The cover of the latest issue of The Nation declares, "Kinda Fonda Jane!" In it, Tom Hayden, Fonda's ex-husband and fellow antiwar activist, illustrates not only the selectiveness of Americans' memories of the Vietnam War but the embellishments of the selected memories with viscerally provocative stories that pervade our national psyche:
The popular delusions about Fonda are a window into many other dangerous hallucinations that pass for historical memory in this country. Among the most difficult to contest are claims that antiwar activists persistently spit on returning Vietnam veterans...
The Rambo movies not only popularized the spitting image but also the equally incredible claim that hundreds of American soldiers missing in action were being held by the Vietnamese Communists for unspecified purposes. John Kerry's most noted achievement in the Senate was gaining bipartisan support, including that of all the Senate's Vietnam veterans, for a report declaring the MIA legend unfounded, which led to normalized relations. Yet millions of Americans remain captives of this legend.
It will be easier, I am afraid, for those Americans to believe that Jane Fonda helped torture our POWs than to accept the testimony by American GIs that they sliced ears, burned hooches, raped women and poisoned Vietnam's children with deadly chemicals. Just two years ago many of the same people in Georgia voted out of office a Vietnam War triple-amputee, Senator Max Cleland, for being "soft on national defense."
Granted that it could be argued that Hayden isn't exactly unbiased but that doesn't diminish the challenge that his question poses to the glory in our self-image:
Why should American atrocities be merely unsettling, but a trip to Hanoi unconscionable?
Carol Burke, in the same issue of The Nation, explores why Fonda has endured as the treasonous demon deserving America�s vilest contempt:
�Fonda engendered such anger in part because she had once stood for the girl every soldier had known at home. Vietnam-era soldiers had come to know her first as the cute ingenue of Tall Story and as the daughter of a famous and admired Hollywood star and then as the sex kitten Barbarella, always ready and willing to please�
Those who condemned Fonda�saw in (her) the American female uncannily, as if by sabotage, transformed into an enemy agent. The figure of a woman who appears to be one thing but turns out to be something more sinister or monstrous inhabits centuries of folklore. She makes her way into soldier lore as the apparently innocent but seductive foreign woman who turns out to be extremely menacing� The ever available, playful Barbarella had become the American soldier's nightmare--Hanoi Jane.
Now, more than thirty years after the misguided human act � one that Fonda herself later admitted was "thoughtless" � resulted in her banishment to the demonic realm, she has been invoked by John Kerry�s detractors who hope that her curse will rub off on him by virtue of his proximity to her in an old photograph. Of course, being of a scientific culture, one wouldn�t rely solely on mystical powers so technology was employed in the strategic doctoring of a photograph that might be more effective in producing the desired result.
Have these good folks made a tacit pact with the succubus? I don't know but if they have then it could be because they need to keep hating "Hanoi Jane." After all, if one looks past one's revulsion for one's demons then one might have to face them.