We originally told you about Sir No Sir! last summer, and now it's here. What to say? The movie exploded so many myths that I'd still held onto till this day - me, as an ultra-leftie, anarchism, semi-informed politico junkie living in San Francisco. If I'm still this ignorant, then where is the rest of America? Unreal.
We went to go see the movie in Oakland, at the Grand Lake Theater - talk about a great theatre (pic, left). The auditorium we were in seemed to have the capacity for several hundred people, and there were 300+ people there, I gather - 80+% full would be my guesstimate.
What were some of the myths that the movie exploded?
1) The 'spitting on returning soldiers' myth. I had heard this was more or less lies, from reading my liberal blogs (DailyKos and Atrios), but it didn't really sink in. The book I'd heard about on these blogs, and the author was profiled in the movie, is called 'The Spitting Image' by Jerry Lembcke. So, all those stories about soldiers coming home from Nam and getting spit on and all that - it was all a lie. Straight up.
2) The anti-war movement wasn't just happening on college campuses - it was everywhere, including and especially in the military. To find out there were 300 indepedent underground newspapers circulating on U.S. military bases all over the U.S. - it's just unbelievable. Being part of stuff like that could get you court martialed and sent to jail for years.
3) The myth that the anti-Vietnam war was a 'bad' thing. On the contrary, it was a good thing - a great thing. So many brave people sacrificed so much - getting beaten, jailed, exiled, and killed - all in the name of justice. That's incredible.
Here's the program for the night:
OAKLAND PREVIEW SCREENING
A Benefit for Iraq Vets Against the War
Celebrate Soldiers' Resistance from Vietnam to Iraq
Film, Music, Spoken Word, Community
Aimee Allison-Army Conscientious Objector
Pablo Paredes-Iraq War Resister
Vietnam GI Resisters from the Film
Thursday April 6th at 7:00pm
Grand Lake Theater
3200 Grand Avenue in Oakland
Advance tickets $8, $10 at the door,
For Tickets call 415-255-7296x244
Presented in partnership with:
Global Exchange, Courage to Resist, Not Your Soldier, Leave My Child Alone, Not in Our Name, Ruckus Society, Art in Action, Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, Veterans for Peace
Aimee Allison did the emcee work. She's running for city council again. I like her deal - she's a Green. She was a conscientious objector in the first Gulf Slaughter - a very unpopular position, indeed. And she went to court and managed to get an honorable discharge. She mentioned that her basic training buddy - a female - also managed to get out of the illegal war - by using her pregnant friend's pee. Good idea!
Medea Benjamin got up after most of the performers and helped to raise $2,500 for the movie. The idea is to distribute bootleg copies of the movie to as many active duty military personnel as possible - for free. Medea asked for and got about twenty $100 donations, then a few $50 donations, and then some hats went around.
The old army slogan - FTA - Fun, Travel, Adventure - was turned into Fuck The Army. And it was turned into a film!
Biggest applause line of the night: "Fuck John Kerry!" One of the anti-Vietnam war dudes who was in the movie had just found out, from Medea, that Kerry came out with his "let's get out of Iraq" statement just yesterday. I forget the vet's name, but he said, after stepping up to the mic right after Medea, he asked, increduloulsy - distorting his face, "Is that right? Did John Kerry just say that yesterday? Fuck John Kerry!" [BOOM! APPLAUSE!] People were lovin' it. He followed with, "Great that he's finally saying now what he said 30 years ago." That dude was funny.
A white hip-hop rapper dude got on stage 2nd to last, after the fundraising and did his thing. Was alright.
Finally, a white singer lady, Barbara Dane, got on stage to perform a song called 'Insubordination' - which Jane Fonda had popularized, apparently. All in all, a great night. Look at this NPR page for a link to a live version of Dane singing Insubordination with crowd participation - just like tonight. Good stuff!
Great line from the movie - when soldiers are protesting out in front of the Capitol Building, throwing their medals over the fence, and as they do this they get a couple seconds on the mic to say their piece:
We don't want to fight any more,
but if we have to fight again,
it'll be to take these steps!
Now that is some great stuff. There's just so much to learn from this movie - so much.
It's important to repeat the film's dedication:
dedicated to jeff sharlet (1942-1969), founder of vietnam gi, the first gi underground paper; and john kniffin (1940-2002), leader of texas vietnam veterans against the war.
both died of cancer caused by agent orange, the chemical defoliant used by the u.s. in vietnam.
To finish this post on a very positive, uplifting note, check out this link for the 12-minute trailer, and to catch a listen to Rita Martinson singing "Soldier We Love You" (about 8 or 9 minutes in) - unreal voice - holy cow. I mean, she could be singing about place mats and it wouldn't matter a bit - her voice is incredible. We need to find a copy of her singing this song. Can't find it online anywhere, including iTunes.
p.s. Review of the movie is supposed to happen this week on Ebert & Roeper.