One Example of Agent Orange’s Legacy

This film — Chau, Beyond the Lines  has been nominated for an Academy award in the category of short documentary.  I’m not particularly interested in such awards, but in this case I’m grateful to learn of this film and that it raises awareness of how the effects of the Vietnam War continue to linger. 

Year in Review: Top Posts of 2015

Congolese children play on a destroyed military tank in Kibumba, DRC. Prime Collective.

Congolese children play on a destroyed military tank in Kibumba, DRC. Source: Prime Collective.

These were the most viewed posts of the year. It wasn’t the biggest year for this blog in terms of number of visitors, but there were a few highlights. Themes included war, human frailty, sex and love. I ranked them below, with #1 being the most read.

 

13) …And They Shall Beat Their Tanks into Playgrounds (Mar 24th, 70 words) 

   A simple collection of photos that I thought would inspire hope. “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares.”

 

12) Thoughts on PTS and “Moral Injuries”  (Jun 24th, 898 words)

    “If there is any good news, perhaps it’s that individuals who suffer a moral injury must, almost by definition, have some deep reservations about certain acts of violence. After all, one’s sense of morality cannot be injured if it didn’t exist in the first place. Secondly, the concept of ‘injury’ implies that healing is possible.”

 

11) Did the Atomic Bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki Affect Child Growth? (Jun 1st, 705 words)

   Yes. A look at some old data.

 

10) Courage and the Past (Apr 20th, 710 words)

   “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”  ― James Baldwin

 

9) Confronting Human Frailty (Mar 4th, 557 words)

   Seeking lessons from the Tragic and Utopian perspectives of human nature.

 

8) “The Fundamental Connection That We All Share” (Jul 28th, 222 words)

   Very short post on President Barack Obama’s observing famous fossils in human evolution. All people have evolved from our common origins. We’re all connected.  

 

7) “To Tame the Savageness of Man” (Aug 4th, 981 words)

   Another attempt at finding hope.Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.” –Robert F. Kennedy, on the night of Martin Luther King’s assassination (1968)

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40 Years After the Second Indochina War

Today does not escape easily from yesterday.

Several media outlets have published stories in the last few days marking the 40th anniversary of the ‘end’ of the Vietnam War (although it is more accurately known as the Second Indochina War because it also involved the neighboring countries of Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand).  

Some of these stories are about families of American veterans still searching for the remains of lost loved ones.  Others are about the lingering divisions between northern and southern Vietnamese, even within the same family.

Perhaps Viet Thanh Nguyen, an associate professor of English and American studies at the University of Southern California, best summarized these accounts with his NYTimes essay “Our Vietnam War Never Ended”. He describes moving to the US as a young boy and then growing up in San Jose, California with a foot in two cultures, as well as the struggles and successes of Vietnamese and other refugee groups in the US. And despite the fact that his family members have achieved a lot, such as producing a professor at a prestigious university, he writes that their story is not a fairy tale: 

“our family story is a story of loss and death, for we are here only because the United States fought a war that killed three million of our countrymen (not counting over two million others who died in neighboring Laos and Cambodia).”

Those two themes, that the war never truly ended, and that even those who survived and succeeded later in life have stories of loss and death, are important reminders of the past’s ability to reach into the present, even after forty years of yesterdays. All wars are unique, but their most consistent feature of war is the creation of suffering, which can last for decades, perhaps even centuries. Continue reading

Two Million Tons of Bombs over Laos in One Minute

This is a simple, yet powerful, video cataloging the 600,000 bombing missions and 2 million tons of bombs the U.S. dropped over Laos from 1964-73. I’ve never been able to comprehend the scale of the bombing in Laos because it’s hard to get a handle on such large numbers. This short video helps put it into perspective.

The person who made the video, Jerry Redfern, also has a new book out Eternal Harvest: The Legacy of American Bombs in Laos (co-authored with his wife, Karen Coates). 

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Bombing of Laos, Animated

The organization Legacies of War shared this animated video on the impacts of U.S. bombing of Laos during the Vietnam War. I thought the filmmaker, Corey Sheldon, put together a very attractive and informative video, although the history is perhaps understandably simplified. Today, the remnants of unexploded bombs are still a problem in Laos, decades after the war has ended, so I think projects like this one are helpful in raising awareness, particularly in the United States.  <div style=”text-align:center”>

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Related posts

The Lingering Effects of the War in Laos 

Laos: The Not So Secret War 

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Reconciliation, Biology, and the Second Indochina War

Of all the things I’ve written on this site, this remains one of the most meaningful to me. (May 29, 2017)

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” …………………………………………………………………………– Mohandas K. Gandhi

On my desk sits a spoon I bought in a restaurant in northern Laos. It’s lightweight, bigger than a tablespoon, and full of tiny dents that some unknown metalsmith hammered into it. The owner was bemused that in addition to the bowl of pho noodle soup, I also wanted to buy one of her utensils. But I had my reasons.

Earlier on my trip, my guide1 informed me that people in the town of Phonsavanh half-jokingly called these ‘B-52 spoons,’ as they were made of metal recovered from bombs dropped decades ago by U.S. planes during  ‘the Secret War. To me, the spoon was more than a quirky souvenir. Instead, it represented an attempt by Laotians to take the physical remnants of a tragic period in history and forge them into something more positive, in effect turning swords into plowshares (or bombs into spoons). Continue reading