The beloved world champ wasn’t mentioned at the national memorial site, but Jane Fonda was.
“Traitor,” “America’s Enemy,” and other terms not suitable for this newspaper peppered photos of the actress, buttons, and signs sold and exhibited by disgruntled veterans.
“Hanoi Jane” was not being forgiven (or forgotten) despite the fact she hadn’t been involved in national politics for some 25 years.
I doubt things have changed much today. I venture if you walked into a VFW Post and mentioned Fonda’s name you would be met with sneers. Fonda’s “crime” was clear-cut: she had turned her back on our country’s military while the U.S. carpet-bombed its way through an unpopular Southeast Asian war.
Ironically, Muhammad Ali walked close to the same path as Fonda. He refused to be inducted into military service (even though his assignment was to “entertain the troops”). He told reporters that he had “no fight” with the Viet Cong.
At a time when white America feared the Black Muslim organization, he declared himself a Muslim and changed his name to reflect his religion.
Unlike Fonda, however, Ali was given “probation” by the American public. When he died last week, he was lauded as a “champion of the people” and a leading force for human dignity. Despite his disregard for the military, he became an American icon, selected to light the Olympic torch in Atlanta in 1996 and has a pair of his boxing gloves memorialized in the White House private study.
What was the difference? Bash me if you wish, but I wonder whether some of the difference is that Ali was male and Jane Fonda is not!
Our culture is rife with males who have recovered from sometimes spectacular public falls from grace. Pee Wee Herman and basketball announcer Marv Albert both returned to their popular niche after embarrassing sexual incidents. Albert even pled guilty to assault charges, but was reinstated on network television just two years later.
Bill Clinton is as popular as now as he was before the Monica Lewinsky debacle, and Ronald Reagan’s positive image today is not indicative of his relatively low poll numbers during his presidency and the plethora of scandals surrounding his time in office.
Granted, not everybody gets a second chance. Bill Cosby doesn’t have enough time left to reinvigorate a career and Barry Bonds and Pete Rose – both among the top 50 players ever to play Major League Baseball – are still scorned.
But Ali, even though many of us feel he was correct in his assessment of the Vietnam War, was suspended from boxing for three years and stripped of his heavyweight title, but later received a free pass from the American public. But Jane Fonda is held with disdain, the Dixie Chicks are still despised, and if Sandra Bullock converted to Islam and stated she didn’t have a beef with ISIS, she would be box office poison.
Call me crazy, but …
The opinions stated in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the ownership or management of this newspaper.