Forever Wars Military Robert Scheer SI Podcast

Ron Kovic: The Dark Irony of This Patriotic Orgy and the Celebration of War

Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic, author of “Born on the Fourth of July” and subject of Oliver Stone’s iconic Vietnam War film, will mark his 76 th birthday watching a war that portends the end of civilization.
Ron Kovic and TerriAnn Ferren. Photo courtesy of Ron Kovic and TerriAnn Ferren

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Ron Kovic, literally “Born on the Fourth of July,” author of his classic anti-war memoir and subject of the Oliver Stone film based on the book, marks the day of patriotic zealotry with dread. Kovic was inspired to enlist as a US marine and fight in Vietnam, answering President John F. Kennedy’s call to serve country before self. The result failed both the country and the young marine, who was severely wounded in action in a war that he believes betrayed the nation’s stated ideals and left him a paraplegic, bound for a half century to his wheelchair but freeing his voice to speak as clearly as anyone on the dark folly of war.

It’s a folly that has suddenly reasserted itself in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and NATO expansion with a dangerous fury matching the most frightening events of the Cold War and carrying an even greater prospect of a nuclear war that would end life on this planet. Most alarming is that the worldwide peace movement that Kovic came to embody and which he vigorously attempts to rally is almost non-existent.

That collapse of the peace movement is an alarming development to Kovic and Scheer who covered the Vietnam War as a correspondent and has known Kovic since the two of them met 52 years ago in the Los Angeles Veterans Cemetery following an anti-war demonstration. In the following interview, they are joined by writer TerriAnn Ferren who has been Kovic’s closest friend and most reliable supporter during the last 16 years of his strenuous and often medically fraught effort to bring a message of peace to a world that seems ever more in denial about the terminal destructiveness of war.

Credits

Host:

Robert Scheer

Producer:

Joshua Scheer

Transcript

Robert Scheer:

Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence. And the intelligence this time comes from somebody I know that is an incredibly important, sentient human being, Ron Kovic. I was really excited about doing this. It’s going to be more of a conversation than an interview. I’ve done a number of interviews over the years with Ron. But the 4th of July is very special, as people know from the movie where Tom Cruise played Ron Kovic. They know from his book, Born on the 4th of July, which is one of the really great, I wouldn’t say just anti-war, war books dealing with the horror of war. And Ron Kovic was paralyzed in Vietnam from the chest down. And I’ve known him after he got out of the VA hospital. But I’ve known him for about a half century. No exaggeration, I think it’s precisely a half century. And his birthday is always on the 4th of July. And you’re now 76.

And now I know what you want to do is seize this interview and I really can’t stop you. What am I going to do? Do what the police did in San Diego and toss you out of your wheelchair? So go have at it.

Ron Kovic:

Yeah, Bob, it’s great to be with you tonight. Thank you so much. I turned 76. And I think it was just a few months ago, in the spring, you turned 86 years old. You’ve had an extraordinary life. You were talking about how we first met it. I’m going to help you a little bit on this, see if you can remember. It was Memorial Day, 1971. Do you remember what we did that day? 

Robert Scheer:

Well, I remember it was the veterans cemetery in Westwood, Los Angeles not far from UCLA.

Ron Kovic:

Right.

Robert Scheer:

And there had been a demonstration and then everybody went home after that. And we started talking and I think we were there for, I don’t know what, three, four hours.

Ron Kovic:

A couple of hours until it got dark in the cemetery.

Robert Scheer:

Yeah, well, we stayed. And I was amazed that they didn’t throw us out. And it was a very meaningful conversation because I knew about Vietnam from having gone there as a journalist and writing about it. And warning, quite a few years before you went as a Marine, and I warned about what war does. I warn about it right now. And everybody is sort of giddy, fighting for freedom in Ukraine and everything. And I just think of all the Ukrainians and Russian soldiers and so forth that will be killed, maimed and suffer, as you have, an injury that’s over half a century now. In the process, let me just say, I think we’ve become very, very close friends and I’ve learned a great deal from you. And so let’s not get away from the subject. You wrote this really important book, Born on the 4th of July. You wrote another one after that about the Veterans’ Movement. I know you are working on a book right now.

Ron Kovic:

Yeah.

Robert Scheer:

And there was a famous movie where Tom Cruise, I think, brilliantly portrayed you and Oliver Stone of course was the director. But go ahead. You want to ask me questions.

Ron Kovic:

Yeah. Yeah, I don’t think we were thrown out of the cemetery that day, were we? 50 years ago?

Robert Scheer:

No, no, they just let us sit there. Maybe they didn’t even know we were there.

Ron Kovic:

We stayed there until dark. And when I was in your class, I remember describing that day that I met you. I was leading Vietnam Veterans Against the War down Wilshire Boulevard and we ended up in the graveyard. And to just make it short, we were there for several hours and everybody left. And there were gravestones and American flags, a sea of red, white and blue on that Memorial Day. 50 years ago I was 26 years old and you were 36 years old. We were young then and we’re still young today. But I remember-

Robert Scheer:

And the senseless wars continue to this day. That’s what gets me. It’s not a war game. You’ve been in that wheelchair and it’s been very difficult. And you just recently had yet another infection. You’ve got all these tubes going into you. And you’ve done an incredible job as a public intellectual, as a writer raising these issues. But there have been a number of times when I’ve invited you to my class and you were back in the VA hospital, the spinal cord injury section. I remember one President’s Day I went down there to visit you and most of your fellow patients kind of looked spaced out and miserable. There were no visitors. They were the forgotten wounded.

Ron Kovic:

That’s right.

Robert Scheer:

And I even took a picture of you in your wheelchair in front of that big poster, welcoming everybody. But nobody had come. They were the forgotten.

Ron Kovic:

It was a difficult day for us. Those were the forgotten wounded. You said it correctly. And I was so grateful that you came down that day. Not only did you come down, but you interviewed me again that day. I think back to in the early years when I was speaking. And I’ve been speaking out, I’ve been raising my voice on behalf of peace and nonviolence and the senselessness of war and what it does to human beings, whether they be Ukrainians, whether they be Russians. A Ukrainian young man right now is beginning to deal with having to be paralyzed for the rest of his life, just as a young Russian is beginning to deal with having to be paralyzed for the rest of life. We don’t think of these things. There is a Ukrainian mother weeping tonight, still weeping for a son who has been recently lost in this war that we read about every day and see on television and the papers. No one talks about the fact there is a Russian mother too, weeping as well for her son.

War is a terrible way to solve problems. There’s got to be an alternative to war. And it’s been a message that I’ve repeated again and again that we must find an alternative to this behavior, to this way of dealing with our problems around the world and here at home as well. Here at home as well there’s got to be dialogue. There’s got to be a diplomatic approach. And you encouraged me. You taught me. You taught me about the need to respect every human being, even those who we may even vehemently disagree with. That’s the influence you’ve had on my life. That you’ve influenced me to realize that it’s not so black and white, that we’re all human beings in this world, all human beings.

And that there are always two sides, not just one side. And we have to understand that we’ve got to begin to move away from this type of behavior. I just want to say that… I’m just thinking about what this time means to me. What you said about the hospitals and, yes, I’m so grateful. I’ve been speaking in your class, I can’t count how many years now. I can’t count how many in all these 50 years. I can remember phone calls when I lived up in San Francisco or in Marin County, in Sausalito, getting phone calls from you on a payphone, wanting to interview me for the Los Angeles Times. And when people didn’t want to hear what I had to say, when people didn’t want to listen to me, you were the one who would call me.

You were the one who would share my voice with people who I might never have been able to reach. But because of you and because of our friendship and your interest in my struggle to speak out on behalf of peace I was able to reach many more people than I would’ve been able to reach. I can remember you would call me in New York when I lived there on Long Island. You called me up in the Bay Area when I lived there. And I would get calls from time to time throughout, believe me, and even up until the other night, you wanted to interview me for this and I so much wanted to interview you.

Robert Scheer:

Well, I think there is a division of labor here, because, yes, journalists have been killed and wounded. Citizens are wounded. But the key thing is war gets written about, and it’s important on the 4th of July to question notions of patriotism and national glory and obligation. And one thing that’s happened now in the Ukraine we’re hearing discussion of, “Oh, the Russians are using terrible weapons. Civilians are getting killed. They’re using fragmentation bombs, anti-personnel weapons.” Well, first of all, those weapons… And by the way, the US and Russia and the old Soviet Union never signed the international agreements against using them. But yet, yes, they’re terrible weapons and most weapons are terrible, whether they’re bombs dropping. Whether they’re anti personnel devices or whatever they are. And the fiction now is somehow finally we have found our good war. We always thought of World War II as our good war. But people forget Vietnam was supposed to be the good war. We were supposed to be saving the Vietnamese from communist tyranny.

Everybody’s forgotten that now Russia is no longer a communist country. Putin, in fact, is an anti-communist. He defeated the communists. Vietnam is still a communist country. And now the US is pivoting to a whole new conflict with China, communist China. And who do we favor? We favor Vietnam. And we think that maybe we can move some of this production of phones and everything to Vietnam more than we have. And everybody forgets. You don’t know, when we went to Vietnam, we thought we were on this side of the angels or claimed to be. And yet remember Martin Luther King said about that war, that his government had become the major purveyor of violence in the world today.

So how was he going to talk about nonviolence when he is in a ghetto community? And we forget that. We demonized the Vietnamese, just like everybody is now saying the Russians have no reason, they’re barbarians. Yet when we were doing carpet bombing, when we smashed and burned all these villages and everything, and then who changed that whole mood? It was Richard Nixon, who had been a big red-baiter and everything. He says, “Do you know what? We can do business with the Chinese communists.” Not even the current ones who mostly are into capitalism. No, Richard Nixon went over to see Mao Zedong and they developed a peace which has held up until now when that good work seems to be threatened now.

Ron Kovic:

Well, I refuse to have my government tell me that I have to hate another human being, to tell me this person is my enemy. I’m very skeptical now about that. I want to know who this person is that I’m supposed to hate. Who is this person that I’m supposed to cheer when bombs start dropping and civilians start dying? Who am I supposed to hate and who is the enemy? And to me, this type of behavior is the greatest enemy of all. I was thinking, you ran, I believe it was, for Congress. Is that correct? In Oakland?

Robert Scheer:

Yeah.

Ron Kovic:

Let me say this, you ran as an anti-war candidate against a Democrat who was for the war. Who was for the war at the time who eventually lost to Ron Dellums. Eventually lost to Ron Dellums. But you almost beat that Democrat as an anti-war candidate. So you were speaking against the war, running for Congress. When was that?

Robert Scheer:

That was ’66. And I must say, I went to Vietnam the first time in ’64 and then ’65. And I went to Cambodia. I was in Cambodia both before the big carnage and after. And I was in North and South Vietnam. But when I wrote about Vietnam, my first pamphlet, How the US Got Involved in Vietnam, it was in ’65, ’66 and then I ran for Congress. When did you go into the Marines? When were you first in Vietnam?

Ron Kovic:

I joined the Marines out of high school in the fall of 1964. I went straight to Parris Island. I wanted to be a Marine. I had been born on the country’s birthday. I was born on the 4th of July. That’s my real birthday. I was proud to be an American and I wanted to serve my country. I had been inspired by John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” And I asked what I could do. Look, I came from a working class background. I didn’t have a lot of options. I wasn’t particularly a great student either. And I didn’t particularly like school so I wasn’t going to one of the colleges that many of the other kids were headed toward.

And I felt a bit insecure. I also felt a lot of pressure from my parents. My father in particular, “Get a job, do something with your life.” So I thought I’d make everybody proud by becoming a Marine and I joined. And so that was the fall of ’64. And I was wounded January of ’68 after two tours of duty in Vietnam.

Robert Scheer:

Okay. But I was there in Vietnam in ’64, ’65. And I’ve told you this before, if I had been more effective in communicating how absurd this war was… And I feel the same way now about what’s going on with Ukraine. It’s becoming an excuse now. Just today as we’re speaking, they had the NATO meeting and they’re going to rush more planes and more guns everywhere. And we’re going to take on China and NATO is now… We don’t even talk about the UN. We talk about NATO, a military alliance that was supposed to have to do with the Cold War. Now we’re going to just send more of these weapons. And the whole assumption is somehow… There isn’t even talk about peace movement. There wasn’t even one Democratic member of Congress who voted against the latest military appropriation. This $50 billion, put more weapons there. There’s no one talking about making peace. Now that’s considered old fashioned and yet who’s dying? We’re going to fight that until the last Ukrainian, maybe the last Russian.

And as I say, there’s that kind of a giddiness, the only way I can describe it. And what’s really scary now is the possibility of nuclear war. People can maybe hit a city in Russia and then they hit, “Well, that came from France or it came from Germany.” Or maybe they take out some target in France and Germany. Oh, next thing you know, what have you got? You’ve got nuclear weapons and a lot of countries have them. And I am really personally so depressed about the inability of an anti-war movement that I was involved with to drive home, and you obviously were involved in. Where’s the peace movement now? Where’s the anti-war movement?

Ron Kovic:

Let me just say this, at, our government, this administration, they’re playing with fire right now. Playing with fire. It’s dangerous what’s happening. It’s dangerous and anything could set this off. Look back at history. Look at what has happened throughout history, just over the last century or so what’s happened, how wars have started. What was it? Sarajevo by a single gunshot. And how many people at the end ended up suffering because there’s millions of people who died. We’ve got to be much more circumspect, much more cautious, much more thoughtful and diplomatic. We need to find alternative solutions. We need diplomacy. We need to find ways to solve this problem without getting ourselves in an even greater war.

Robert Scheer:

If you talk about diplomacy now people say you’re unpatriotic. It’s unbelievable. Robert McNamara, our former Secretary of Defense, the last podcast I did, or two weeks ago, was with his son who wrote a great book about his father, who could never, ever really finally say what was so obvious even to Robert McNamara, that that war never made any sense. The war that caused you to be paralyzed for more than a half century. And Robert McNamara ended up going to Vietnam and meeting with General Giap, the so-called victor of the war, and admitted that, he used the figure three and a half million people had died, but actually it’s more like five, 6 million people died and a lot more injured and so forth, and he said it never made any sense.

And it’s very interesting. It was John Kennedy who said, “Oh, we’ll get involved.” Oh, just a little bit like we’re doing now. We’ll just send this aid and these troops and this thing and it ended up 58, almost 59,000, Americans and the four or five million Vietnamese died in that. And I see that’s what’s happening now. And again, it’s like it’s giddy, “Okay. Yes, the enemy is doing terrible things. Then we do terrible things in return.” And the idea that maybe you’ve got to negotiate, maybe you’ve got to figure out what’s… If Nixon could negotiate with Mao Zedong, okay? For God’s sake, when you think of the barbarism that had taken place under Mao’s leadership. And Nixon, who was not faultless by any means, but they could do that, how in the world could we now talk about, “No, just more military, more arms, more death,” and no one’s talking about negotiating?

I want to make one point about Kennedy that you and I happened to talk about the other day. But the Ambassador Hotel where Bobby Kennedy was killed, I happened to interview Bobby minutes before he went down to be shot.

Ron Kovic:

That night, that very night, right?

Robert Scheer:

Yeah, that very night. And the interesting thing is that Bobby Kennedy had come to see the folly, the horrible folly, of a war that his brother actually had initiated and what a trap it was. And he was running and had a real good chance of becoming president as an anti-war candidate. And it wasn’t out of disloyalty to his brother who he had great respect for. But he saw what happens when you go to war and the horrible violence and destruction. And it’s not just one shopping area that’s killed, but that leads to another shopping area, and that leads to houses being blown up and schools. And we’re just seeing that. And we are actually at a more dangerous moment, I think maybe, than we were even in the Cold War. It’s kind of like… We don’t have a draft. People, “Okay, I’m rooting this or that.” They’re not going to go. And they even do it so well, it’s not going to mess up, “We’ll get inflation under control and we’ll get the price of gas down.” That shocked everybody, there might be an economic cause.

But I just think… I hate to say this, Ron. Maybe it’s a way of starting to wrap this up. But you’ve devoted your life, your whole life. And I know sometimes it’s been really painful to get out of your small apartment, get in that wheelchair, go speak at some rally, write about this and so forth. And it’s really depressing that we don’t have a peace movement now. I’m not saying you take one side or another, you apologize to anybody. But we just don’t have people say, “Wait a minute, this is not a game. This is deadly serious.” And what, civilian casualties? That’s the norm.

Ron Kovic:

I wonder what Martin Luther King would think if he were alive today, what he would think about all of this. I know, I know that he would be on the side of peace. I know that he would be on the side of a diplomatic solution. I know that he would be struggling with everything within him to avoid the dropping of bombs or the killing of human beings. Do we ever think about the human cost of war? The physical, psychological effects that war has on human beings? Human beings, not just one particular country. The Vietnamese as well as the Americans. There’s a young Vietnamese boy out there somewhere in a wheelchair. There’s a young Russian who’s in a wheelchair or a Ukrainian. We don’t think about the fact that war has a terrible effect on human beings, especially those young men who go off to war so enthusiastic about serving their country only to return home to, often in my case, dilapidated VA hospitals. At the time, it’s improved greatly, thank God, over the years. But when I came back from that war, I lived amongst the wounded of that war. It affected me deeply.

When I was in that intensive care ward I saw what war was and I’ve lived with that for the last, what will it be? How many? 54 years. What I wanted to say was you talk about my small apartment. It’s actually a little bit more spacious than that and I’ve got a pretty good view. But I just want to say that more than anything, as I approach my 76th birthday, 76 years, I’m grateful to be alive. I’m thankful for every day. It’s a thrilling adventure to me. Regardless of the fact that three quarters of my body is paralyzed, I’ve met a wonderful woman. I’ve been able to love again. I’ve been able to write, to write, to publish books. I’ve been able to speak and to be heard, to be listened to because of you and others like you who’ve been willing to listen to what I’ve had to say.

Robert Scheer:

No, Ron. No, Ron. No, Ron, it’s because of you. You found the inner strength, you had the incredible willpower to overcome. I’m not going to bullshit you. I see what you go through on a daily basis. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it. I complain about a backache or something. Really. And I think we disrespect your wisdom and that of… You’re not the first one. You mentioned Martin Luther King, for example. We’ve had great prophets, you could say Jesus Christ is one of them, who have warned us about what violence does and so forth. And not seeing the soul in others, a very important idea. And we’ve got to remind people when you join the Marines, and it’s all brilliantly laid out in your own work, Born on the 4th of July and the movie that was made out of it, your friends there in Long Island, some thought, “Wait, Ronnie, what are you going for? Get out of the draft.” And you weren’t even drafted, you volunteered.

And I was a very strong critic of that war. I wrote a lot about it. But one could make an argument, a moral argument, of why intervention was required, right? “Oh, there were Catholic refugees from the north.” And, “The communists were in the north and Ho Chi Minh. And there was this issue and that issue.” And it’s always complex and there’s always good and evil floating around. And you could say the same thing about every single conflict. And the point is you then say, “Okay, let’s step back and put sanity into it.”

Now I do want to say something. You mentioned this wonderful woman, and I want to give her credit. Usually at the end of these podcasts I thank, I’ll even do it now, I thank Christopher Ho and Laura Kondourajian at KCRW. I thank Joshua Scheer, our executive producer, Natasha Hakimi Zapata, who writes all this, the JKW Foundation for giving support. But I’m not ending the show there because the woman you just alluded to made this interview possible. She’s our techie tonight. So could TerriAnn speak into the mic? And what I’d like to ask you is your view of what Ronnie goes through and where he finds the strengths. If you don’t want to do it’s okay. I didn’t warn you in advance and I don’t want to put you on the spot. But I’ve seen you, I know how important you are to Ronnie’s survival and brilliance. So could you say something?

TerriAnn:

I would love to. Thank you very much even for asking me. It’s an honor. Ronnie is an incredible person. And from the first time I met him I knew something was special about him. Where he gets his strength, I don’t know. Some days… He never has a bad day. I call him in the morning and I say, “Good morning.” And he’ll say, “Isn’t it a beautiful day? It is a fabulous day.” He says, “It’s Wednesday, it’s Thursday,” whatever day it is. And at that point, he can’t even see outside his window because his blind isn’t open yet because he’s still in bed. Ronnie’s optimism, his faith, the way he looks at life and the way he treats people, it has been like a moving drama in front of my eyes. I’ve seen this man get more and more beautiful each day.

I can’t explain how special he is. I’m telling you, Bobby, he’s just the most amazing man I’ve ever met with the way he looks at life and the way he loves and the way he loves everyone, every single person who comes up to him. I’ve never seen him turn anyone away. He is gracious, humble and polite to everyone. I don’t know if that’s what you’re looking for, but I feel blessed to have met Ronnie Kovic. He is an incredible human being and my image of what a true man is.

Robert Scheer:

Well, let me just have you add one story to that because I’m going to post that video of when they honored Bruce Springsteen and I forget, a couple other people at the Kennedy Center. Bruce Springsteen, who had met Ronnie after having read his book, I believe at a hotel swimming pool, I think I mentioned it. But you went back to Washington. And it’s a human story. And I just want you to tell me about it. We’re talking about a person who now has to be lifted into his bed and has someone who comes in the morning and comes back at night and yet has managed to travel all over the world, give speeches, be out there and do it. And the way you just so beautifully described, without self pity, which he’s certainly entitled to, without bumming everybody out. And yet you’ll know better than anyone the threat of his injuries, how close he is to death on one occasion after another when he has to rush back to the hospital. But just tell that scene in the hotel room. I want to end on a positive note.

TerriAnn:

Okay.

TerriAnn:

Yeah, I will. Okay. A lot of people don’t understand what it’s like to travel with Ronnie. And when we were traveling to Washington DC we were staying at this lovely hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, and we had this lovely suite. And we got there after… It’s a lot to travel in a wheelchair because you go from a manual wheelchair to a…

Ron Kovic:

Aisle chair.

TerriAnn:

Aisle chair, yeah. And then you have to be transferred back from the aisle chair into the manual chair. And then by the time we get to the hotel we’re pretty exhausted. And we come in, like I say, it was a beautiful, beautiful room. And after a long day, we are getting ready to get into the bed. And Ronnie looks at the bed and he says, “I don’t know how I’m going to get in there. It’s very high.” And it truly was. It was very, very high. And he says, “I’ll sleep on the couch.” I said, “No, you’re not.” I said, “You can’t sleep on the couch.” And I said, “We’ll figure it out.” I said, “Get the wheelchair.” So I put the wheelchair close up to the side of the bed. And the way Ronnie would get into bed is he would use his upper arms. In other words, if you were sitting in an arm chair, you hold onto the sides of the wheelchair, the arms, lift yourself up and he would lift himself into his bed.

Well, his mattress was low. He could do that. This was high. So we’re up against the side of this bed. There’s no way he can lower himself into it. So I said, “Okay, you get yourself high enough just so I could get in back of you.” And what I did is I went under his little tokus and … I flipped him onto the bed. And poor guy, I think he might have been airborne there for a second. And I was a little too strong. I almost pushed him off to the other side of the bed. But he hung on. And so we were able to get him in the bed, which worked quite well. And then getting out, he just kind of aimed and tried to fall in the right spot. And I just tried to have the chair there in the right place. So we did this for a few nights. It was…

Ron Kovic:

Springsteen.

TerriAnn:

… an experience. Yeah. Yeah. It was an experience. He was there to honor Bruce. So that was an amazing story. Bruce Springsteen. And by the way, tomorrow is our anniversary.

Ron Kovic:

16 years ago.

TerriAnn:

16 years.

Ron Kovic:

16 years ago tomorrow we met at Joyce Sharman’s house, Bill Sharman, the great basketball star. But we met a Joyce Sharman’s house 16 years ago. We’re still together. It’s amazing.

Robert Scheer:

I’ve been with you with the Sharmans and the late Sharman. And that’s a beautiful story in a way, the support that different people give each other and how they related. We talk about do we remember and honor the veterans. And you have. Yes, you’ve been thrown about at demonstrations by police and everything else. But nonetheless, there’s been a circle of people. TerriAnn is number one, of course, who’ve really, I wouldn’t say welcomed your illness, but learned to get strength from it. Learned to get strength from your struggle. I certainly am among them. I’m still a crybaby and I still complain a lot. But then I think, really. And a lot of people around me who know you, they feel the same way, “What are we talking about?” And even when I went through COVID I thought, “Well, wait a minute. This is nothing compared to what Ron lives with on a daily basis.”

And I do think, TerriAnn, maybe you should just say something about that circle of friends. Because they might not always agree on politics. They might not always vote for the same people. But I’ve seen a lot of love and devotion in that group of people around Ron. Yeah, and we are almost all Laker fans, probably because of Bill Sharman more than anything else. But maybe we could close on that because it’s a very positive story of support and welcome for what is always forgotten, the wounded in war. And on the 4th to July, okay, there were a lot of wounded and that’s not stopped. Before the 4th of July, there were a lot of indigenous people wounded. After the 4th of July, whether you call them good or bad wars, a lot of people around the world have been hurt, killed. And so I’ll leave it to you, TerriAnn. Do you want to give the last word? We can also let Ron pipe in and call it a night. I know he’s got to get some sleep.

TerriAnn:

Oh well, that’s okay. Your comment about circle of people and the people that Ron touches, it’s really true. Because with our friends, I can say 100% of the time people have learned about what it is to have the type of injury that Ronnie has. They’re much more aware of it. I’m very aware of it because when Ronnie drives, he drives his own car, and of course we go around together, his hand control car. Many, many times, even to this day, it happened not that long ago, a couple weeks ago, people park in the hashtag where it’s van accessible. They’re not supposed to park there. They just park there. But a lot of people have come to know what it’s like to have this injury through Ronnie. Do you know what I mean? So he also educates people as we go along, everyone we meet. And when I talk about Ronnie, they learn too about his injury and about how he deals with it so elegantly and so graciously. He really does. He’s precious.

Robert Scheer:

Well, I’ll tell my little story, maybe to close out, then I’ll let Ron have the last word. But when Ron came to one of my classes, I guess it was just before the pandemic, and I teach at University of Southern California and they had built this new auditorium and they had met the regulation by having an elevator that could get you up to the stage. But they neglected to build the kind of elevator that could take the modern wheelchair, electronic and heavier, up. And we warned them about that and we’d had trouble before. And when we got Ron up on the stage we couldn’t get the elevator to take him down. And we were all there, if I remember, over an hour or so with a kind of ramp going up and it was scary because if you went down that ramp or the wheelchair went over. And do you know what? They still haven’t fixed that elevator.

TerriAnn:

Oh, no.

Robert Scheer:

Yeah, for all the talk in our society about the handicapped and special parking and special this, but the fact of the matter is whether it’s injury from war or injury just being human that you’re born with or accidents or what have you, most people just don’t want to think about what life is like under that kind of circumstance. And in Ron’s case, three quarters of your body paralyzed and yet, and I think it’s important to draw a very positive message that is, I can’t think of a more useful public citizen that we’ve had. Public intellectual, let me use that word. And I’m thrilled that Ron is now working, I know I’m not supposed to talk about it too much but I know that his publisher, that they’re going to bring out yet another great piece of literature. So that’s a good, positive point. You’ve got to keep going, Ron. You’ve got to stay alive. And I’m 10 years older than you so even if I kick off I’ve got other people-

TerriAnn:

You better not.

Robert Scheer:

I’ve got other people out there. They’re going to…

Ron Kovic:

I need you. I need you, Bob. I need you as much as you need me. Believe me.

Robert Scheer:

Yeah. Yeah, but if it does happen, I am getting up there. 76, just a kid to me. I’m 86. But seriously, Ron, you’ve got to promise me, you don’t need my encouragement, but really that book is really going to say it. And it comes out in about a year and people should be waiting for it already. But if anybody has not read Born on the 4th of July, man, this is time to do it. And get a copy, give it to your grandchildren or what have you. It is the book to read about war. So should we wrap that up? You got a last word?

Ron Kovic:

Yes, my last word to you is I love you, Bob. I love you. Happy 4th of July. And you’ve inspired me for so many years and I’m so grateful to know you. I love you so much and I’m so proud of you. And you’ve been an inspiration, not only to me, but to literally millions of other people. What a wonderful gift you’ve been.

Robert Scheer:

Okay. I’ll take it because it’s coming from you. But all right. This is not going to be our last interview. I don’t want to get maudlin here.

Ron Kovic:

Hey, Robert, Bob, listen, you’re talking about yourself. I’m amazed that I’m still here. Give me a break.

Robert Scheer:

No, hey, tell me…. Look, I do want to end on this because people don’t… You handle it great. Yeah, I know that. But the fact of the matter is I just can’t describe what I’ve seen of your life. I’m sure what TerriAnn has seen. And, and the fact it’s not that you’re just sitting off on some porch somewhere and telling stories, you’ve been active. You’ve been probably the most active human being that I know of.

Ron Kovic:

What else is there to do?

Robert Scheer:

No, but it takes work, man. You know that. It takes getting up in the morning. Because I bug you early in the morning and I ask you to come speak to my class. And your passion, your passion that this not happen to another kid from Long Island or anywhere else, Ukraine or Russia, wherever. We lost that now. We don’t have a draft. Most people don’t get called up unless war comes to them. Whether in the middle east or wherever, now in Russia what have you or Ukraine. And most of us can treat it as kind of an event that’s going on. And what you are, do you have those words that you have at the end of your book? I’d love to end with that, “I am your 4th of July.”

Ron Kovic:

“I’m the living dead. I am the living dead, your Memorial Day on wheels. I am your Yankee Doodle Dandy. Your John Wayne come home, your Yankee Doodle Dandy. Your 4th of July firecracker exploding in the grave.”

Robert Scheer:

Okay. I can’t add to that, “Your 4th of July firecracker exploding in the grave.” We’re in a world now where the drums of war are beating louder than any time since World War II in my life. And it’s starting again with a giddiness, an indifference to human suffering because we put a label on the people that, “Oh, the bad guys are getting killed,” or, “Let’s help the good guys kill more bad guys.” And if those of you who haven’t seen Born on the 4th of July, it begins with Ron Kovic as a young kid in Massapequa, Long Island being influenced by the stupidity of that war movie culture. So I think we should a little bit, in this interview, to try to reverse that. See you guys. And please get me a picture so I could put TerriAnn up there with you when I post this podcast, all right? Try to get me a good one, okay, in the next eight hours? Okay. Take care, guys. Thank you.

Ron Kovic:

Happy 4th of July, Bob. Happy 4th of July.

TerriAnn:

Thank you, Bobby.

Robert Scheer:

Bye bye.

See previous Scheer Intelligence podcast episodes featuring Ron Kovic below:

Ron Kovic and Maj. Danny Sjursen: The Great Con of American Patriotism

Ron Kovic and the Continuing Struggle for Veterans

24 comments

  1. …the timing of the GCSE English Language qualification exam board’s ditching of Wilfred Owen from the English literature list fits in perfectly…

    “To children ardent for some desperate glory The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori…”

    It is to be considered unwoke. Nadhim Zahawi… “Let’s make war glorious again”… is that the UK agenda?

  2. WHY ROBERT SCHEER -DESPITE FAILURE TO ATTEND TO EVA BARTLETT AND SCOTT RITTER ON 8 YEARS OF
    NAZI REGIME INSTALLED IN UKRAINE BY THE PROJECT
    FOR A NEW AMERICAN CENTURY’S OWN VICTORIA NULAND(NÉE NUDELMAN THE GRANDDAUGHTER OF A NAZI WAR CRIMINAL IN UKRAINE)IN 2014- STILL IS
    ONE OF THE LAST REMAINING CREDIBLE ANITWAR
    ACTIVISTS. RON KOVIC IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER IF WE ARE TO RETURN ERSTWHILE PROGRESSIVES FROM THE REGRESSIVE PATH OF NAZI SUPPORTERS LIKE RABBITPUNCH AND THE LA REGRESSIVE AMONG MANY OTHER REGRESSIVE WARMONGERING FORMER LIFELONG LEFTISTS.
    PUTIN IS THEHERO OF THIS WAR AND NOT THE VILLAIN. THOSE WHO OPPOSE THIS EMPIRE’S LIFE LONG SUPPORT OF NAZIS NEED TO FINALLY WAKE UP.

    1. They won’t wake up Terrence. They will only hate you for pointing it out. Conformity and group think are more powerful than reason and critical thought. There is no left in America, just a black hole in the soul of where it used to be. This country is done.

      1. Over here in Australia, on the weekend just gone, had a discussion with the Dean/Prof of US History at local university; American born with dual-Australian citizenship.
        She said that from her perspective the US is on the brink of a civil war.

        Perhaps it may be more accurate to describe the US as having been on the brink of a civil war since the last civil war?

      2. Sadly I agree. And unlike Vietnam where the Draft led huge crowds into the streets, the First Amendment is now verboten: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Only sanctioned protests are allowed. No dissenting views (since the abolition — “modernization” of Smith Mundt) are allowed to deviate from the Official Narrative, with the State Dept/ CIA in control of the six State Media. Americans are a Betrayed People; there will be no regaining of our Constitutional rights.

    2. Both Americans and Russians utilize fascist Christian theology to manipulate their citizens/parishioners into the act of war as a way to pay homage to their war god and to improve their financial bottom lines per the dictates of the Prosperity Gospel. This is the same philosophy utilized by the Nazis. There are Neo-Nazis scattered all over this planet, including the United States. Given your logic: Should Putin invade the United States to save them from the Nazis?

      1. Kiev regime should have eradicated Nazis long time ago. Ukrainian state instead armed Nazis supporters, promoted ideology of Ukrainian Nazi idol Bandera with support of Canada, US and Germany.

        Nazi sentiments in Ukraine would have been irrelevant to the question if Nazis are in Ukraine today if not for one thing.

        These are not just sentiments like among US fascists these are government policies of promoting Nazi ideology and active discrimination against other ethnic groups like minority Poles, Hungarians and including majority of 22 millions of ethnic Russians and their language that just was effectively banned in publications Ukraine.

        Today in Ukraine Bandera is considered a Founder of Ukrainian nation, his birthday is a National Holliday, dozens of Bandera statues were erected in Ukraine in last twenty years while Nazi victims’ monuments were being dismantled.

        Every morning in Ukrainian K-12 school children are singing song of “Father Bandera” who gave them country and freedoms.

        What is worse that Bandera is in fact a hated figure, considered a war criminal by majority of Ukrainians including Russian ethnic majority and ethic minorities of Poles,Jews and Hungarians.

        In fact former President of Ukraine Yanukovitch rescinded Bandera title of Hero of Ukraine as he won on this particular electoral promise. Bandera hero status was restored only after 2014 Kiev Nazi supported coup.

        The cult of Bandera, a Nazi collaborator and responsible for genocide of 250,000+ Poles Jews, Gypsies, Russians and Hungarians according to NATO member Poland is present in lives of Ukrainians today with absolutely no reflection on the dark past of this controversial, to say the least, political figure who does not represent all Ukrainians.

        Canadian German and US continuously supported thriving in Ukraine Fascist political parties despite the fact that they were condemned by EU parliament just a decade ago as dangerous ideologues of Nazism threatening Ukrainian constitutional order.

        I won’t even go into ideology of Azov, Aidar, Donbas or other worshippers of Bandera, Hitler and Nazi Aryan cult incorporated into Ukrainian Armed Forces and Ukrainian administration and by that representing Ukrainian government. Nazis practically run SBU Ukrainian security services.

      2. obviously you have never lived in a civilized nation are a racist monolingual anglo

    1. Hi Timothy, you can contact us through the feedback forms under the “support” tab of the website.

      1. I need a direct contact email address to send my writings.
        I have a piece titled THE SPAR SPATTERED BANNER THE 4TH OF JULY THE GLORIFICATION OF EVIL

        THANKS

  3. The price of freedom for what? As Pence said, freedom to steal, lie, cheat and assassinate your way to grab all the world’s resources. And the real irony of the price that is paid by the gentlemen in the picture is that little of the stolen, and otherwise connived wealth trickles down to the the average Joe. I don’t think people will awaken from their sleepwalk until someone takes a bat and hits them upside the head, so to speak. I wonder how much the American public is willing to tolerate. I bet the CIA is wondering too. Freedom to step on other people’s hearts, heads and lives, countries, cultures and privatize their resources. No, it’s not worth it. I do the best I can with little, and I don’t want or need, nor do I wish to see the horrible costs of what too many have paid for in this “American Dream,” which to me is too much of everything, including great pain and suffering.

    1. How do I get in touch directly with Robert Scheer to sent my writings.
      LA Progressive, Popular Resistance, Truth Out, Common Dreams and many national news papers have published my Progressive pieces.
      Thanks so much

  4. It is somewhat obvious that the “Peace Movement” has disappeared, look no farther than the NYT and WAPO comment sections.

    This interview was a pleasure to read, thank you to you three !

    Wishing you an especially happy birthday tomorrow Mr. Kovic, you are courageous , a gift to all of us thank you.

  5. “War is a terrible way to solve problems. ”

    It depends on the “problem.” War is the best way to solve many problems, and that’s why we do it. I don’t understand why it’s surprising that Americans are still at war all the time. Americans have been at war for all but a score of years (if that many) since Jamestown.

    This country only exists because it was literally acquired through more than 300 years of nonstop war against the Native Americans. War is the BEST solution when you want the material wealth that other people own . If you have wealth as we define it in your society, you need war. The more wealth you have, the more war you need.

    Not much longer, though. No one is going to be wealthy very soon. Relatively speaking.

    I envy people who don’t understand why this country chooses warmongering over diplomacy.

  6. Happy Birthday Ron.

    And thank you for everything you have done to make this a better world and everything you have done to make this a more honest country. I can’t think of a better reason to celebrate the 4th of July than to celebrate your life and your continued commitment to peace and sanity.

  7. This is a wonderful discussion to read between Bob, Ron and Terrilyn.
    It is tragic the peace movement has somehow gone missing amid the 24 hr news cycle.
    This 4th of July lies wounded and dead like the so called freedom it’s supposed to represent. Thanks to a kind of legalized and celebrated violence and killing that is celebrated, condoned, and said not to be a product of the culture or anything else. According to the condoners, it just is.
    Like war just is.
    In mainstream society, being anti war has become a sort of delusion like being anti gun. It makes you appear somehow quaint yet naively dumb.
    A delusion I continue to believe in, at the everlasting sacrifice of my credibility.
    Thanks again to you all.

  8. What a great interview. It’s easy to feel hopeless about the future, but I bet, when the doo hits the fan we won’t see civil war, but people across the political spectrum doing what we can to survive it. We all know the threat of technofeudalism is very real and existential now, no matter how the msm spins it.

  9. “only in USA has nationalism carried with it the christian meaning of the sacred. the revelation of amerika serves to blight and ultimately preclude the possibility of fundamental social change” Sacvan Bercovitch

  10. Worship of the military in the US is all pervasive – to the point of absurdity. For a long time I took for granted the flying of banners of military personnel from the lamposts of our city streets. Until I found out these were not heroes but just enlisted men and women. Why do we worship these people? You cannot question it and risk being ostracized and called unpatriotic if you do. Not even the Nazi regime paid similar homage to their enlisted men and women during the height of the 3rd Reich. We have a militarized oligarchy if you will that conspires to get us into endless wars to divert our attention from the social collapse at home.

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