Defending Jane Fonda -- Sort Of

By John "Birdman" Bryant


Jane Fonda -- or Fondle, as she has been referred to as a result of
her minimal-clothing movie Barbarella -- is one of the perennial hobgoblins
of the Right because of the perception that her behavior during the Vietnam
War was 'treasonous'. This matter, which has been well-chewed over during
the past quarter-century at all the cracker-barrel stores and Bircher
meetings from Maine to California, was recently trotted out again by
conservative columnist Samuel Francis in the apparent hope that a few more
drops of blood might yet be squeezed from this particular stone ("Jane
Fonda Rewarded for Treason?", The Spotlight, 13 Dec 1999: 17). The charges
against Fonda consist of three basic points: First, that she vociferously
opposed the war (as did millions of other Americans), second, that she went
to North Vietnam and gave the enemy encouragement by broadcasting her views
over Radio Hanoi and giving a raised-fist salute while sitting in the
turret of an anti-aircraft gun; and third, that, while in North Vietnam,
she visited American POWs, and then ratted on them to their captors when
they tried to surreptitiously give her their Social Security numbers so
their families could be informed that they were still alive.

Now let's start with a piece of irrefutable logic: If there are two sides
to a dispute and you oppose one side, then of necessity you are giving
support to the other since you are giving 'aid and comfort' to that side by
opposing the other. So in a sense, Jane was perfectly logical -- she
simply carried to its logical conclusion her opposition to American
military involvement in Vietnam. Of course, in doing this she made it look
like she embraced the North Vietnamese and the whole of communism -- which
apparently she did; but so did a lot of other people, so if she is to be
faulted, it must be for her ignorance of communism and her foolish leftism,
not some kind of perfervid immorality.

But the real issue here is, Where does dissent become traitorous? My own
view is that nothing is traitorous short of spying or other overt acts
taken directly and consciously on the enemy's behalf; but even if it is
argued that dissent over war policies in time of war is traitorous, Jane
could not -- contrary to Francis' allegations -- be called a traitor on the
basis of her actions for the simple reason that war against North Vietnam
was never declared. In fact, if Dr Francis were not so intent on the
invidious comparison of Jane with Ezra Pound -- a man whose
incomprehensible poetry has only been compensated for by his exposure of
the machinations of the Federal Reserve, and a man who escaped treason
charges in WWII only by the grace of being declared insane and given free
room and board at St Elizabeth's -- then he might have had time to read
such books as Hoover Institution scholar Antony C Sutton's The Best Enemy 
Money Can Buy which exposes the fact that communism was bought, built and
paid for by the good old US of A -- as it still is being. Or to put it
another way, Jane, in her own oddball way, was being just about as
patriotic as it is possible to be.

There are actually two deeper issues here. The first is that the Right
hates Jane because she monkey-wrenched the Right's favorite armchair
activity, imperialism. These fat old guys who always wear suits, go to
church on Sunday, and think seriously about casting write-in votes for
Archie Bunker just loooove the idea of young crisply-suited American
military personnel subduing the rest of the world, preferably by means of
decorating the palm trees with long links of the natives' intestines. Jane
and her leftist cousins -- to their credit -- have pointed out this strain
in American foreign policy (tho managing to avoid noticing a similar but
much more virulent strain in their favorite People's Republics), and
nothing makes the Fat Guys madder than to have their jingoistic imperialism
called by its proper name -- they would much rather call it 'patriotism',
'making the world safe for democracy' or 'splendid little wars'. No wonder
Jane makes these guys explode from both ends.

The second issue which the Jane business raises is the matter of demonizing
sincerely held opinion. The Right has done this for so long (porn is
'immoral'; race-mixing is 'evil', dissent is 'traitorous'; heretics will
'burn in Hell'; etc) that when the Left does it -- as it has been doing to
Holocaust revisionists, white racialists, home schoolers, Second Amendment
preservationists, militia members and just about everybody else -- it makes
the Right so mad that they can't even remember where the Left got the idea.
I think we can say without fear of contradiction that Jane holds her
leftist beliefs sincerely, so that however stupid, ignorant and otherwise
repellent they may be to us, she should not be regarded as possessing some
kind of moral deficit.

And that includes her behavior with the POWs who tried to slip her their SS
numbers. While I can't say exactly why she did what she did, if she
sincerely believed in the North Vietnamese cause, then her behavior was
perfectly consistent with that belief. Of course some would reply that,
even if she did believe in the communist cause, she still sinned by
betraying 'her own people', ie, 'American boys'. But again, maybe she
didn't feel that these were indeed 'her own people' -- however wrong that
may seem -- and in any event, how is it possible for an outsider to weigh
the relative merits of 'her own people' versus a cause (communism)? There
are no easy answers here, and that very fact forecloses the ready
condemnation which Dr Francis and the rest of the Fat Guys are ready to
heap on Lady Jane Red.

But if these issues don't complicate things enuf, there is yet another
difficulty which cuts closer to the emotional bone than any other, and
concerns Jane's 'betrayal' of the POWs. Instead of clinging desperately to
the notion that Jane was 'morally obligated' to hold onto the SSN slips
given her and notify the families, let us consider the situation from an
entirely different viewpoint. Specifically, when the POWs contemplated
handing Jane their SS numbers, what they should have realized is that they
were taking a calculated risk rather than a 'sure thing'. Some of them
should have known something about ditzy-leftist Jane, but even if they
didn't, they should have figured out that somebody visiting them with the
imprimatur of their captors was likely not to be entirely friendly. So it
should have occurred to them that trusting this little lady had its risks,
and that the chance of getting word back home just might not be worth the
candle. The moral point here is what I call the Rule of Self-
Responsibility: Don't blame others if you can blame yourself. This rule,
we may add, captures the very essence of freedom and the free market, and
is the very opposite of the socialist philosophy. In the case of the SSNs,
the POWs took a risk, and the 'investment' went bad. If they took a risk
in the stock market and their investment went bad, why should they blame
anyone but themselves? I say, likewise for the SSN debacle.

Let me close by reminding the reader that, a few years ago, Jane went in
front of a veterans' group and apologized for her Vietnam War behavior.
That wins her a lot of points in my book -- after all, the only time anyone
else apologizes is when the goons from the ADL or the baboons from the
NAACP threaten to derail somebody's business or political career; and as
far as I know, Jane's apology was completely of her own free will. Or to
put it another way, what Jane did took both character and courage, and puts
her way ahead of the Fat Guys, most of whom would be about as ready to
apologize for a mistake as they would to give up their beer and potato
chips -- or to admit what everybody else now acknowledges, to wit, that
America had no business in Vietnam.

No wonder they hate her guts.

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