When Californian writer and peace activist Maxine Hong Kingston was awarded a humanities medal at the White House in 1997, she astonished the draft-dodging president with a message from Vietnam war veterans. “They said, ‘Tell Bill Clinton we’re proud of him; he was right and brave not to go to Vietnam’.” “But I thought they felt I’m a son of a bitch,” he replied. Their forgiveness surprised Kingston too, aware of the bitterness of many veterans towards the anti-war movement of the 1960s. Yet these men had taken part in the 1990s in her war veterans’ writing workshops, inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk whom Martin Luther King Jr nominated for the Nobel peace prize. Though not all the veterans shared Kingston’s pacifism (she has spoken at peace gatherings with the Dalai Lama and fellow writer Alice Walker), some were beside her on International Women’s Day this year, when she was arrested outside the White House during demonstrations against the impending Iraq war. Their testimony forms part of her latest book, The Fifth Book of Peace, part memoir, part fiction, which links the trauma of Vietnam to the Gulf wars. Kingston’s famous debut, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs… Read full this story
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