The fall of Saigon…April 30, 1975. The end of the Resistance War Against America…the end of the Second Indochina War… Or, as we Americans called it, the Vietnam War.
The 40-year anniversary. Nam was a seminal experience in my life. My first husband was there. My brother was almost there.
France was there. The French called the country French Indochina. My dad almost went to l’Indochine for that war…just after his service in WW II. Papa Georges was French and lived in France. He didn’t move to the U.S. until 1945 or 46.
I remember my dad asking me, “Why do the Americans think they can win in Vietnam? France was there for 20 years and didn’t win.”
In 2011, I wrote the post below. In April 2011, I finished my personal reflections of the Vietnam War. Written over a two-year period that began when I read The Things They Carried, noted below.
My 2011 post:
There was a draft for Nam. As my brother Alain said, “low number = screwed.”
How to stay out of the draft? All those strategies. Like inhale from a vacuum bag and agitate your asthma before your physical. Talk about liking boys and wetting your bed and get a letter from a sympathetic psychologist or psychiatrist. Cut off the right amount of your trigger finger and you can’t shoot a gun.
Or leave the country. Escape.
Tim O’Brien talks about leaving in The Things They Carried. How leaving means giving up your family and your history and your connections. How embarrassing it would be to explain. How lonely it would be. And O’Brien says that he just didn’t have the courage to leave. So he went to Nam instead.
What is the meaning of courage? We’re always told it takes courage to go to war. Or is it courage to survive war, the daily stress and boredom and fear?
What about the courage to refuse war, to deny its validity. Refusing to go.
To leave family and history and connections must be a truly courageous act.
So how would I end this 40th anniversary posting?
It seems the USA didn’t learn anything from Nam. Of course, who is the USA? A country is its people and systems and institutions. So elected officials didn’t learn. Voters didn’t learn. Presidential administrations didn’t learn.
It all makes me sad. And frustrated. And hugely angry.