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An Open Letter to the American People

open letter
An Open Letter to the American People from Ron Kovic
by Chicago IMC Global Desk 8:34am Fri Sep 21 '01


Author, peace activist Ron Kovic is a Vietnam veteran, former US Marine Corps sergeant, and author of " Born on the 4th of July" a powerful personal account of the Viet Nam war brought to the screen in Oliver Stone's Academy award winning film BORN ON THE 4th of JULY, released in December 1989. Mr. Kovic served 2 tours of duty in Viet Nam, and was paralized from his chest down in combat on January 20, 1968. Mr. Kovic now lives and works in Redondo Beach, Ca.

Ron Kovic, addressing students at a rally at Kent State University. (photo, courtesy Kent State University)


September 14, 2001

Dear Friends,

My heart and soul weeps with everyone in America right now. I was deeply saddened by the terrible tragedy that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001. I didn't sleep much again last night, as it's been for me, and I'm sure so many others since Tuesday. I wonder if we will ever sleep "normally" again? I have thought about it a lot and I am deeply disheartened by the blind patriotism, hatred and desire for revenge that I see growing more and more in this country each day. Resorting to violence and warfare is a great mistake. The painful anguish resulting from this senseless act of violence stirs in all of us a desire for swift retribution. I strongly believe that to move in this direction will lead us into a terrible and disastrous war which we, as a people and a nation, may never recover from. It is a dark and dangerous time in America, and I, in good conscience, will never support such an act of madness! We seem to have learned nothing from Vietnam, and those of us who have come to understand through great suffering the awful waste and deep immorality of war, are not being listened to. Those of us who have found that love and forgiveness are more powerful than hatred are not being heard. We remain invisible, isolated and alone, voices in the wilderness in a country that has truly gone mad. I encourage all of you to raise your voices on behalf of peace and non-violence everywhere. I love this country so much that I don't want to see it go through the senselessness and agony of war ever again.

With love and a sincere hope for peace!

Ron Kovic

Additional background on Ron Kovic of "Born on the Fourth of July"


PEACEMAKER HERO: RON KOVIC
by Nathaniel Moss

On July 15, 1976, Ron Kovic pulled his wheelchair into the gleaming lights of New York City's Madison Square Garden. The eyes of the entire country were focused on this intent young man, just turned 30 but wise beyond his years. Kovic was to address the Democratic National Convention, which had convened in New York to nominate Jimmy Carter for the presidency of the United States.

Kovic had a unique voice to share with the audience that evening. A veteran of the Vietnam War, Kovic had considered it his duty to serve his country. For his patriotism he was rewarded with a bullet in his spine, paralyzed from the chest down. Kovic had returned home not to a hero's welcome, but rather to neglect and indifference in America's veterans' hospitals as he began the long process of healing.

Ron was raised on the films of John Wayne and Audie Murphy, movies like The Sands of Iwo Jima and To Hell and Back. These films glamorized war. Kovic had learned that war wasn't all about heroism. It was scary and confusing, and sometimes you shot the wrong person, maybe even one of your own men. Ron learned that just because you gave your body to your country, that country would not necessarily recognize your sacrifice.

Who better to address a convention at which the wounds of the war in Vietnam were still open? Who better to speak for the men who out of conscience chose not to serve in the war? His credentials were unassailable. After all, how many men could say that they were born on the Fourth of July? Kovic could. He had already said it eloquently in a memoir by the same name published earlier in the year.

As Ron Kovic edged his wheelchair into the spotlight a hush fell over the crowd. He began with a poem he had written:

I am the living death
the memorial day on wheels
I am your Yankee Doodle Dandy
your John Wayne come home
your fourth of July firecracker
exploding in the grave"


As Kovic continued, his words struck a chord. Time magazine described the scene as one of the few poignant moments at the convention and many in the audience were brought to tears. With just a few simple words, this quiet man with an eloquent voice presented a different kind of war hero: a hero of conscience, a hero of peace, in the great tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

In the years to come, Ron became a passionate advocate for peace. He spoke out repeatedly against the poor conditions in America's veteran's hospitals. He protested the United States' support for the undemocratic government of El Salvador in the 1980's. Finally, in 1991, director Oliver Stone brought Ron's story to the attention of the world with his film, "Born on the Fourth of July", starring Tom Cruise.

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