I have been doing a lot of reading lately , specifically with VietNam as the subject (not surprising, I know). I’m not particularly interested in the gruesome nature of the war there. I hate war. I hate the killings. I hate the inhuman aspect. Most of all, I hate the after-effects.
Two-thirds of the Vietnamese today were born after 1975. One-third of Americans today were born after 1975. The make-up of society completely shifted for those in VietNam and the effects will be felt for a very long time. As in America, birth rates are falling, but the country will age quickly. Currently only 7% of the population is over 60, but that is expected to swell to 23% in only a few decades.
More than 1 million civilians were killed and today about 250,000 Vietnamese are disabled from the American/VietNam War, including amputations, deafness, burns, malformed bodies, etc. (http://dec.usaid.gov) War doesn’t stop with the troops finally pull out, it plays havoc for decades.
If you’re up to it, there are a bunch of photos taken at a war museum in Vietnam, showcased by Harrell Fletcher. There are some ghastly sights: American soldiers throwing a Viet captive out of a helicopter for not cooperating; soldiers dragging nearly-naked Viet people to their death, tied to the back of a truck; the devastation of the land by chemical weapons so strong that 30 years later, plants still cannot grow.
Maybe it’s a bit of guilt over what my country did in VietNam and how it is being repeated in Iraq that makes me feel like I need to pay penance. Maybe it’s White guilt. Maybe it’s just that I wish the world didn’t have to be so ugly. Whatever the reason, I can hope that somehow I can make things a little better for at least one person when we get to VietNam.