Sunday, October 16, 2005

Two Days in October - A Look Back to 1967

PBS is airing a documentary tomorrow night, October 17th that is well worth watching: Two Days in October.

I received a screening copy of the documentary the other day and finally sat down to watch it last night. It's hard not to reflect on the parallels of the what is happening now in our country and Iraq when watching Two Days in October. For all of us who question why we are in Iraq and the role of propaganda in our government and and our media, it's a compelling look at striking similarities.

Some stayed. Some went. All fought.

In October 1967, history turned a corner. In a jungle in Vietnam, a Viet Cong ambush nearly wiped out an American battalion, prompting some in power to question whether the war might be unwinnable. On a campus in Wisconsin, a student protest against the war spiraled out of control, marking the first time that a campus anti-war demonstration had turned violent.

American Experience presents Two Days in October, based on the book They Marched Into Sunlight by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Maraniss. From director Robert Kenner (War Letters, Influenza 1918, John Brown's Holy War), this moving film examines the critical events that took place in the turbulent fall of 1967.

The emotionally wrenching parallel stories are told by the people whose lives were irrevocably changed by what happened -- American and Viet Cong soldiers, relatives of men killed in battle, protesting students, police officers, and university faculty and administrators. Collectively, their words speak to the heartbreak caused by the war and the stark division it wrought on the home front. "Nearly forty years later, it's obvious that the pain lies just below the surface for those who were involved," says Kenner. "They're still affected by those two days."

One of the aspects of the film that struck me, was the accounts by the soldiers who were in the battle recounted in the documentary. One day, I thought to myself, there will be men years later, who will never heal from their time in Iraq. One day the truth will come out (not that much has not already), and the division that runs deep in our country today over Iraq, will continue to linger as the division has over the Vietnam War.

We saw first hand what that division over the Vietnam War was capable of in the election last year and that rift still continues as some still push their pent up frustrations on John Kerry. Some will never understand what compels a man to stand up and speak truth to power, yet many understand full well the feelings echoed here...

In Two Days in October Maurice Zeitlin explains that he feels his opposition to the Vietnam War was his duty as an American citizen:

"I have only respect for the men who fought in that war, because they didn't make the war, they didn't choose to fight in that war, but they accepted a responsibility that they thought was theirs as an American citizen... They carried the burden of being an American citizen. When they were sent to war, they fought.

"And I carried the burden, not at all comparable, of being an American citizen by opposing that war... And, for that, I was privileged and they weren't, but we were both doing our duty."

Two Days in October provides a look at lessons to be learned from those who's lives will never be the same, after their participation in those two unforgettable days in October.

You can explore the stories of ten people interviewed in the film here: Firsthand Accounts. I definitely give this film two thumbs up. It's a must see.


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