Monday, February 25, 2008

Eternal Vietnam, Cont'd.

Add another entry to the list of things "Vietnam" is to the American left (as represented by "The Nation"). Now it's also the fallen idol of an ageing Boomer "activist" and a rebuke to all the youthful folly he clung to till much too late in life:

The question is whether the future, aside from the obvious advantages of peace, will be worth the sacrifices of the past. Is the period of anticolonial revolution--which Vietnam symbolized and so dominated our thinking in the '60s and beyond--becoming an obsolete memory in the era of globalization? Has the promise of those inspiring revolutions faded with the decline of naked colonialism and the emergence of so many corrupt authoritarianisms in the Third World? Or are the supposedly scientific models of history long embraced by the left being replaced with a kind of chaos theory of unpredictability? Is this all that was ever possible?

And here, adopting the point of view of a older Vietnamese man of the war generation:

Look carefully now at the peace we have, painful, bitter, and sad. And look who won the war. To win, martyrs had sacrificed their lives in order that others might survive. Not a new phenomenon, true. But those still living to know that the kindest, most worthy people have all fallen away, or even been tortured, humiliated before being killed, or buried and wiped away by the machinery of war, then this beautiful landscape of calm and peace is an appalling paradox.

Isn't there some sort of "imperialism" in speaking from inside the head of the "other" that way? Especially when what you make him say reflects so much what you wish to be true?

So add "big disappointment" to the list that includes communist tyranny coddled by vicious American business interests; yet at the same time peaceful, happy, prosperous land that is an argument against the Iraq War; victim of dastardly American policies that were an argument against intervention in Kosovo; and proud high water mark of "that great antiwar movement by tens of millions of Americans."

"Vietnam" has been many things over the years to "The Nation." Always those things seem to have more to do with the attitude of "The Nation's" writers toward some contemporary American problem -- or toward themselves -- than with a country in Southeast Asia.

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