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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 

Kent State: May 4, 1970 Remembered

Today is the 40th anniversary of the massacre of four students and the wounding of many others on the campus of Kent State University.

While members of the National Guard pulled the triggers, it was the toxic atmosphere in the country during the Vietnam War, and in particular, of particular government leaders in Ohio and Washington that provided the cause (the illegal invasion of Cambodia) and the match that lit the fuse (a hostile and confrontational approach to protest) that sent those bullets flying.

Concerning the National Guard, as with the War in Vietnam service people, I have always respected the fighting men and women of America who went there -- and stayed here -- and fought for what most of them thought to be a just cause. And I have mourned for their deaths and woundings; for those of the students at Kent that day; for the innocent civilians that were destroyed in Southeast Asia as a result of this horrible war.

So I wrote about it in a stay-at-home war novel, which begins three months after Kent State, called THE YEAR THAT TREMBLED. The Tyler Davidson and I produced the feature film of the same name (and which begins just before the events of May 4, 1970), which was written and directed by Jay Craven. Then I adapted my novel for a play that was staged at University School in October 2003.

Should you have interest in this event, and what it did to the psyche of America, certainly I hope you check out my novel and the movie. (Both are available on the Home Page, with links that take you to where you can buy or rent them.) But you can research this event yourselves, as well. You can draw your own conclusions.

My continued sympathies to the real victims of this tragedy and their families: Jeffrey Glenn Miller, 20 years old; Allison B. Krause; 19 years old; William Knox Schroeder, 19, years old; and Sandra Lee Scheuer, 20 years old. My sympathies, too, to the National Guardsmen who have had to live with this - it wasn't their choice - and to more than 58,000 American service people killed and hundreds of thousands wounded; the millions of Southeast Asians killed; and to all those who suffered, some who continue to suffer to this day.

I hope we can make something of this. As the character, Casey, at the end of the my book, movie and play says, "I'm trying. I'm writing."

I happen to agree with Casey. In our modern world, it's easy to forget. The job of writers is to let us not forget. Read More 
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