Born on the Fourth of July
By Mey Elghusein
Published on September 25, 2015
The Vietnam War, lasted from 1959 until 1973, and took the lives of more than 58,000 Americans and over two million Vietnamese. It was a proxy war fought against a background of conflicting political strategies.
The book, Born on the Fourth of July, by American peace activist and Vietnam War Veteran, Ron Kovic, ranks as a most remarkable and moving anti –war literary work. It is a testimony, and a clear evidence of the cruelty of war on all levels of being, physical and mental.
Ron Kovic’s work transcends the status of an anti –war story that tells the tragedy and the fate of an American soldier; the work is a philosophical contemplation on the insanity of using war as a means to solve political conflicts. The writer sincerely wants to re-shape our outlook and our values; his call for peace is the driving force of his work.
Excerpts from the book show in a convincing style the after-effects of the Vietnam War on a deeply wounded, yet a great spirit that has a message to tell:
“…I wanted people to understand. I wanted to share with them as nakedly and openly and intimately as possible what I had gone through, what I had endured. I wanted them to know what it really meant to be in war –to be shot and wounded, to be fighting for my life on the intensive care ward….I wanted people to know about the hospitals and the enema room, about why I had grown more and more committed to peace and nonviolence. I had been beaten by the police and arrested twelve times for protesting the war, and I had spent many nights in jail in my wheelchair. I had been called a Communist and a traitor, simply for trying to tell the truth about what had happened in that war, but I refused to be intimidated”.
“…To kill another human being, to take another life out of this world with one pull of a trigger, is something that never leaves you. It is as if a part of you dies with them. If you choose to keep on living, there may be a healing, and even hope and happiness again –but that scar and memory of sorrow will be with you forever”.
“…He would sit in the shower like that every morning watching his legs become smaller and smaller, until after a month the muscle tone had all but disappeared. With despair and frustration he watched his once strong twenty-one-year-old body become crippled and disfigured”.
One of the most memorable lines of this book is the experience Ron Kovic went through that made him conscious of the indifference of the others; toward people who were ready to defend them and their country, we read:
“…They can look into all the rooms and see the men through the curtains that never close. It is as if we are a bunch of cattle, as if we do not really count anymore.
…I kept shouting and speaking, looking for some kind of reaction from the crowd. No one seemed to want to even look at me”.
““Is it too real for you to look at? Is this wheelchair too much for you to take? The man who will accept the nomination tonight is a liar!” I shouted again and again, until finally one of the security men came back and told me to be quiet or they would have to take me to the back of the hall”.
Ron Kovic’s work is a monument of truth and an honest warning against wars. His sincerity and earnestness is felt throughout his work.
Mey Elghusein holds a BA in English language and literature.
Copyright to all the excerpts belong to author Ron Kovic. Credit permission was granted by Akashic Books.
Article picture: A young Marine private waits on the beach during the Marine landing, Da Nang, 3 August 1965. Source: Wikipedia