Something You Did, Primary Stages

On Friday the 21st I had the opportunity to see a preview Something You Did at Primary Stages, opening tonight. Without offering a review, there were several strong performances, and many good reasons to check out this play about the political wound of the 60’s and our difficulty in solving or salving that wound even now.

I recently read that if McCain is not elected president, it is very likely that American will never have a Vietnam War veteran as president. Considering the number of World War II presidents (Kennedy, Bush I, Eisenhower, Ford, Nixon, even Johnson had a Silver Star) World War I presidents (Truman, Roosevelt didn’t serve directly but was Asst Secretary of the Navy in WWI), Teddy from the Spanish-American War, the five Civil War vet-presidents (McKinley, Harrison, Garfield, Hayes, Grant) and so on (31 out of 42 I believe have served), I wonder at the reason we have yet to see a Vietnam vet as president; especially considering that the Vietnam War lasted longer than any other (close to 8 years).

Without attempting a social/historical analysis that I am woefully under informed to undertake; it seems that Vietnam remains an open wound for our country. The reality that so many Americans can have such passionately different views about the morality of that war and its execution; and that those opinions seem so often to divide down a very specific political-social outlook (conservative/liberal); and that in the 2004 election it often felt like we were debating Vietnam instead of Iraq; all of this leads me to believe that this war, and the activism and social change that surrounded it, make the 1960’s more responsible for how we define our country and ourselves than any other decade in memory.

These were some of the thoughts I was wrestling with as I left the theatre from Something You Did, though its focus is primarily on 60’s leftist radicalism, and to a lesser extent, the conservative backlash. And through that prism, the play explores questions of guilt, violent protest, forgiveness, and most successfully, small but vital acts of human kindness. But I thought of the passion of political protest in those years, and contrasted it with today; and thought about the value and cost of the kind of generational change so severe that the divide scars not only the participants but their children as well; and wanted to write about it; which is one of the best things I can ever feel, leaving a theatre.

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