“dropping bombs like mad devils the American’s destroyed villages, children, pots and pans, farms, women, forests and even statues of Buddha” It was a line from a propaganda film on the Vietnam war, or the American war as they say here in Vietnam. I was one of two Americans in my group of 25, I felt no desire to point out that fact.
A half an hour later the guide asked my group if we wanted to shoot guns. He had just shown us the many ways “used to kill the Americans”, traps and all sorts of improvised weaponry. I didn’t have any desire to pick up those guns, guns that may have been used against Americans or against Vietnamese.
I didn’t feel well since the propaganda film, it was a faint nausea. I just didn’t feel comfortable.
The tour brought us to a tank, it had white letters on it ” American tank was destroyed by a delay mine in 1970″ A group climbed up to smile and have their picture taken. I didn’t understand how the context was so different for them than for me, I wasn’t about to happily pose in front of a tank where Americans died in. Several groups climbed up for the picture of them on top of a tank, I started to think maybe I was just weirdly affected by the situation.
After the tour of the Cu Chi tunnels was over I went to the war remnants museum in Ho Chi Minh. “its too bad they changed the name” an american guy I met said. “It used to be called the museum of us war crimes and genocide.”
It actually used to be called “Exhibition House for US and puppet crimes”, then it was changed to ” Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression”
I started to read about the Vietnam war, it was all slanted against the American side of the war. The language used was hateful, it became hard for me to read, my first reaction was to think it was propaganda. That it wasn’t true exactly the way it was stated but soon I realized that its probably just as unreliable to listen to what I had always been told from the American point of view. It might not be lies either way, its just natural to speak from a place where you are on the good side and the enemy is on the side of evil.
It disturbed me.
I couldn’t read everything. I just looked at the pictures.
It didn’t take more than half an hour to look at everything. After that I quickly walked away with a lot to think about.
I don’t hate America and I don’t hate Vietnam, I understand the American side of the war much less than I feel like I understand the Vietnamese side. It sounded pretty clear that they were fighting to defeat the people that bombed and killed their loved ones. I don’t understand the more political reasons the US had in engaging in the war.
The day before I played a game called “Would you push the button?”, I had a lot of time to kill on the bus and this 9 year old from the UK asked me if I wanted to play a game. He explained to me that one person asks a question like”You are about to get hit by a car. If you push the button a random stranger switches place with you and you are fine. Would you push it?”. Some of the questions were lighthearted and some were more serious. It started me thinking about how people could do things like drop an atomic bomb or order a genocide. Some pretty tough questions came up but even this 9 year old chose the options that helped other people if it was between saving himself or other people, even strangers. It seems logically simple to decide between things that hurt one person or a lot of people but in history there have been decisions that both involved very bad things for a large number of people. It was between your people and other people, your side and the enemy side.
I don’t understand humans, we aren’t logical and we aren’t fully instinctual either.