• U.S.

The Viet Nam Situation

9 minute read

Sir: It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to comprehend the mountain of abuse heaped on those who oppose the war in Viet Nam. I wonder what it is we are fighting for here if it is not to preserve the right to dissent. It is far more important for the people of the U.S. to be sure that, as a result of this war, we are providing for the Vietnamese the full benefits of democracy, than it is to be sending cookies and writing letters to the accompaniment of highly chauvinistic demands for unanimity of opinion. We have not declared war on North Viet Nam, and until we do, anyone in the U.S. is within his rights to express any opinion he wishes without fear of retribution, and without fear of being branded a traitor. Most people here in Viet Nam know what they are fighting for, and no amount of controversy in the U.S. will have much effect on them.

PETER G. BOURNE Captain, Medical Corps, U.S.A. Viet Nam

Sir: Letters from the Martin O’Briens [Dec. 24] of our country infuriate me. I don’t deny the right of dissent to the Vietniks, the pacifists, or any responsible person. But the dissenters’ reasoning as expressed by young “men” like Mr. O’Brien can border on the absurd. He cites his “sacrifices” to gain an education. Many young people, and even old people, have made the same sacrifices. Most, thank God, gain maturity and a sense of responsibility along the way. But for the grace of all the men who have served in peace and in war since 1776, young Mr. O’Brien might not have had the opportunity to make his sacrifices. The Viet Cong cannot emasculate Mr. O’Brien; he has done it himself. If his selfish kind should prevail, we would all eventually lose everything. (MRS.) MARGUERITE P. GALE Lansdowne, Pa.

Sir: I am disturbed at the series of letters by cry babies who feel that a few years devoted to the defense of this great country is too great a task to undertake. To Mr. O’Brien, I can testify that I too attended college while working 48 hours a week—after I got my Purple Heart. There are thousands like me who made financial sacrifices to serve, and if this country needs a 36-year-old overweight paratrooper tomorrow, I shall be more than happy to defend Mr. O’Brien’s pet store, regardless of where it is located.

ROBERT FOUTTS Compton, Calif.

Drop That Cool

Sir: I am one of today’s “alienated” youth. Your Essay “On Not Losing One’s Cool About the Young” [Dec. 24] deeply disturbs me, for I feel that it does no more than add to the already heavy strain of mass misinterpretation regarding my peer group. We are not the impulsive, irrational, rebellious youth you describe. We are the hope of a society racked by changing moral standards, breakdowns of age-old prejudices, and adults who cannot or will not bend to accommodate to new situations. Naturally we are going to make mistakes, for the answers are not in past history but in the billowing clouds of the future. My advice to the adult world is: Drop your cool and read the signs clearly. We aren’t searching for kicks. We’re looking for answers to the problems bequeathed to us by you.


Sir: Another well-done Essay! Your evaluation of today’s youth was both fair and truthful. It is now obsolete to think that we are young only once. Today’s youth has a spirit that will keep us young forever!


Sir: The only thing that bothers me about today’s youth is that they are growing to be so much like their elders.


Teacher-Historian Schlesinger

Sir: The cover story on Arthur Schlesinger [Dec. 17] was excellent except that it grossly slighted his great abilities as a classroom teacher. While I was studying at Harvard in 1955, I decided to drop in on a Schlesinger lecture. Frankly, I did not go expecting any great performance. But, somewhat to my surprise, he was outstanding. I returned to his class several times and always found that his lectures were well organized, contained depth, and maintained student interest. Schlesinger contradicts the cliché that professors who write a great deal are probably not effective teachers. It will be a major loss to students if Professor Schlesinger does not spend at least part of his future in the classroom.

GILBERT C. FITE Research Professor of History University of Oklahoma Norman, Okla.

Sir: You say: “After Kennedy’s assassination, the participant reverted to the role of historian, and in 14 months of feverish writing sought to capture on paper the events he had seen at first hand.” It seems to me that the true historian is not given to writing feverishly. On the contrary, it behooves him to write calmly and studiously, with an eye to the enlightenment of his readers. The true historian is not motivated by a desire to achieve publication in short order, or by an ambition to “earn well into six figures.”


Sir: Your very interesting cover story was so au courant about Schlesinger’s distinguished family that I was disappointed that you described his father-in-law merely as “a Harvard Medical School physiologist.” Dr. Walter B. Cannon was a great physiologist. His research first demonstrated the relationship between bodily changes and emotions that is now the basis for psychosomatic medicine. He developed the physiological concepts of homeostasis. Today this knowledge aids man to survive in space. While still a medical student, he was the first to use the X ray and barium to study internal organs, thus opening the door for the use of X ray in diagnosis.

GEORGE M. WHEATLEY, M.D. Senior Medical Director Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. New York City

Sam Spiegel Speaks

Sir: Re your article on Doctor Zhivago [Dec. 24], I did not say, “I hear thev’ve made it into a soap opera.” I said, “The danger is that it might be turned into a soap opera.” At no time in the course of a long interview with your London correspondent did I “snort.” I have developed an abiding admiration and deep regard for Mr. Lean and his enormous talents.


Strausz-Hupé on Overpopulation

Sir: I am gratified at your extensive review of my autobiography [Dec. 24]. In my book, 1 stated my highly critical views of the manner in which governments and religion have dealt with overpopulation. In conclusion, I wrote: “In all likelihood, modern civilization will solve [these problems] as it is wont to do: by a reductio ad absurdiun, such as war; or by technological-administrative interventions, such as forced migration, compulsory sterilization, and stealthy pills, which invariably encroach on human dignity and freedom and destroy the few good and beautiful things that have not yet vanished in the rummage sale of ancient cultures.” Your reviewer finds my views “disconcerting.” Quoting only part of the above sentence, he infers that I am opposed to “oral contraceptives.” It should be obvious from the complete sentence that I am opposed to population control by government flat. In my book, I insisted upon the right of the individual to move freely upon this globe and to order his personal life as he chooses.

ROBERT STRAUSZ-HUPÉ University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia

How to Run a Railroad

Sir: If the railroads really want more passengers [Dec. 24], let them first replace their grumpy, gravel-voiced conductors with genial gentlemen and P.A. systems. Second, let them stop charging $5 for meals that the airlines give you without charge.


The Kennedy Cenotaph

Sir: Mies van der Rohe and Philip John son theorize that ‘”less is more.” If their design for the Kennedy memorial [Dec. 24] is constructed, they will prove that “something can be nothing.”


Levitt Abroad

Sir: It is taking things a bit far to offer a Levitt house [Dec. 10] as a laudable U.S. export. As a sample of informed architectural opinion in France, where Levitt houses are now being built, I quote the words of L’ Architecture D’Aujourd’hui: “Here now, recovered from America, is the famous prewar suburban villa, epitomizing bad taste, obsolescence, and the absence of any architectural quality whatsoever.”

(MRS.) L. GORDON Johannesburg, South Africa

Pass la Catchup

Sir: I disagree most emphatically with Chef René Verdon [Dec. 24]. How dare he burn his chefs card? His clear duty is to goon working for his President and to make le hot dog; to cover everything with la catchup and forget sauce béchamel and quiches Lorraine for the duration. Quitter, draft dodger, outcast! Let his new place of employment be published far and wide so that all of us patriotic citizens may go there and savor his disgrace.


Sir: It is now clearly evident that various liberals have refused to eat dinner at the White House, not because they disagreed with President Johnson’s policies, but because they couldn’t stand the food.


Sir: My staff is betting that White House Chef René Verdon can’t cook chili, Pedernales River or any other style. And we’ll bet two bits he’s never sunk a fang into a puree of garbanzos. All of which boils down to: “If you ain’t tried it, don’t knock it.”

BRICE ARMSTRONG City Editor The Odessa American Odessa, Texas

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com