Everyone has the right to dissent, even celebrities. But, when a beloved icon goes beyond dissent and offers aid and comfort to an enemy during wartime, the act carries a special degree of hurt. The men who fight for their country feel a deeper sense of betrayal. These are, after all, the women many fantasize they are fighting for.
Yes, we fantasized over her. Those of you of a younger generation who know her only as an aging actress may not understand. However, anyone who fantasizes over Paris Hilton has no room to talk. Jane was a beauty in her day. Just look at her in Barbarella. Paris with the goofy look pales by comparison.
Hanoi Jane, as she came to be known, may be a revered actress in a community that expresses self-hate to garner popularity in foreign markets as well as among progressives at home, but she is the reviled icon of betrayal for my fellow veterans. Unfortunately, that derision has given rise to false stories of Jane's time in the enemy camp. Yes, she was there and up to no good. But no, she did not take any direct action that resulted in the death of torture of American inmates of the Hanoi Hilton; the infamous North Vietnamese prison camp where so many U.S. soldiers, sailors, and airmen were treated inhumanely. No, her statements and actions attempted to give legitimacy to the illegitimate acts of barbarians, but no one suffered directly at her hand.
I am strident in my assertions because I fear that those who help circulate false claims tend to denigrate the valid ones.
Also, I tend to be a little more forgiving of her stupidity. What else can you call it? By all accounts she was virtually abandoned by her father and easily influenced by men who recognized her vulnerability. A much older Roger Vadim directed her in movies that capitalized on her sensuality and Tom Hayden, a man with decidedly socialist tendencies, directed her political activism. There is little evidence that she had an ego or an original thought until much later in her life, long after she had been used by the anti-war activists of the 1960s. Indeed, Jane did not appear to develop any self-will until she married Ted Turner and apparently cajoled him to finance a documentary extolling the virtues of Communism. One can only wonder why a man who had been afforded so many benefits through the auspices of capitalism, would back this venture. One can only assume that he was either senile or bewitched by his wife's charms (and some might argue that senility made him subject to them).
“It's my fondest wish, that some day, every American will get down on their knees and pray to God that some day they will have the opportunity to live in a Communist Society.”
In which church do you suppose, would Jane and the communists wish us to utter that prayer? (Do I have to remind anyone that communism espouses atheism?)
Also, being a man, I tend to forgive Jane somewhat because I spent so many years fantasizing over her myself. Forgive me. I can still watch those movies she made before she married Hayden, and even then somewhat later realizing that she was merely a dupe. After all, I wasn't fantasizing about discussing philosophy or any other subject with her.
Most importantly, I wish to reaffirm that I am not opposed to dissent. I have quoted Dwight D. Eisenhower many times on this subject.
"Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels -- men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, we may never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion."
Anyone who knows me can safely vouch that I have often objected vociferously when I disagree with my government and even the majority of my fellow citizens. My novel, Rebels on the Mountain, indicts America's government for their poor handling of relations with Cuba. My coming novel will indict it further for its gross mishandling of Korea.
However, I would never knowingly advocate anything that would injure my country or imperil its Constitution. I would never give aid or comfort to my nation's enemies, nor would I travel beyond the shores of my country to encourage its enemies. That is my limit and Jane Fonda exceeded that limit by many thousands of miles.
That being said, let's turn to the question of treason. Did Jane Fonda go beyond mere dissent?
The framers of the Constitution intentionally limited the definition of treason so that it could not be used by the United States as it had been used by tyrants throughout the ages. Many “nobles” used treason to remove anyone who threatened their rule or simply displeased them. Think of Henry VIII declaring it treasonous to disclaim his right to divorce and remarry at will.
In Ms Fonda’s case, North Vietnamese leaders have openly acknowledged that they were on the verge of conceding the war and accepting a separate state to the south. Richard Nixon's willingness to attack NVA bases at home and pursue their lines of communication and supply in neighboring nations had brought them to their knees. North Vietnamese leaders also have openly acknowledge that they were encouraged to persevere by the extraordinary extent of dissent in America. This is the message that Jane Fonda effectively delivered when she visited North Vietnam during the war. She did not deliver arms or weapons to the enemy. She did not deliver secrets relating to American strategy or tactics. She did not take up arms against her fellow citizens. However, she did provide “comfort and aid” that significantly helped them maintain the will of their people to fight. Thus, it is reasonable to argue that she betrayed the trust we have a right to expect in our fellow citizens. It is reasonable to argue that there was at least an indirect causality between her actions and the resulting events in Southeast Asia. Although she did not take any action that might result in the overthrow of our government or our Constitution, she did provide aid and comfort to an enemy in a time of war.
Does all this amount to treason? If we are to remain true to our heritage, we must say no. We must presume innocence until guilt is proven and declared in a court of law. If we have any cause for anger, it must be directed at officials who have failed to bring this question to a competent legal authority.
Now, let's focus on the real question. Is Jane Fonda merely the focus of our anger for the fact that we believe that we Vietnam Veterans are still reviled? Despite recent protestations otherwise, does political will still remain firmly in the camp of the dissenter? If we were truly respected, would our officials take Ms Fonda's case before a grand jury?