I’ve picked up a few books along my travels in Mexico through various book exchanges. Right now, I’m reading a book called Blood on the Risers by John Leppelman who served in Vietnam for three years when he was a young man.
His account as a soldier during one of the United States’ most controversial wars sparked my interest in the distrust of the press during that period of American history and its connection (if one exists) to the current level of distrust in the mainstream media in today’s political environment.
The Vietnam War was the first televised war in American history which brought scenes of battle and death into the everyday American’s home. This brought with it, of course, controversy surrounding most of what the press printed. Many soldiers fighting in the war, as well as the politicians that led the war efforts, felt that what the press showed the American people was deceptive and meant to turn public opinion against them. As the anti-war movement gained traction, news reports focused on the unrest at home and the soldiers still fighting overseas felt forgotten by their country.
“They felt forgotten.”
That’s a line that we’ve heard much more recently than the 1970s. The people that supported Trump in his bid for the presidency ultimately described themselves in the same way. They are the forgotten citizens of America. They are the residents of the states that people from other parts of the country refer to as the ‘flyover states’. They are the ones who banded together to make themselves heard and to make a difference in the country that they love.
What are the similarities between the ‘forgotten soldier’ of the Vietnam War and today’s ‘forgotten Americans’? And how does this relate to a common distrust of the American press?
Leppelman wrote in his book that as he continued to fight for our country and put his life in harm’s way, what he read in the papers from back home simply did not reflect his experiences. What he saw was a complete disregard of the horrors that he faced on a day-to-day basis and little support from his fellow Americans.
Is that so far from the sentiments of Americans living in middle America? Those citizens who work hard every day to put food on their families’ tables and to keep a roof over their families’ heads only to be kicked back down time and again by their own government? They must feel similar in some ways to the soldier in Vietnam.
People from the ‘flyover states’ are quick to be disregarded as uneducated or disconnected from reality, but the truth is, their experiences and their contributions to this country are no less meaningful than those of the people living in coastal cities. They have an equal right to voice their opinions and to influence the direction of our democratic Republic.
And, just like the soldier in Vietnam, they are not deserving of blame for the state of our country, they are deserving of our understanding, compassion and support as fellow citizens of the United States of America.