A record called “The Battle Hymn of Lt. Calley” sold 200,000 copies within days of his conviction. Congressmen and governors of both parties, from Connecticut to Florida, joined the chorus condemning the verdict. One expects to learn that “George Wallace visited Calley in the Fort Benning stockade” but not that “Governor Jimmy Carter proclaimed ‘American Fighting Man’s Day,’ and urged Georgia motorists to drive all week with headlights on.”
Amazingly, both things happened. (…)
The Calley Effect repeated itself in 2006, when Hugh Thompson, Jr. died. Moving online obituaries praising the “hero of My Lai” popped up on blogs left and right, recounting Thompson’s attempt to prevent more murders by landing his helicopter between Calley’s company and other villagers, then helping evacuate them.
It was a kind of online Christmas truce during the eight-year Bush (“is Hitler”) Administration, and just as brief.
The New American Civil War resumed in a day or two, and so it continues, registered trademark and all.
It looks like I actually have to point out here that I don’t think Calley was a hero. I’m simply fascinated by the fact that he, of all people, inadvertently served as a convenient symbol to the left and the right for a brief, not-so-shining moment in American history. You know: Irony, etc.