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Scott Lax Blog

Writing Through Others' Eyes in Times of War and Peace

This past week I gave two 50-minute presentations and a reading at Chagrin Falls Middle School, and one 50-minute presentation at the High School. This being Memorial Day weekend (and Blossom Time in Chagrin Falls), I wanted to tie together the theme of THE YEAR THAT TREMBLED with Memorial Day, and the current wars.

Among other things, I told the students that I had a wide range of people that told me they liked the book and/or movie. Many were Vietnam veterans. Even though the book is written from the perspective of an anti-war narrator, Casey Pedersen, who had much concern, respect and sympathy for the service men and women that were involved in Vietnam. Others that have liked the book and movie (and play) had been anti-war protestors. And many were in between.

I spoke of the evening we screened the movie at Hiram College in 2002. A veteran of Rolling Thunder, a motorcycle group comprised of Vietnam vets, and Dean Kahler, who was shot and wounded -- and remains in a wheel chair -- at the Kent State killings of May 4, 2010. They shook hands and received each other warmly.

I had cousins that went to Vietnam, and friends. To those alive and dead I give my utmost respect. First because they fought for their country. Second because, as I told the young people, to participate in an unpopular war takes a special courage.

When I write about soldiers, or those left behind, widowed or otherwise bereaved, or other innocent victims of war, such as civilians, as a write I must put myself in their skin and see through their eyes. Very few people in this life consider themselves wrong, or evil. Nearly everyone does what he or she thinks is right, If we have leaders that betray our interests sometimes, be they the angle-shooters at B.P. or Halliburton, or Presidents Johnson or Nixon, it's the common people who suffer.

I think that novelists and story writers should side with the common people, however uncommonly brilliant or troubled they are. I am a common man; I don't write for the CEO of BP (or any company), or for political leaders (of any nation). I write for my tribe - those who must live with the decisions the leaders make; decisions sometimes based on greed and ambition.

Here's to those who have served. To those who have suffered. To those in victory and in defeat. To those like my dad who served during WWII, and to those in Iraq and Afghanistan now. Thank you, and may our country and its leaders be worthy of you, and make the right decisions and support you in your quest to bring peace to the world. Read More