Friday, April 14, 2006

By their side

In 1966, a young Australian woman, Jean Debelle Lamensdorf, went to Vietnam as a Red Cross volunteer. She has written a book about her experiences, Write Home for Me.

Lamensdorf portrays the Australian soldiers she cared for in a refreshingly positive way. In a lengthy article on her life in Vietnam in last weekend’s Herald Sun (9/4/06), she recounts that on her first day in Saigon she visited the US headquarters and that,

In the public relations office she saw photographs of unknown soldiers scattered across a desk. One photo caught her eye.

The image was of an Australian Digger. Rivulets of sweat ran down his dirty face and his eyes told of physical and emotional exhaustion.

Lamensdorf asked if she could keep the photograph. It hung above her bed for her year in Vietnam.

“To me, he summed up the spirit of the Digger: good-looking, rugged, covered in sweat and dirt and though totally shattered, resilient,” she says. “I didn’t know who he was, but he made a huge impression.

“I met many men like him in Vietnam; selfless and well-trained, they never lost their humour and they worried more about their mates than about themselves.”

The man who captivated Lamensdorf was later identified as Barry Harford, a Tunnel Rat who would lead the way into the eerie darkness of the Viet Cong tunnels. Men like Harford never knew what awaited them in the darkness, but they did their job anyway.

On being an attractive young female living among 5000 troops she says,

It was like walking a tightrope. The men had been without women for a long time and there was a lot of sexual tension in the air, but they always treated the Red Cross women with respect and dignity.

After a year, Lamensdorf returned to Adelaide but,

I felt very out of step. I became intolerant of hypocrisy, insincerity and anything plastic. But at the same time Vietnam made me realise the goodness of mankind.

It sounds sugary, but I’d seen the finest that men could be to each other in Vietnam.

This is a very different view of the Vietnam War than that conjured up by films like Apocalypse Now. What’s even more striking, though, is that Lamensdorf so openly appreciates the traditional masculinity of the Australian soldiers and bears not a trace of disloyalty toward them.

1 comment:

  1. The article shows how the old syntax of man-woman operated. The men in war would still be 'gentlemen' to a 'lady' such as Lamensdorf, because that was the 'way things were done' back then. It was 'way things were done' because the way one carried oneself (& acted in society) would be for the greater 'good' - and not just based on immediate subjective desires.... like today.

    The woman of today would not be guaranteed the respect Lamensdorf experienced. Feminists, having removed the historical character of a 'Lady' from social grace, have thus removed 'Gentleman' as well.

    One, cannot exist in the absence of the other.

    Just as there is no 'good' without 'evil' - so too is there no lady without gentleman.

    As Camile Paglia once wrote (& I'm paraphrasing here): "All it will take is one large disaster, and men will be the ones to rebuild the world".

    The same evidence is clear in history of all societies that become great, that they no longer have the threat of survival to contend with. Life becomes easier, & attentions turn to satisfying desires. The Greek & Roman empires of history, were the ones that proliferated 'orgies' & 'homosexuality' & female worship (ie: Cleopatra) - and consequently, those societies (once having reached the point of living only for pagan desires), quickly disintegrated.

    I fear, it will get even worse for women today (as it is already becoming) - where not only are they at more risk of the unknown (having dispensed with aweful misogynistic men), but they face more & more emptiness without men to compliment their lives.

    I hear women saying, "Well so what! A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle!" - to which men will be more than willing to walk away (knowing that they aren't wanted).

    The problem comes when those same spoilt feminists in their 20's are scratching at the leftovers of men in their 30's & 40's (with thier looks fading, ovaries drying up & no home-maker skills to speak of because, "I refuse to cook for a man!") - and discovering that they have nothing to offer men nor society.

    A child has to grow up sometime. Apparently, this only applies to men.

    Women (or rather ladies) like Lamensdorf, will have the respect of everyone (except feminists) because she is following her nature as a woman. Consequently, there will be 'gentlemen' for such a lady.