NEW YORK, April 15, 2013 - It must have started as a joke.
Who should play Nancy Reagan for director Lee Daniels’ The Butler, a movie about true-life Eugene Allen who served eight presidents as head butler?
The brainstorming around the Hollywood casting table must have been intense.
“Hey, why not Jane Fonda?” someone cracked if only for some laughs.
But Jane Fonda got the part. No joke. She plays Nancy Reagan alongside Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan.
The movie is now in post-production, due for release in the fall.
Vietnam veterans and veterans in general are not amused. Navy veteran Larry Reyes has started a Facebook petition to boycott the movie.
Fonda, known for consorting with the enemy during the Vietnam War, is not troubled by Reyes or by others who object to her playing a Conservative First Lady.
“Get a life,” she told her dissenters according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Here’s veteran John W. Cassell’s response to that: “Fonda has one hell of a nerve telling Vietnam vets to ‘get a life’ when her treachery during the war cost untold misery to our servicemen and their families. To this day we may not know the extent of her actions, but we do know that she gave aid and comfort to the enemy.”
Cassell was a staff sergeant, later commissioned, serving with the Strategic Air Command 1973-1976. He has written several books on the turbulent American Society during the Vietnam War and is the father of a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and two other Army veterans.
Fonda crossed into North Vietnam in 1972. She was tagged “Hanoi Jane” after she posed smiling with enemy soldiers alongside an anti-aircraft battery. “I will go to my grave regretting that,” she told Barbara Walters and Lesley Stahl, which some take to mean that she was sorry she got caught. Otherwise she does not disavow the sum of her anti-war activities.
The record shows that Fonda made 10 or more Hanoi radio broadcasts, favoring the enemy, and that she referred to American military leaders and returning POWs as “war criminals.” Disapproving veterans then and now view such “Tokyo Rose” actions as treacherous, borderline if not outright treasonous.
“Hypocrites and liars,” was her response to GIs who complained of torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese.
The facts and testimonies clearly prove that our GIs in captivity were indeed tortured.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, all the Republican presidents in The Butler are being played by Liberal actors, such as John Cusack for Richard Nixon; Robin Williams for Dwight Eisenhower, and Rickman for Ronald Reagan. Given the political climate in Hollywood and elsewhere, this is not surprising.
Between Central Casting and Sunset Boulevard, perhaps there were no Conservative actors anywhere in sight.
Fonda has been at the forefront of Liberal causes.
In 2009, at the Toronto Film Festival, she helped stage a boycott against Israeli films and Israeli filmmakers. Casting against type proceeds with Vanessa Redgrave, who also appears in The Butler. Known to some as an anti-Semite, Redgrave (rubbing it in?) has played sympathetic Jewish women in film and on stage. (Anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism often go hand-in-hand.)
Fonda claims that Nancy Reagan is happy to have Fonda as her alter ego.
“We’ve both mellowed with age,” says Fonda, though many would argue that Nancy Reagan has always been the picture of dignity and serenity.
The Vietnam War divided America as no other conflict. President Lyndon Johnson promised the country that “no American boys” would be sent off to protect South Vietnam from communist forces attacking from the North. Troop levels, however, increased by the hundreds of thousands during the 1960s and even into the Nixon years.
Protesters argued that America should not be involved in a civil war. Draft cards were burned from campus to campus and in some cases the American flag was torched. Millions marched on Washington to voice their disapproval. “Hell no we won’t go” became a rallying cry of youthful dissent. “Don’t trust anyone over 30” soon defined 1960s culture.
Supporters were equally impassioned on the belief that America was fighting to protect the entire world from Communist domination.
Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s message “we will bury you” was taken seriously by many in the United States.
Americans… “American boys” who’d been drafted to fight for their country, whatever the politics, and wherever the fight, often returned home to find themselves unappreciated for their heroism, their service, their sacrifice. Some were jeered publicly for answering the call to duty. They were called. They answered.
The healing began in 1982 at the construction of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, D.C., honoring the 59,000 Americans who fell in Vietnam.
But the healing is far from complete even to this day – on a day when a leading American actress tells veterans to “get a life.
Jack Engelhard, a novelist for such moral dilemma bestsellers as The Bathsheba Deadline, The Girls of Cincinnati, and the classic Indecent Proposal, his memoir Escape From Mount Moriah, and Slot Attendant – A Novel About A Novelist, Engelhard’s partly autobiographical expose about the trials of making it as a writer, brings his words to the Communities page covering all topics, with special focus on the absurdity of human behavior and reaches around the globe.
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