The name, “Jane Fonda” is probably as well-known among Vietnam veterans as Nancy Reagan, but on the opposite end of the spectrum. Known as “Hanoi Jane”, Jane Fonda is infamous for her visit to Hanoi in North Vietnam during the Vietnam war. During her visit, a famous picture was taken of her inside an anti-aircraft turret with several vietnamese soldiers while wearing a vietnamese combat helmet. She was quoted saying that US soldiers were baby killers and murderers. While Jane’s visit to North Vietnam occurred in 1972, the anger over the incident and her actions has been brought back into the spotlight by the casting of Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan in “The Butler”, a new movie depicting the events of several generations of presidents through the eyes of the resident butler in the White House.
There was a tale of American POW’s in Vietnam that slipped notes to Fonda during her visit which she subsequently handed over to the Vietnamese soldiers, leaving those soldiers to be beaten, tortured, and killed. This tale has been firmly established to be completely false – Fonda met with only seven POW’s during her tour, and met with them around a table where she learned all of their names and even agreed to take messages home to their families for them.
Many times since the Vietnam war, Fonda has publicly apologized for both the picture and her statements about American soldiers. However, for what amounts to treason in the minds of many veterans, apologies aren’t good enough, certainly not enough to so fully vindicate Fonda that she would be permitted to step into the role of Nancy Reagan – a woman revered as a dignified, classy, conservative woman. Fonda’s previous apologies seem to be just one way her pendulum swings when juxtaposed to her decision to wear a “Hanoi Jane” t-shirt to a press conference to promote the film. Apparently she’s only sorry when she’s in trouble for it.
Years after Vietnam, Fonda met with some veterans to discuss her actions in Vietnam. According to her report, the meeting went well enough that all left with a mutual feeling of understanding. She described it as a life-changing event. “We have to listen to each other, even when we don’t agree, even when we think we hate each other,” she says. “I learned so much from that meeting. It was a very difficult thing to do and it was one of the best things that I ever did in my life. Look what scares you in the face and try to understand it. Empathy, I have learned, is revolutionary.”
Empathy, it appears, is also a younger woman’s emotion. In response to the news that veterans were protesting her appearance as Nancy Reagan, she said that veterans should, “get a life”. Which, when compared side-by-side with how the protesting veterans are behaving, does not flatter Fonda. In every place that Veterans are protesting, the proper permits have been acquired, complete cooperation and compliance with the managers of the various cinemas have been the rule, and the protesting veterans have been careful to clarify that no ill-will is bared to the cinemas, the movie, or even those who are choosing to go see the movie.
For someone who prides herself on caring about all humankind and wanting peace instead of war, the proclamation that veterans should “get a life” because they passionately believe that something is wrong seems to tell a different tale. So…people’s feelings only matter if they agree with Jane? Jane has further hurt her case by saying that she knew taking the role would “tweak the right”, followed up by the rhetorical question, “Who cares?”. Only someone interested in healing the partisan schism in our nation, helping lead to progress and who genuinely cares for and wants to show respect for others and their differing beliefs. But perhaps Fonda’s question was apt; how many people in our nation truly fit the above description, anyway?
It seems to the author that Fonda’s actions in regard to “The Butler” have been not merely inconsiderate to the feelings of hundreds of thousands of people, they have been downright disrespectful. To the author, behavior like this is rampant among members of both parties, and Americans from every walk of life. In the battle for establishing human rights, we seem to have lost an art. The art of choosing not to do something, not because we don’t have the right to do it, but simply because we wish to show respect to someone who would be hurt or offended by it. As political correctness has risen, common courtesy has fallen.