Forgive Jane Fonda?

November 4th, 2008

I was asked the other day, apropos of nothing, whether American citizens would ever forgive Jane Fonda for her anti-war and anti-American activities* of the past.

I’m a Vietnam veteran. I served two tours as an attack helicopter pilot, with a couple of Purple Hearts among the other decorations I wear on my uniform. People who know my background have, in fact, often asked my opinion of Jane Fonda, apparently believing that I’m somehow better qualified than most to judge her. But I’m not. I’m just a citizen who, on behalf of my country, spent some time in hell in my early and mid twenties. In a larger sense, the Vietnam war profoundly affected all of us, even those born long after it ended. It continues to resonate throughout our society, even among ill-educated people who don’t know where the echo comes from.

By the time I was in Vietnam on my second tour of duty, I agreed with those who thought the war was a mistake. As many combat veterans who served during those later stages of the war will tell you, my main purposes were to help my brothers-in-arms survive and to live through it myself. I often wasn’t able to do the former and very nearly failed at the latter. I live with it every day, even now. Some days it’s only a fleeting thought, or maybe the face of a long-dead comrade flitting through my memory, but it’s there. Other days it comes from outside, such as when I see an old photo of Jane Fonda perched on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun.

I didn’t march with them, but I didn’t disagree with those who demonstrated against the war in a reasonable way. I thought those who refused the draft and went to jail were admirable, at least in the sense that they were willing to pay the price for doing what they thought was right. I had less regard for those who fled to Canada and other countries, but I understood them.

However, there is a line beyond which opposition to war and government policy in general is unacceptable. That line can be defined in various ways, and different people have different definitions. For me, when it comes to a war in which American troops are committed, “adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort” is never acceptable. That quotation is from Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution. It’s the simple, easily understood definition of treason. And Jane Fonda is guilty of treason.

For various reasons of political expediency, neither she nor others who crossed the line in their opposition to the Vietnam war were prosecuted for treason or lesser appropriate offenses. For her to apologize, as she has in various limited ways since the late 1980s, is not enough. Murderers rotting in jail are often sorry for their crimes, but they’re still murderers. I’m always happy to see them admit the error of their ways, and it doesn’t bother me if they write autobiographies in their jail cells. Which is where Jane Fonda should have written hers.

Do I personally forgive Jane Fonda? Of course not. No more than I forgive John Kerry, who didn’t cross the line as clearly as Fonda but, at the very least, danced all over it.

*Go here for a useful discussion of what Jane Fonda did and didn’t do.

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3 Responses to “Forgive Jane Fonda?”

  1. Susan |

    I Personally think that the poor lady made a mistake and should be forgiven

  2. Brian |

    Susan, running a stop sign is a mistake. A one-night stand is a mistake. Giving aid and comfort to the enemy, during war-time, over the course of months and years, is not “a mistake.”

  3. Tom Carter |

    Susan, Jane Fonda made a huge number of mistakes, if that’s what you want to call them, over many, many years. She was, and is, guilty of treason, a crime at least theoretically punishable by death. Personally, I feel no need to run her to ground and bring her to justice. But forgive her? Never, both for myself and all those friends of mine who died fighting the enemy she so strongly supported.

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