Busted: A Vietnam Veteran in Nixon's America

Busted: A Vietnam Veteran in Nixon's America

Busted: A Vietnam Veteran in Nixon's America

Busted: A Vietnam Veteran in Nixon's America

Synopsis

Between March and September of 1974, as Richard Nixon's presidency unraveled on national television, Bill Ehrhart, a decorated Marine Corps sergeant and antiwar Vietnam veteran, fought to retain his merchant seaman's card after being busted for possession of marijuana. He was also arrested on suspicion of armed robbery in New York City, detained on the Garden State Parkway for looking like a Puerto Rican revolutionary, and thrown out of New Jersey by the Maple Shade police. All of this occurred while the House Judiciary Committee conducted hearings on Nixon's impeachment. Busted shows an acute awareness of the ironies of these juxtapositions, as Ehrhart recounts a surreal cross-country journey in search of justice in a nation that has lost its way, betrayed by its leaders. Picking up the narrative of Vietnam-Perkasie and Passing Time, this third book in Ehrhart's Vietnam War trilogy is an exploration of the contradiction between law and justice in Nixon's America and an examination of why the wounds inflicted on the United States by the war are so slow to heal.

Excerpt

Among the hundreds of authors whose works I have assigned in dozens of courses at American public and private universities since 1961, I have never seen one have the same impact as W. D. Ehrhart. I have not even heard about any other author having the kind of effect I have witnessed.

In 1981 I began teaching a course called Vietnam and America at Rutgers University in Newark, an urban branch campus of New Jersey's state university attended mainly by working-class students. Two of the books that always seemed to generate enthusiastic responses were Carrying the Darkness: The Poetry of the Vietnam War, the splendid anthology edited by Ehrhart, and Passing Time (originally published as Marking Time), the second of his extraordinary autobiographical memoirs. So each year I used some of the modest funds available for lecturers to have Ehrhart come to the class to read his poems and discuss the war. But in 1993, when funds for lecturers disappeared (thanks to the financial crisis crippling public higher education), I was unable to invite him or any of the other Vietnam veteran authors who had generously shared their time with previous classes. When I walked into the classroom on the day Passing Time was due, there was a strange hubbub. One very bright, articulate, and conservative young man, who had attended a military school and was planning to be a career military officer--and who had been arguing vociferously with me all semester--seemed especially upset. Suddenly he blurted out:

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