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John Densmore Headshot

Tracers for a New Generation

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I'm from the Vietnam generation. No disrespect to the combat soldiers, but I'd almost like to say I'm a Vietnam vet, although I didn't serve. But my generation was lied to by our leaders, and we lived in fear of being drafted, and some our buddies who were, didn't come back. I say all this because I, we, need to help shoulder what happened during that time. There are obviously more lessons to learn. If we had thoroughly gleaned what we were supposed to from that era, we wouldn't have been in Iraqi and Afghanistan. We wouldn't have stories like the one about Staff Sgt. Robert Bales who did a mini-My Lai in Afghanistan, slaughtering 16 women and children (LA Times). "Can you imagine picking up body parts and putting them in bags?" is a line from the defense seeking compassion for Bales. That exact line is acted out in the Vietnam vet play, Tracers, which opened on Broadway in 1988, and toured the world. It is having a revival at the Culver City USVAA (United States Veterans' Artist Alliance) Theater, with Iraq and Afghanistan vets in the roles the Vietnam vets played years ago. And guess what... they are coming home with the same issues.

Another LA Times piece a few months ago was on suicide going up with the Iraq and Afghanistan war soldiers. We still can't seem to digest that killing another human being, especially if it's for a war that one's country has murky reasons for, certainly will damage the psyche. World War II did not produce a lot of suicides because the soldiers could rationalize taking another life. The most asked question according to Vietnam vets in the play Tracers is: "How does it feel to kill somebody?" It's a line crossed with no return when it's a negative war. The reason the military's expansion of treatment hasn't reduced suicide for the last couple wars are because those conflicts have questionable motives. They need another "ritual," a positive one, to have any effect. In the wake of the near-bombing of Syria, and with the craze for "action" movies, I suggest everyone, especially twenty-somethings, go see Tracers (runs through November 12). It will scare the shit out of you, make you cry, and you won't have to go to the other side of the world to get some "action." In fact, it will probably make you a "warrior for peace."