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April 16, 1978 - Image 17

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Michigan Daily, 1978-04-16
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Page 6-Sunday, April 16, 1978-The Michigan Daily

They're not all the san

Two sdes of a tragedy

By Jim TobinM
by Tim O'Brien
Delacorte Press, 338 pp., $8.95
by Michael Herr
Alfred A. Knopf, 260 pp., $8.95
W ARS CHANGE after the last shot
is fired. As the years of peace
pass, they turn romantic and dramatic.
They become tests of courage and
ideals. At the very least, they fade in
the memory; people forget that they
were important.
Vietnam is starting its own fade. With
a spate of movies depicting American
soldiers before and after their coming
home, the war has taken the step from
reality to drama. Graduating seniors
this year do not worry about the draft.
North Vietnam won the war three years
ago, so there is no longer even fighting
among only the Vietnamese, and
Jim Tobin is a former co-editor in
chief of The Daily.

headlines look elsewhere in the world
for conflict.
There is no telling, yet, whether
Americans learned from the war,
whether Vietnam, like other tragic
American wars, will command awe and
romantic respect in coming
generations. Two authors are worried
over that prospect-Michael Herr, a
journalist who covered Vietnam for
Esquire, and Tim O'Brien, a fiction
writer who was an infantryman there.
Despite their own occasional flirtations
with romanticization, these writers
have tried to say, in effect, "Wait!
Remember this war as it was!"
Herr's book, Dispatches, is a com-
pilation of some pieces he wrote for
Esquire and the Rolling Stone. It is
hardly conventional war corresponden-
ce. Herr ignored American officers,
finding his stories among the "grunts,"
the inarticulate foot soldiers, each
coming to grips with the war in his own
way.'Most of all, Dispatches is Herr's
own reaction to the fighting, much of it
written in a manic, run-on style that
seems itself to be created out of that
kind of war.
Without equivocation, Herr detests
the American commanders, but his
feeling for .the "grunts" is a subtle

combination of awe, pity, revulsion and
deep affection: "Was it possible that
they were there and not haunted?. No,
not possible, not a chance, I know I
wasn't the only one.. . . Disgust doesn't
begin to describe what they made me
feel, they threw people out of helicop-
ters, tied people up and put the dogs on
them. Brutality was just a word in my
mouth before that. But disgust was only
one color in the whole mandala,
gentleness and pity were other colors,
there wasn't a color left out. I think that
those people who used to say that they
only wept for the Vietnamese never
really wept for anyone at all if they
couldn't squeeze out at least one for
these men and boys when they died or
had their lives cracked open for them."
All the correspondents in Vietnam
saw what Herr saw, but what makes his
perceptions so persuasive is that he
sees all of those colors, not just the dark
ones. Dispatches is nOt rabid polemic
war; it is too broad for that. Upon
finishing the book, one indeed is
repulsed by the American experience in
Vietnam, but not because its every
aspect has been painted evil. Herr finds
some goodness in the grunts and some
beauty in the devastated country and
the shining war machines. When I put

down Dispatches it seemed that I had
been there with Herr and learned what
Vietnam was really like, felt its strange
attractions as well as its terror. With a
sense of both of these, the reader un-
derstands the war's breadth in
emotion-the mingling of egotism, fear,
awe and sorrow.
Herr did not spend a single day doing
"investigative reporting." He was in-
vestigating, instead, the war's feelings.
He wrote about war dreams, his own
and others', about the strophied
euphemisms of American spokesmen
See VIETNAM, Page 7

From within the inferno of war

By Richard Berke
IN THE MINDS of most students, the word ad-
ministrator conjures up images of faceless, gray-
suited non-entities plotting tuition hikes behind
the medieval window slits of the Administration
Building. After years of CRISP lines, service cut-
backs, dorm rate increases and form letters, the
student views the average University bureaucrat as
an antagonist rather than a friend.
In contrast to this popular conception, and in
defiance of the conformist pressures inherent in a
large bureaucracy, there is an administrator whose
office walls are plastered with pictures of clowns,
who took to the streets with students in anti-war
protests, who has tried pot (but says he'd rather have
a glass of vodka) and whose office door is always
open to any student who wants to discuss a problem,
sip wine, or just shoot the bull.
Tom Easthope, Assistant Vice-President for
Student Services, is a hard-nosed administrator who
shows a uniquesconcern not only for long-range
problems but also for the everydayannoyances that
plague students. His department, the Office of
Student Services (OSS) oversees a multitude of
University functions - concerts, students groups,
legal aid, psychiatric counseling. Itis essential that
input from and feedback to the students be main-
tained, and Easthope is an encouraging conduit.
Although Easthope's official dutiesrcover staff and
budget management for the OSS, Easthope says, "I
get a great deal of satisfaction dealing with students
- and that's what this place is all about."
Easthope draws in students because he has an ap-
proachable air about him. Not that he is an open-
armed teddy bear or fatherly type - Easthope Js
neither. He evokes a down-to-earth honesty, not
coming on strong but emanating a subdued warmth.
At the same time, Easthope is not afraid to
challenge the people fromUniversity Activities Cen-
ter (UAC) and Michigan Student Assembly (MSA)
with whom he deals on a day-to-day basis. He says
students sometimes put him on to see how far the 44-
year-old, portly, rustachioed administrator will go.
"They think somehow that you should be mealy-
mouthed and not stand up and answer back,"
Easthope says. "I believe you know if you're going to
put me on, I'm going to put you on right back."
Says one MSA member: "At times I think he exer-
cises a lot of control over MSA and UACand callsthe
shots, which isn't the proper role of an administrator
but he's good at it. He talks like a dumb hick, but
that's an act. He's really sharp."
E ASTHOPE's voice, reminiscent of the gravel-
ly intonations of a gangster movie character,
coupled with the fact that he lacks the ad-
vanced college degrees which are usually part of the
credentials of college administrators, tend to cause
people to underestimate him.
For instance, there's the case of the big-time
Detroit rock promoter who was involved in presen-
ting the Bob Dylan concert at Crisler Arena in 1974.
When tickets went on sale, eager fans discovered that
seats in the first 15 rows were not available. It was
widely suspected that the promoter planned to scalp
those seats for higher prices and bigger profits,
although he tried to snow Easthope with pleas of in-
nocence. The promoter, described by Easthope as a
"sleazy operator," soon found his name in the papers
and the ties with the University severed.
"You have to be vigilant," Easthope explains,
"becausepeople come on and run funny games on
you. Somehow they think, 'we're dealing with these
college kids and we'll put one by them and slide out
with some extra bread.' Bull!
"We don't give credence to people coming out here
for rip-offs with students who are captive."
Part of the reason for Easthope's empathy with
students stems from the fact that he is one himself -
the father of six children, he is currently working
towards a graduate degree in educational
psychology. It's highly unlikely that Easthope

Daily Photo by JOHN KNOX

"You have to be vigilant,
because people come in and
run funny games on you. Some-
how they think, 'we're dealing
with these college kids and we'll
put one by them and slide out
with some extra bread. 'Bull!
"We don 't give credence to
people coming out hereffor rip-
offs with students who are cap-
Tom Easthope, Assistant Vice-
President for Student Services

imagined he'd be in this position 20 years ago when he
was a paper-pushing desk jockey for Bendix cor-
poration after graduating from the University of
Students who deal with him now can hardly see him
caught up in making money and climbing up the cor-
porate ladder. And eventually, Easthope came to
grips with the reality that he wasn't cut out for in-
dustry. It was the civil rights and anti-war

movements that pulled hi
He says he began to rea
concerns lay in what wa
fines of his office.
"When I was in the Sou
I saw segregated faciliti4
thrown off the bus becaus
bus. And those made pr
but I blocked them wh
ahead," he recalls.
But such incidents be
awareness in Easthope
social turmoil of the 60s.
He began paying mo]
tivity. Several of his c
decade, leading him to p
"Whenever there was
run out from lunch and
run back to do my job,"
ministrator. "It seemed
was really nervous abo
personnel job with Ben
kids coming in with 1
profane and they were d
average crewcut that h
was kind of interested t
all about."
Easthope heard that t
Services at the Universi
met with him and found
career. Though the corp
Easthope's speech, littl
mentality. For one thing
the much more democr
at the University.
"It's not your normal
boss says blue is yellow,
yellow . . . in a unive
operation." Easthope a
chance to make their r
that he has never been i
ministration positions.
Strangely enough, Ea
tured the support of his I
as that of students-a fe
tingly, Easthope's office
insulated walls of th
rather it is in the Union
to everyone. The office,
furniture, seems design(
walls are festooned wit
clowns (a favorite East
traffic and pedestrians
dow overlooking State
surrounding himself wit
stantly reminded not t
even carries a clown dra
Easthope is a landlori
typical one. Years bac
plained to him about th
Arbor. Easthope made
they moved in and pai
friend had put up for sa
Dewey House (named
since been occupied I
student government, M
Cellar people. Easthop
houses as well, but bal
"I don't have a house
quarter," he declares.
But, although Easth
students feel at home
door, he is not condesc
dress and speech of his
be spiced with an occas
does little to affect a h
vative ties and jackets
doesn't try to hide the
"To be relevant does
them. I mean, to be abl
job in this kind of en'
have to be a student,"
mean you got to accept
are. I think a lot of tin
understanding students
likestudents is unders
ply not true."

By Philip Caputo
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 346 pp.
He is come to open the purple
testament of bleeding war.
William Shakespeare, King Richard
THERE ARE few things more ab-
horrent than priests, ministers or
rabbis soothing the moral tribulations
of soldiers engaged in war. In past can-
turies, soldiers fought with the
emotional, purging ferocity of direct.
combat. One could see, hear and lay
hands on the enemy. Spiritual questions
could by conveniently shunted aside for
the enemy was distinctly marked and
designated, and usually appeared on a
convenient plane of combat.
The Viet Cong, however, were phan-
toms of the jungle. This enemy seldom
dressed like a soldier, refused to openly
identify himself, and was rarely seen.
When the enemy is an image which can
be incinerated by a voice on a radio, is
he a champion of a murderous opposing
ideology? Or is he merely the deadly
avatar of the ambitions of perverted
It comes as no surprise that in A
Rumor of War Phillip Caputo, who at-
tended parochial schools in his youth,
takes particular ethical exception to a
war prophesied by Thomas Carlyle in
The French Revolution: "Battles in
these ages are transacted by
mechanism ... men now even die, and
kill one another in an artificial man-
ner." The confusion of the participants,
the citizens and the strategists (moral
and military) during the Vietnam
period is central4oEaputos narrative.
We might ask, why has no key

By Steve Bennish
'The Vietnam war had no reason. It
was madness. And its madness so as-

sailed the minds of Americans

that it

was not a war, but became instead only
a rumor o fwar.'

statesman, journalist or philosopher
emerged from this war (as has been the
case in past wars) to offer an em-
bodiment of our participation? It's
.simple: to represent an historical syn-'
thesis (as Eisenhower did), one must
evolve and maintain an underlying
reason. The Vietnam war had no
reason. It was madness. And its mad-
ness so assailed the minds of Americans
that it was not a war, but became in-
stead only a rumor of war. Thus we find
no explanations in the many books
which comprise the Vietnam era
recollections genre, only narratives
like A Rumor of War.
As a description of the experience of
battle, the book is brilliant, lucid and
devastating. A Rumor of War, taken as
an -updated combat narrative, more
than adequately upholds the tradition of
the foot soldier's diary. Caputo's
background was exceptional. Most of
Vietnam's combatants had not atten-
ded college; many did not complete
high school. Caputo did both. He rejec-
ted the prospect 'of "the good life,"
which he regarded as suburban com-

placency, for the high adventure of
combat which was exemplified in his
mind by the war movies and adventure
novels of his adolescence. As he later
wrote, "war is attractive to young men
who know nothing about it. . ." It was
unfortunate, he was later to find, that
real war has no background music.
CERTAINLY the book's most in-
teresting aspect is the way in
which the American soldier came to
partake in the behavior and mores of
the Vietnamese soldiery - men
ravaged by war for decades. American
soldiers found themselves, by
necessity, living in conditions similar to
their Viet Cong counterparts. Military
strategists discovered late in their
careers the error of fighting guerrillas
as one would fight a conventional op-
ponent. Thus, before the grand tactics
of the conflict were altered to fight this
new kind of enemy, the American
soldiers themselves had to learn to
adopt new methods of warfare. In most
-cases, -emulating' their 'aitagpfists'
cunning brutality. William Calley is

perhaps the most infamous example.
Long before Calley, the Viet Cong had
begun the practice of slaughtering
suspect populations. (Caputo's com-
patriots fell prey to this malady, and
narrowly escaped prosecution.)
Perhps the book's most thought-
provoking passage is the description of
"a ballet of death between a lone, naked
man and a remorseless machine." It is
profoundly symbolic of the conventions
of the war and the supreme irony of its
final outcome. Engaged in combat on a
helicopter landing zone, Lieut. Caputo
calls in for an air strike to eliminate
mortar-launching Viet Cong. In come
three Skyhawk fighter planes, dropping
their napalm bombs on the enemy; a
deluge of high technology which in-
spires one Viet Cong soldier to address
the gods themselves:
we see the Viet Cong behind the dike sit-
ting up with his arms outstretched, in the
pose of a man beseeching God. He seems to
be pleading for mercy from the screaming
mass of technology that is flying no more.
than one hundred feet above him. But the
plane swoops down on him, fires its cannon
once more, and blasts him to shreds.
Having, by force of technology,
arrived at the reins of power previously
held only by the gods, one wonders
which side of the two opposing super-
natural forces Americans have chosen
to join. Reading Caputo's book makes
this question clear, vivid and im-
perative. While our power awes our
enemies, we seem to have lost the
"divinely reinforced" assurance with
which we entered the Viet Nam era.
Through this revelation, Caputo hopes
his book may prevent the next
generattiew frm beirig crucified iti a
m aningless war.

R ic h rd B saaily.. s.n + 4 !. t aftr.- . . ,. .
Richard Berke is a Daily staff writer.

Daffy Photo by JOHN KNOX

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