapy.For them, it was the country that had gone wrong andneeded healing, not they.But they weren t the ones telling the story.The ultimate tragedy may have been that what was their finest hourfor many veterans, namely, when they found the courage to speak outagainst the war they had fought, was turned against them as evidenceof further damage done to them by that war.Poignant protest wasthus pathologized.The cases of Dwight Johnson and Charlie Clements provide addi-tional evidence that the interpretation given the experiences of Viet-nam veterans is more important for our memory than the experiencesthemselves.Had Dwight Johnson s story been written differently bythe press and interested academics it could have well become a fableabout economic deprivation, racism, and the exploitation of a warhero s status by military and civilian leaders.As it was, his storybecame a mental health case study.Clements, perhaps because he hadthe advantage of an elite college education, had the capacity to resistthe pathologizing of his opposition to the war and the wherewithal tocontrol the telling of his own story.His story of political courage andprincipled pacifism inspired other acts of resistance to U.S.imperial-ism in Central America during the 1980s.The juxtaposition of the two cases also underscores the fact thatjournalists, academics, and other influential spin doctors of the daywere making real choices about how the war in Vietnam would beremembered.There were choices, and what is interesting from ourturn-of-the-century vantage point is that some interpretive voices gotamplified by the academic establishment, news media and culturalinstitutions, while others were ignored.Few Americans today haveever heard of Charlie Clements and fewer still would recognize hisstory as an important chapter in the story of what happened to Viet-nam veterans.Dwight Johnson s story, on the other hand, would beimmediately recognized by many Americans as a common coming-home story of Vietnam veterans.Yet, research conducted by Paul Starr 114 From Badness to Madnessunder the auspices of Ralph Nader s Center for the Study of Respon-sive Law in the early 1970s, revealed, according to Starr, that contraryto the growing number of stories about the erratic and violent behav-ior of Vietnam veterans   there [was] no significant evidence indicatingthat violence among veterans [was] especially widespread [and no]significant evidence that violent behavior [was] any more frequentamong veterans than among other young men from working-classbackgrounds.  Starr also disputed the notion, central to the image ofVietnam veterans as   alienated,  that their year in Vietnam had iso-lated them from the radical changes taking place back home, changesthat they then had a hard time adjusting to upon their return.  By1969,  he wrote,   acid rock, drugs, and peace emblems were as easyto find in I Corps as they were in California  (Starr 1973a, 23, 36).Starr s book, The Discarded Army: Veterans after Vietnam, was a com-passionate examination of the failure of institutions like the VeteransAdministration to serve the needs of Vietnam veterans.Rather thanputting veterans on the couch, he focused on the legal and politicaldimensions of veterans problems and raised explicit challenges topsychiatric practice:   Certainly many veterans are ill at ease abouttheir experiences in the war, but it would be wrong to suggest thatguilt is a prevalent emotion among them.It is, however, very preva-lent among those who write about Vietnam veterans, and this leads tono end of confusion  (35).In effect, Starr was pointing out that whatever else could be saidabout PVS/PTSD, it was a construct of well-meaning professionalsthat had the potential to impute to veterans psychological characteris-tics that were not their own.Starr would not be the last to raisequestions critical of the PVS/PTSD formulation, but the political cli-mate of the country was changing and the marginalization of Vietnamveterans through the medicalization of their image was tailored forthe times.12 Starr would eventually win acclaim for his writing on thesocial history of American medicine, but his dissent from the psychi-atric modeling of the Vietnam veteran experience was lost, along withthe stories like Charlie Clements s, as the country s memory of the warwas rewritten. From Badness to Madness 115Warrior DreamsBy the early 1980s, the image of the traumatized, psychologicallyimpaired veteran had almost totally displaced the image of the politi-cally active anti-war veteran in American memory [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]

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