Sometimes we forget that politicians and celebrities are human and thus prone to making mistakes, just like us. Most often, we forgive mistakes for which there has been an apology—Bill Clinton is one of our most popular politicians, for instance, despite DOMA, "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" and Monica Lewinski. Sometimes, for some reason, however, we let horrible, costly mistakes slide—as with the “too big to fail” Wall Street bankers and the Bush administration officials who lied to lead America into the Iraq War, leaving 4,488 Americans dead—320,000 vets with brain injuries—and hundreds of thousands Iraqis dead and wounded. (See the Rachel Maddow documentary “Hubris” tonight on MSNBC).
But there are some mistakes that some people feel are just too grievous—too seared into the marrowbone—to forgive or forget. And despite years of apologies and explanations, the photos of anti-war activist and actress Jane Fonda meeting with North Vietnamese soldiers in July 1972 during the Vietnam War is still too much for some Vietnam vets—and their children—to stomach. West Hollywood City Council candidate Christopher T. Landavazo (see his Frontiers video here ) is one of those people—though in a statement emailed to Frontiers, he seems to have more of a problem with Fonda appearing at WeHo’s veterans memorial park than with the legendary actress, per se. Fonda was in WeHo to participate in the V-Day One Billion Rising event (see story and video here). WeHo Public Information Officer Tamara White told Frontiers that Mayor Pro Tem Abbe Land’s office arranged the location for the event—but City Hall is closed today for President’s Day so I was unable to follow up further.
UPDATE Feb. 20: Tamara White sent over the City’s statement (below)—which not only makes sense but I’m frankly embarrassed for not having thought of it myself. One of the documentaries nominated for an Oscar this Sunday is The Invisible War, about sexual assault in the U.S. military. Many of those victims are still traumatized. Service Women’s Action Network notes that 3,192 military sexual assaults were reported in fiscal year 2011, an increase of 1 percent from FY 2010 and a 1.1 percent decrease from FY 2009, according to the Pentagon’s own stats—which are under-reported. “In 2010, out of the 19,000 sexual assaults that occurred in the military, the Department of Defense (DOD) estimates that only 13.5 percent of survivors reported assault.” On Feb. 13, a new bill was introduced to lower the extraordinary burden of proof required to lodge a claim of sexual assault.
Here’s the statement from the city:
The event One Billion Rising, was an amazing opportunity to raise awareness about violence against women all over the world, including women serving in the military. Worldwide, one in three women is raped or beaten in her lifetime. The Veterans Memorial was chosen as a location because it is a good gathering point to bring awareness about violence against women, especially given that many women are victims of violence because of war. The Vietnam War was a painful and complicated part of history for all Americans. We feel extremely honored to have had iconic actress and activist Jane Fonda and other celebrities attend West Hollywood’s One Billion Rising event and raise awareness about violence against women.
Here’s Landavazo’s statement in full:
I am extremely supportive of women’s empowerment and of the efforts of “One Billion Rising” to bring attention to ending violence against women. My nonprofit work here in the U.S. and Internationally via the Cops 4 Causes El Salvador International Cop X-Change clearly demonstrates my commitment to addressing women’s and children’s issues including but not limited to domestic violence, health and wellness issues.
I am third generation U.S. Military Veteran, who served two tours of duty in the Persian Gulf, fought nationally to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT), and was recalled for additional service, due to the tragic events of 9/11. I am also the son of a Vietnam War Veteran and I continue to devote my time to Veteran’s affairs. Ms. Fonda’s historical photo on the anti-aircraft-battery and statements made in Hanoi in 1972 (3 years before I was born) still provoke a deep resentment by many Vietnam Veterans and Americans, as a whole.
Our City’s leadership should have recognized the sensitivity regarding the Veterans Memorial and its importance and prominence to our Veterans community and of our service men and women and chosen a more suitable park within our City to host this event with Ms. Fonda.
On the day of the “One Billion Rising” ceremony, attendees were standing on the Veteran’s Memorial Monument, which pays tribute to the thousands of men and women who gave their lives in service of our country to preserve Democracy around the world.
Our West Hollywood Sal Guarriello Veteran’s Memorial should be respected for the men, women and families for which it stands.