Saturday, May 31, 2014

Week 10 - Viet Nam War as Concept Conclusion

Viet Thanh Nguyen - Refugee Memories and Asian American Critique

The article calls for a transnational and globalized framework to be incorporated when analyzing and examining diasporas outside of the homeland. The refugee’s point of view won’t match and converge with the experiences of successive generations who winded up growing up in a different era, place, and circumstances. I do not think that Asian American Studies do not accurately analyze the Southeast Asian experience because it’s experience is uniquely different from the rest of the ethnic experiences within the pan-ethnic identity of Asian American.
The author speaks of the Southeast Asians and Southeast Asian Americans  that are “the kind of subjugated and voiceless people that have inspired Asian American Studies and for whom it has always advocated” (922). Are the Southeast Asians really voiceless? I feel that the Southeast Asians are vocal about their needs and issues but no one is listening. They have a story and a past that many are willing to tell but there doesn’t seem to be someone to listen to their grievances especially since they are a smaller population within the Asian American panethnic identity. The disproportionate make up of the differing ethnic communities within the Asian American identity doesn’t allow for the voices of the Southeast Asians to be heard. Instead, the voices of the East Asians , the larger group, tends to be more prevalent. Southeast Asians do have a voice but they are not being heard. It may be the language barrier faced by the Southeast Asians that are preventing their voices from being heard or even listened to. If the Southeast Asians did not have a voice, the Vietnamese diaspora would not be mobilizing to gain support for Madison Nguyen in her electoral race for Mayor of San Jose. The mobilization of the Vietnamese diaspora is not representative of the Southeast Asian community as a whole as evidence that they have a voice as a whole but there are times and certain ethnic groups that have a voice but they may or may not utilize.
“In identity-based forms of academic study, subject and object tend to converge--hence women study women...etc” (pg 927). I think this is something that cannot be avoided because there would not be someone else who would better understand the identity and better study it than the person who identifies similarly. It is similar to the reading in which we talked about how researchers can only do so much in comparison to the natives who provide the information to the researchers. The researchers will not be able to get the whole story if they have not lived it or even experience it. Only the natives and those who have experienced it will be able to better understand and analyze the experiences and identities. However, I do recognize that biases can easily arise from such a method of researching and analysis of an identity that you may have connections with.

Mark Beeson - U.S Hegemony And Southeast Asia

           In the article U.S Hegemony and Southeast Asia, Mark Beeson argues that U.S.'s foreign policies may be weakening it's hegemonic role in the Southeast Asian countries. As stated, U.S. has been a very influential participant in foreign affairs, especially when it comes to financial affairs. Post-Cold War, during the financial crisis, U.S. influences in foreign financial affairs stirred opposition from third world countries, such as Indonesia and Thailand. Although there were opposition from civilians and the middle classes in these countries, they were shortly lived or weren't significant due to limitations from authoritative government and resources.
           Southeast Asia is invested by three major powers: United States, China, and Japan. The constant pushing and yielding between these three powers is one major factor determining the outcome and further actions of the Southeast Asian countries.
Since the end of the Cold War, the US has been pushing a globalization of democratic implementations. Unfortunately to the U.S.'s agenda of spreading democracy to implement their policies, many of the Southeast Asian countries are showing favor towards the idea of democracy or semi-democracy. United States hegemonic influences in the Southeast Asia regions are proving to be a failure, as US's approach becomes unilateral, relying mostly on military powers to implement their superiority. This proved to be true as the war on terror was declared by the United States became a direct warning message to many groups that may have any kind of connections with terrorist groups. Instead of institutionalizing multilateral orders with globalization and influencing political and economic activities like they were doing right after the Cold War, the US is announcing their hegemonic agenda through violent military powers. Although the elites of Southeast Asia still show support in favor of U.S. military involvement in Asia, many are beginning to recognize that the policies influenced by U.S. may hinder their development. Thus, Fareed Zarkaria predicts that “anti-Americanism will become the global language of protest”. (Beeson, 457).
           I agree with Mark Beeson when he argued that U.S.'s hegemonic position is fading. The idea of U.S.'s hegemony declining has been a topic of discussion this decade. With the world powers China and India quickly climbing up behind, U.S. is not in its best financial condition to compete in the upcoming years. Now, the question would be, is a decline in U.S. hegemony bad? Southeast Asian countries' future actions will depend on the wavering hegemonic power of the United States to China. Recently, many people are beginning to question how China hegemony would change international political and economic policies and it's possible effect on southeast asian countries.
           Below is a video of a discussion of United State's agenda for pushing democracy as a hegemonic power in the the Middle east and Asia. 
RT. "CrossTalk: Exporting freedom or Imposing Hegemony?." YouTube. 5 Nov. 2012. Web. 31 May. 2014.

Discussion Questions:
1. “This cessation can take place with either the full integration of Asian Americans into the United States via the eradication of racial difference, or with the end of US identity, period” (922). The article speaks of the cessation of the Asian American identity, what would be the consequences or outcomes of such a cessation? What would the end of a US identity look like?
2. Who are the current scholars of Southeast Asians and what direction are they heading towards in terms of their scholarship? 
3. How would Southeast Asian Studies and Southeast Asian American Studies be combined when the perspectives come from different sources? 
4. How does the Asian American studies critique's notion of justice clash with the Southeast Asians, as refugees, notions of justice? If there is a contradiction between the two's notions of justice, can they be reconciled? 
5.  What is the refugee critique and what are some of its flaws in critiquing the refugee experience? 
6. What are the pros and cons of a decline in U.S. hegemony?
7. In what ways were Southeast Asian countries affected by U.S. hegemony?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Week 8 – May 22 and 22 Diasporic Experiences and Transnational Processes

                In the documentary, “Saigon USA,” directors Lindsey and Robert Winn takes the audience through the daily lives of many Vietnamese Americans. Not only do we get a glimpse of their lives in the United States, but we also see the struggles that they face. “Saigon USA” shows the differences between the Vietnamese within the US and how these groups have different ideas and history with the nation-state.  For example, in 1999 a video rental shop owner in Westminister, California caused uproar within the Vietnamese community for hanging up a poster of Ho Chi Minh inside his store. The owner believed that Vietnam was better off under communist rule, which many Vietnamese members of the community took offense to. People of the older generation that have lived through the struggles in Vietnam during the time of Ho Chi Minh regime were especially offended by this act. On the other hand,  younger Vietnamese Americans thought these older members were being too uptight and they did not truly understand as why they were so upset about a mere poster. This shows the differences not only within the ethnic group themselves, but even within generations of people. We can also see the generational difference in the Vietnamese American diaspora in the example shown in the documentary where a UCI student by the name of Bao joined a protest wearing a shirt with,” American Gook” written on it.  They wanted to let people know that they were not, “gooks” but they were Americans. This was misinterpreted as someone in the crowd yelled that, “gook means communist.” This caused confusion between the older and younger generation, especially because there was also a language barrier between the two. People took Bao’s intentions the wrong way and him and his group was shoved and pushed from the protest. 

                Although they are now residing in the United States, many citizens still have transnational ties with their Southeast Asian home country. Transnationalizing Viet Nam: Community, Culture, and Politics in the Diaspora, by Kieu-Linh Caroline Valverde, define transnationalism and explores what it truly means to live in a diasporic community while having ties with the homeland. The largest influence from the home country is definitely cultural norms and ideals. In Vietnam, the belief of filial piety is a vibrant and strong ideal and many Vietnamese Americans have taken this notion with them. We can also see that the home country is also trying to keep ties with their diasporic groups.  Before, Vietnamese who left after 1975 were grouped as the My Nguy which meant American puppets. Now they are referred to as the Kieu Bao, which has a more pleasant and positive connotation meaning people from the same womb. By doing this, the Vietnamese are able to keep connections with the Vietnamese Americans without insulting them. Author Valverde also describes how these diasporic communities are able to keep their networks with their home country through the media and advancement of technology.  A popular show amongst the Vietnamese American community is Paris By Night, a show that features singers and celebrities singing and doing skits. Often times, the songs performed on the shows are songs from the wartime that many of the Vietnamese Americans have lived through. 
                Valverde also discusses her own experience in Vietnam and how it relates to the Vietnamese diaspora. An online virtual community called the VN Forum allowed people in Vietnam and in the United States to write and post their differing political views. One major thing that sparked from the VN Forum was the, “No Nike” campaign by Thuyen Nguyen. As a member of the forum, he posted about the inhumane treatment of workers at the Nike factory in Vietnam.  He even traveled all the way to Vietnam to visit the Nike factory to unveil the cruel, harsh working conditions these people were in. His postings drawn in attention from both Vietnamese Americans and Vietnamese people.  This shows that even though Vietnamese Americans are no longer living in their home country, they still care and still have compassion for their people in the homeland. It shows how these diasporic groups can be heavily involved with their home nation-state’s politics while being away.  It also shows how these people can work together to better their homeland. 

                Lastly, in  Transnationalizing Viet Nam: Community, Culture, and Politics in the Diaspora, Valverde discusses the misconceptions in the Vietnamese American community with artist Chau Huynh’s artwork. Her work showed a pedicure basin plugged into a wall which as she explained was to pay tribute to all the Vietnamese women working in the United States and sending money back to the families in Vietnam. This was misinterpreted by people and it eventually even ended up on a popular Vietnamese newspaper back in Vietnam. It caused controversy because her work was misunderstood. Many times, notions are misinterpreted and misunderstood within the diasporic groups due to language barrier, cultural differences, and generational differences.  This can be seen in both the documentary, Saigon USA and in the book by Kieu-Linh Caroline Valverde, Transnationalizing Viet Nam: Community, Culture, and Politics in the Diaspora.

Cheyenne Wong

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Week 7: Ancient History of Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Laos

South East Asian countries have had a long bearing history of relations with China that have impacted them culturally, socially, and politically. Nayan Chanda's Brother Enemy: The War After the War and Sucheng Chan's Vietnam Before the Mid-nineteenth Century, essentially describe to us the history of Vietnam and its relationships with other countries to lead it to where it is today. Through all of the trials and tribulations that it faced, we are able to see how this small country came to be. According to Chanda, both Vietnam and Cambodia turned to China for protection from outside threats. However, Cambodia accepted China as its protector, whereas Vietnam resisted the Chinese control. Vietnam sought authority on the boarders of Southern China and they also wanted to maintain an alliance among Laos and Cambodia, which initiated a persistent disapproval for many decades from China, the communist country.

Sucheng Chan essentially describes to us the history of Vietnam and how it came to be through all of the trials and tribulations it faced. According to this article, many Vietnamese individuals claim to be ancestors of the "Lac" people, who originated from the Hong River Vally. However, scholars have revealed that the "Lac" were only one of the many ethnic groups that merged to form the Vietnamese people. In truth, Vietnam was heavily influenced by the Chinese, despite their paradoxical relationship. After fighting off the Chinese and gaining their freedom, Vietnam actually adapted many of the Chinese social, cultural, and political institutional forms because they liked the Confucian ideologies and saw it useful for exerting social and political over their subjects. Throughout this article, we are presented with the different countries and world powers that colonized and invaded Vietnam and we are introduced to the history of Vietnam and how it expanded over time. The trials and tribulations of being invaded and colonized really put a strain on the Vietnamese individuals. We are presented with instances such as the Le Code, where Buddhism and Taoism lost their standing and Confucianism reigned supreme. Then we are also faced with the Catholic missionaries and their attempt to convert Vietnam to Catholicism, and how they were persecuted, imprisoned, and ran out by the Nguyen Dynasty. 

In Gary Yia Lee's Disapora and the Predicament of Origins: Interrogating Hmong Postcolonial History and Identity, we are presented with the fact that the history and identity of the Hmong have been ambiguous in social and political narratives that search for their origin and individuality. The Hmong have directly been under Chinese rule in Southern China and Western colonial and neo-colonial rule when they migrated to Indochina. The Hmong history has repeatedly been perceived and written about from outside perspectives that revolve around their regional residence in China and Indochina. They too have been recognized directly under an umbrealla term known as "Miao" by the Chinese. This identification, however, has allowed confusion and uncetainty with defining the Hmong identity since Miao groups acquired layers of differences and histories of their own. After fleeing Laos and Southeast Asia, Hmong has been used as a term of identification. Those outside of South China find the term "Miao" offensive for it's derogatory meaning of "cat." The co-ethnics in South China, however accept this term. In order to critically understand the Hmong history, it is of essence to include the social and political narratives of the Hmong. This understanding will relay its' significance into conversations with the Hmong and scholarship, to provide accurate depictions of their identity and history. 

Authority and colonialism are prime themes in understanding the history of Southeast Asia as a region sought to be overpowered. China also plays a significant role in the history as their supremacy had an influence in these specific countries. As Gary Yia Lee states, the Hmong have roots that connect them to the rule of China that ultimately led to their displacement mainly to Southeast Asia. The aftermath of the Vietnam War once again displaced the Hmong to different parts of the world seeking refuge while many Hmong still reside in Southeast Asia, mainly in China. This separation has caused a conflicting view on signifying a clear identity of the Miao/Hmong groups in postcolonial terms and this conflict reveals how the history of Southeast Asia and the role of colonialism have impacted the identity of the Miao/Hmong people due to the physical relocation, which results in a new ethnic label for identification. According to Chan and Chanda, Vietnam has had its fair share of also being influenced by China who has also provided strong Confucian ideologies for Vietnam to inherit. Vietnam's efforts to maintain their independence led the Vietnamese to endure colonialism and post-colonial effects that have affected the inhabitants and those in diaspora. The people affected have resulted in relocating, re-creating their identities and also resulted in many natives to take political positions. This history help us rethink about how contemporary borders and ethnic labels are created by the persistent struggles Southeast Asian countries endure in resisting colonial and imperial rule. These countries, such as Vietnam, sought independence which neighboring country China grew strongly opposed to which initiated a history that involved deaths, and losses of culture, identity, and homes.

1. Ancient History of Southeast Asia revolve around the themes of authority, displacement, and ethnic identity. How do these themes present a critical view on how Southeast Asian has been structurally created? 
2. Taking the history of Southeast Asia into consideration, how has the term of Southeast Asia been constructed and what does the umbrella term impose on these countries and people? 
3. Now knowing more about the history of Vietnam and its' relationship to other Southeast Asian countries, how possible do you think it is to stand together in solidarity against oppression (keeping in mind the bad blood between certain Southeast Asian ethnic groups)?
4. If religion was not a factor for colonization or invasion of Vietnam, would there be other reasons or influences for these other countries to invade?
5. Compare and contrast the role of China and the U.S. in Southeast Asia. 

Works Cited:

Chanda, Nayan. Brother Enemy: The War After the War.

Gary Yia Lee. “Diaspora and the Predicament of Origins: Interrogating Hmong Postcolonial History and Identity.”

"Vietnamese History - Eng Sub (Story of an S-shaped Country)." YouTube. YouTube, 17 Mar. 2013. Web. 11 May 2014. <>.
"WHO ARE THE HMONG." YouTube. YouTube, 19 Oct. 2012. Web. 11 May 2014. <>.
Blog by: Nancy Fang and Nancy Le

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Week 6: Third World Alliances and Movements

In many significant events, Asian Pacific Islander Americans have little to no recognition in their contributions. The reading and documentary reveal the legacies, lessons, and effects of the contradicting stereotypical images of Asian Americans, especially those who have served in the war.
In the reading About Face: Recognizing Asian & Pacific American Vietnam Veterans in Asian American Studies by Peter Nien-Chu Kiang, various issues regarding these veterans arise from the often censored or unpublished primary and secondary sources.
There was a strong connection felt with other soldiers of color especially with African Americans as both groups have experienced racism in the military. The solidarities that were established between veterans of color on the battlefield were transplanted to the United States. As a result of all the stresses from the Vietnam War stemming from racism in the military, war experience in general against their “Third World brothers”, and the internal conflicts regarding the morality upwards of 30.6% of all male and 26.9% of all female Vietnam theater veterans have at one point suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The war that was thought to bring peace and anti-Communism has created interracial separation and detrimental effects as well.
In the documentary Aoki, ethnic solidarity seemed highly prevalent for community mobility. Richard Aoki, who was a well-recognized Asian American figure and a member of the Black Panther Party, was a huge civil rights activist and a leader in our community. His views of the United States institutional systems has created much controversy within the American society, however unlike many Asian Americans, he voiced his opinions without fear and what he believed was right. He was a radical Asian American leader who brought voice to communities and gathered them together.
At a young age, Richard had experienced American “prison” known to many as the Japanese concentration camp and served time in the military which gave him an unexpected, peculiar view of the American society. The documentary talked about how the police were using soldiers, like Richard, as tools to “utilize and murder” others such as in the Vietnam War. This made him want to speak up for what was just and serve as a voice on behalf of his communities. His straight-forward, unfiltered dictation gave a sense of gathering among the people as he was honest about his thoughts. Having gone through a war-time decade, he left a legacy as “the baddest Oriental in West Oakland” and was a well-known figure within the bay area. Everywhere he went, his demeanor was well respected and no one questioned his presence. That was a figure worth representing for our Asian American community and ethnic solidarity.

The sharing of these experiences add  to our understanding of the historic relationship between the legacy of war in Asia and American views of Asians as the enemy which is by the forced annexation of the Philippines,  the Korean War, etc. The lessons learned have left a legacy of more critically thinking Asian & Pacific American communities who have since then more intensely fought for more recognition and entitlements to their rights. This has been done by both veterans and the communities in general, as all have experienced marginalization because of their identity as Asian and Pacific Americans. This recognized inequality is still being fought for today until the democracy that this country promises is made a reality.

Documentary: “Aoki,” Directors Mike Cheng and Ben Wang (2009).
Kiang, Peter, “About Face: Recognizing Asian & Pacific American: Vietnam Veterans in Asian American Studies.”
N.d. Web. 03 May 2014. <>.

N.d. Word Press. Web. 03 May 2014. <>.

1) What are the pros and cons of ethnic solidarity across different communities? How can we use it to mobilize?
2) How is it different in community organizing in the past vs. today? Show some examples.
3) What are some of the post-war effects on the soldiers who served in the military? How about the effects it had on their families (Amerasian families, families back home, etc)?
4) What are some overlook aspects of the Vietnam War veterans and families affected by the Vietnam War?
5) How can you now interpret war and the real reason why we have war, such as the Vietnam War?

By: Claudine Sanchez and Teresa Tran

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Week 5: Third World Alliances and Social-Political Movements

During the Vietnam War, sixteen percent of black Americans were being sent out to Vietnam to fight in the war. At this time, there was a Negro Revolution in which many black Americans were seeking liberation. In Eldridge Cleaver’s, The Black Man’s Stake in Vietnam, he talks about the importance of uniting the colored people of this world—African, Asian, and Latino. Through collective identity and collective action, the people of color will be able to combat injustices they experience by the white man. Cleaver makes a good point when he says that black Americans should not be fighting with the oppressor in the Vietnam War, but instead they should be fighting alongside the Vietnamese in their fight for freedom. Many ethnic groups at this time were facing the same struggles and the only way to tackle these problems was through collective action. Each race must help each other out in their fight for freedom so that they can all be free. Cleaver talks about the white man being the common problem and that we must always fight against the white man. Cleaver makes another great point when he talks about the white man using black troops to make the oppressed hate the black Americans. He refers to the white man as “ugly” and that the white man must make the blacks look “ugly” too. By sending them out to fight in the Vietnam War, it kills two birds with one stone for the white man. The Vietnamese will feel more anger towards the black man since he is fighting with the white man. This is the exact reason Cleaver is so adamant about collective identity among the colored people. In Wallace Terry’s, The Angry Blacks in the Army, we see that the black Americans that were interviewed feel the same way about the white man. They understand that they should be fighting against the white man, not with him. They understand that they should not be fighting in the Vietnam War because it will do nothing for them. The racism and injustices they faced in America before the war will still be there when they return. Terry shows in his findings that many blacks were willing to used armed force when they returned to America after the war. This was the only way they knew how to get what they want. The mentality was that they were fighting with these weapons to help America get what it wants in the war, so it should be the same when they fight for their rights and against injustices in America. The result of the built racial tension throughout the war was fatal. There were many beatings and killings of the whites by the black troops and vice-versa. The whites did not realize that the black man knew his position. He knew what he was being told to do by the white man and knew what the real intention was. He knew that by putting his life on the line in this war was not going to fix anything back home in America. Terry shares the importance of having black leaders speak out for the rest of the black community in opportunities to get their freedom. Both Cleaver and Terry knew their positions as black men and knew how important it was for the black community to engage in the fight for freedom as a collective with nonwhites rather than fighting the white man alone.

Many white and black males were drafted into the Vietnam War to fight against the spread of communism from the Vietcong and their stories and commemorations have been recognized after the war ended. But what the United States of America have failed to seize and recognize was the truth about other ethnic minority groups who fought alongside the United States. Disappeared Men: Chicana/o Authenticity and the American War in Viet Nam, written by John Alba Cutler, revisits the Chicana/o war literature through different views of Chicana/o repression, sexualization, and gender differentiation during the Vietnam War. The article also seeks to find “authenticity” within Chicano males who were drafted into the war. It states that finding “authenticity” in the Chicana/o identity can be found through bodily violence and in which finding Chicano masculinity is prevalent through the endurance of the Vietnam War. Then, the article composes the idea of revolution for the Chicana/o community by achieving first-class status through the Vietnam War but later dismissed the Chicana/o authenticity. Although it may not discuss much of attaining a world revolution, Ernesto Che Guevara wrote his message, Vietnam and the World Struggle for Freedom, to the Tricontinental (Americas, Asia, and Africa) as a way to voice and empower individuals about the wrongs and negative effects of the U.S. involvement within these continents. Guevara openly shared his pride and justice for the people who had struggled to revolt and find freedom for their country. Guevara is not just an activist but a leader who left behind his legacy for all people of color and anti-war civilians. His message directly explained U.S. involvement only causes more destruction on civilians and only causing more hate and enemies. Although Guevara examined how the Vietnam War will only generate more hate and destruction, Cutler opposed the war on enlisting inexperienced minority groups into the war when the populations of minority groups are already so low. These two articles examined different perspectives and topics but ultimately, both of these two activists focused on how the Vietnam War was used as propaganda for the United States to notoriously gain power, authority, and status.

How did communities of color in the U.S. react to the Viet Nam War?

They reacted in outrage to racial injustice on the warfront, that black men are sent to war in much larger numbers and that they were being made to fight a war for “freedom” when they did not receive civil rights for themselves. They also reacted to socioeconomic injustice in the sense that the war was draining resources that could alleviate poverty at home. MLK also called out the irony of war when communities of color fought for non violence and racial reconciliation at home. He explained his position on the war as an extension of his fight for civil rights, global justice, and care for the poor through nonviolence, and he called out the hypocrisy of the US in fighting for freedom but using military action against revolution. He called to end the war and protest drafting and for a reversal of harmful values of greed and power that lead to war and exploitation. He also went so far as to urge for understanding between enemies and that America was headed for its doom if it did not reconsider its actions. In this audio clip, you may listen to this sermon, which was not one of Dr. King’s most famous speeches, but was all encompassing of what he fought for and in many ways put him in the crossfire.

African American racism and slavery in the US is much like a type of internal colonization of African Americans on the ways they are dominated and exploited by another culture. There were riots (or revolutions) and efforts to reclaim the ghetto, which was controlled by outsiders or colonizers, and replace them with those from and for the community. In such a way, they were fighting their colonization by putting blacks in places of influence and claiming their power to make their own decisions. This has a parallel to some of the themes of the Vietnam War in which Vietnam had been struggling for its independence for thousands of years in order to govern themselves but was still at the mercy of decisions made by nations of more power and resources. 


1) How does the intersection of gender roles and authenticity construct and enable individuals to fight for their own country? In what ways has it helped Vietnam?
2) Why would certain institutions want to prevent a Third World Forum from happening? What would be the outcome from the people of color?
3) Blauner asserts that “...violence is almost inevitable to the decolonization process,” whereas King urges for nonviolence protest. Which do you believe is more effective or realistic for these processes of resistance?
4) What do you think would be the result if collective identity among colored people around the world was very strong? Would the white man lose in every war? Would it cause the white man to lose power and status and become the worldwide enemy?
5) If blacks had not been drafted into the Vietnam War, do you think that it would have helped them in their fight for freedom? Would the racial tension/violence between the whites and blacks be different? Would this idea of collective identity among colored people be less emphasized among different ethnic groups?

By: Jenny Lee, Hanh Nguyen, and June Fabillaran

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Week 4: Liberal Academic History and The New Vietnam Studies

Tracy Nguyen
Chris Woo

The Vietnam War was a very controversial war that was seen through different perspectives. The liberal narrative of the Vietnam War is largely used through academia and exists on the view that the Vietnam War was a tragic mistake, but on a pragmatic grounds rather than moral grounds. The liberal narrative saw that the Vietnam War was not a war worth fighting because it would harm American lives.

The legacy of the liberal views on the war allowed us to emphasize most spheres of the war.  This liberal view tries to compromise aspects of the Vietnam war that covers these three main peoples: the American soldier, the young college protestor, and the Vietnamese civilian.  It may seem that these three main characters received an equal story in the liberal version of Vietnam War story, on the other hand, the liberal view has its issues of covering up most aspects of the war.

I will delve into the three aspects that the liberal narratives concentrates on and the strengths and weak spots that come with them.

The American Protestors: Vietnam War protestors were widely publicized in the media due to the majority of American civilians who disagreed with the war. The Viet Nam War protests were nothing America had seen before because a "majority in the opinion polls thought the Vietnam War was a mistake. It is good that the liberal narrative reveals the protestors because it shows that the Vietnam War was largely disagreeable by many American civilians and reveals the reasons of what was wrong with the war. This included the killings and corruptions that the protestors did not find humane.  Participants were not only young educated college liberals, but were also working class civilians who feared being drafted and African Americans that believed the war was unjust due to the overwhelming combat deaths of blacks.   Only 35% approved of the president's 'handling of the war'" (Neale 134). Images of protestors are seen as young white college students. Indeed, they were the most vocal yet they overshadowed the voices of others who disagreed as well. Although, not initially perceived as a disagreer to the war, the blue collar workers were unfavoring of the war with "41 percent of people in Dearborn, a white working-class suburb of Detroit, voted for American withdrawal,..., [the vote] was inversely associated with citizens' socioeconomic level, with blue collar workers more disapproving of the war than professionals and managers" (Neale 132). The blue collar workers were unfavoring of the war because their children were the ones being killed at the war front, not the 'brainy' college students, yet the loss of their children were not told. The protests exploded into a mass media frenzy when four young college students were killed during the Kent State protest which came as an initial shock to the American public. Although only four people were killed, it stole the attention of the thousands of soldiers and Vietnamese that were slain. The white young Americans were center stage and received the attention that those never got. The parents of slain sons, the Vietnamese civilians, the black protestors, the Chican@ protestors were silenced.

 The American Solider: The American soldier's story was also a legacy of the Vietnam War where they were seen as noble and sacrificial. They were depicted as innocent teenagers who courageously risked their lives for their country to deplete the communists' efforts. When news of murder and rape of the My Lai Massacre were revealed the same innocent soldiers were seen as merely following standard procedures from their superiors to murder mercilessly and ultimately died for a meaningless war. Some soldiers' stories were not revealed. Such as Ron Ridenhour who "committed himself to doing whatever was necessary to expose the [My Lai Massacre] incident to public scrutiny" (Turse 4) when others kept quiet on corruption they committed or seen. Ridenhour is not a household name and even his courageous act to speak up was a story not told in academia. The rape and murder of children and women are sometimes noted  but are overshadowed by the story of bravery and patriotism of the US soldiers. It is good that the American soldiers stories are told as they are a prominent role in the war, yet the young, white, male soldier were the most prominent characters in the war. This one sided story, again, fails to tell the story of the Japanese, Chicano and African American soldiers stories.

The Vietnamese Civilians (My Lai Massacre): The My Lai Massacre is described as a "civilian massacre by the U.S soldiers,..., notorious for torturing suspected communist sympathizers, killing elderly men, and the "gang-raping of young girls"' (Hamamoto 6).  The My Lai story is exposed in academia and serves as the Vietnamese civilian perspective. Yet, this does not do the Vietnamese justice as the My Lai story quickly overshadows the hundreds of other villages that were similarly attacked. My Lai serves as the one story of military brutality that it creates the illusion that this was the only attack to the innocent Vietnamese. The My Lai exposure was only one story out of thousands of other similar massacres that were ignored while the "murder, torture, rape abuse, forced displacement, home burnings, specious arrests, imprisonment without due process" were daily occurrences in Vietnamese life as long as the Americans were present (Turse 5).  Although the liberal views educates students the the 'bad' sides of the war, it largely overshadowed the perspective of the Vietnamese.

The liberal narratives is prominent in academia, but there exists other alternatives such as, the extremist views of the Left and Conservatives. The Left saw America as the evil doer who was morally wrong in the fight in Vietnam. They saw America as a dominate power that was intent on profiting and controlling the third world countries, mainly for economic reasons. They argued that America was the true aggressor due to the murdering of innocent people. The Left view challenges the liberal narrative that the United States was not as innocent as portrayed and war was simply a mistake. What were the true intentions of why America entered the Vietnam War? What about the untold stories of the Vietnamese that are ignored in academia? 

The Conservative view saw the war was morally right because it was a battle against the spread of Communism. It was the failures of political and military leaders who caused mistakes that undercut this worthy cause. They believed that they were able to win the war, but because of these certain mistakes this prevented a victory. The Conservative view challenges the liberal narrative that the war was not a mistake, but it was a justified war. 

The liberal narrative of the Viet Nam war is most prevalent in academia because it holds middle ground compared to the other extremist views.  The liberal narrative does a decent job in exposing most perspectives of the Vietnam War through the white American eyes, but also fails to do so in the eyes of others. This is a one sided story told through the white westernized perspective and lacks the narrative voices of the Vietnamese, the African American soldiers/protestors, the Cambodians, the Laotians, and other minorities where their voices are often muted. Why is it so?  This liberal narrative surrounds itself around the larger themes that the war was "a mistake" or was a "miscommunication" where all parties are to partake in some blame. This one sided story is dangerous; as the liberal view does not delve into the root of the problem such as American imperialism and the true intentions of the American invasion. The liberal narrative does not offer other suggestions or sides to the war that would allow students to create their own perspectives of the war. For example, students are to learn that Communism is bad and evil, thus American intervention was necessary to stop the spread of communism. Without the introduction of theology in communism, it is easy for "anticommunism [to serve] as a convenient device for mobilizing the American people to support imperial intervention" (Chomsky). The exclusion of the minorities' voices allows for  a certain story to be told.The liberal narrative does not evoke wholesome truth of the Vietnam War, instead it has ceased to reveal the American imperialistic ambitions but has now has been painted of  just a war of 'mistake'.

In my experiences, school courses have simply stated that the war was issued to stop the spread of communism. Communism was simply taught as bad and very evil and that intervention and saving of the Vietnamese people was good. Thus the war was justified. Nothing more was discussed and the Vietnam War was was only an iota in my large  History textbook. Although the details were murky, it was clear to me that the Vietnam War was not a representation of the whole truth and missing pieces to the puzzle were be found by other means.


1. What other people/countries/events were overshadowed by this liberal narrative and how does it negatively impact those people being overshadowed?
2. In your high school experiences, what sort of exposure did you receive about the Vietnam War? Did you feel that what you were taught was thorough and was it a good reflection on the war?
3. What qualities do these overshadowed people have that do not allow them to fit in the liberal narrative?
4. How has the liberal narrative of the Vietnam war affected through your education now that you have knowledge of the Vietnam war from ASA 150?
5. The liberal narrative wrote the Vietnam war as a mistake, how has this affected the recent invasion in Afghanistan?