Colonel Joseph Bellas is probably one of those ordinary officers not likely to be remembered in the annals of warfare, but he recently delivered himself of a statement that is unforgettable. The Colonel is in command of a hospital in Vietnam where a number of soldiers recently boycotted Thanksgiving dinner as a protest against the war. Said the Colonel, “They’re young, they’re idealistic and don’t like man’s inhumanity to man. As they get older, they will become wiser and more tolerant.”
Tolerant? Herbert Marcuse already accomplished a feat of semantic legerdemain when he talked about “repressive tolerance,” but the Colonel beats the dialectician. In his dictionary tolerance is equated with lack of compassion, insensitivity, and a loss of the essential human quality of empathy.
Yet, in a sense, Colonel Bellas does not distort the American experience in Vietnam; he merely expresses it with characteristic bluntness. A conse...
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