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?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Week 3- Conservative Ethnic, Forgotten and Invisible Stories

“Vietnam Unseen: Pictures from the Other Side” juxtaposes the drastically different perspectives of the Vietnam War through the media of photography. This documentary introduces Tim Page, a veteran of the War himself, and a photographer of the Vietnam War who strives to understnad better the photos from the other said of the war. These pictures serve as a quintessentially intimate look at both sides of the war. Whereas for many Vietnamese, the war was fought as a warfront right in their home, the American soldiers called it the “Vietnamese war”. However, for the Vietnamese, they saw it as the “American war”. This documentary serves as a sharp contrast of the naivete of the American lads who were hopping abroard overseas to search for thrill and the Vietnamese who had the war in their homes and they were fighting for the reunification of their country. For these Vietnamese, the war was a personal battle to regain their own control over their government. Whereas the American side displays instances of machismo, youthful innocence, and loss, the Vietnamese side showcases more intimate moments of tenacity and resilience, such as when they dug intricate tunnels for the purpose of creating a sustainable refuge to house what little comforts they had from American bombs. I think the idea of this documentary to draw a bit away from the focus on American soldiers is great in taking a small step to understand the more obscure perspectives of the war. It attempts to start a discussion about what else may not be known about the war and why it was fought for both sides through pictures, an evidence that doesn't seem to be doctored.

You can find instances of the American public's fixation on American soldiers' loss of youth and humanity in this video and in its comments:

As to answer the question of how Vietnamese may feel towards the US and why, I believe that there is negative sentiment towards the US for disguising their imperialist ambitions as “gift of freedom” (Nguyen, 2). This most likely comes from the deep investment these Vietnamese citizens have in their own country, a war fought right at home, tearing apart the land, and brutally ravishing its people. There is another perspective presented at the introduction of Nguyen’s introduction of “Gift of Freedom”: Madalenna Lai’s. She profusely thanks America, subjecting herself in the position of the debtee, setting up that power dynamic. At first, I couldn’t believe that someone had actually felt that way. Although this perspective is valid, I can’t help but feel like a large part of it is missing a critical understanding and thorough questioning of why the US is there in the first place, besides the vague “gift of freedom”.

You can find the  LA  times article and perhaps share my disbelief here:

In the passage that we had to read for this week called, For Father, For Country, the author, Quang X. Pham, had a clear perspective of his family’s experience with the Vietnam War.  Pham’s father was a pilot for the South Vietnamese army during the Vietnam War and was a prisoner of war.  Despite the struggles that Pham’s family had to endure in Vietnam and the United States, he ultimately concluded that the time that his father was a soldier and a prisoner of war was all for his family and his family’s life in the future.  He saw the United States as his family and his savior despite it sucking the life out of his father. 

Growing up my father has also seen the United States as our savior and the reason why we are not under communist rule today.  He always liked to say that with communist rule the government would have all the right to come into our homes and take me away at their will and he would be unable to do anything about it.  I never understood why he would always use that as an example compared to many others but I suppose he wanted to express the idea that our bodies and family members are really our own in the United States.  Before taking many Asian American Studies classes, I have never delved into the idea that the United States was our savior.  I have never questioned it either however now, I have a new perspective. 

In the article, Doing the Mixed- Race Dance: Negotiating Social Spaces Within the Multiracial Vietnamese American Class Typology, by Kieu Linh Caroline Valverde, we are able to see just how crucial questions are in trying to put mixed race people into a category.  The desire to make these mixed raced people fit into the class of people, seem to be the determining factor to many of these questions.  Many mixed raced people have to prove that they are more Vietnamese than any other Vietnamese person.   
Being mixed raced is still an issue even in today’s society.  Being able to see actually see research and read the parts of the interviews given was quite refreshing.

 Discussion Questions: 
1. Why is the "gift of freedom" the gift that keeps on giving? In other words, why is it impossible to measure freedom, and thus impossible to repay it? 
2. Why are there such different views among the different groups of Southeast Asians in regards to the war? Why do some strongly regard the US as saviours whereas others regard US as cowards, or even with extreme distaste? 
3.  Although the "Vietnam Unseen" discussed that photos can mobilize and inform soldiers and make records of hystory, how can photographs be used to distort information in the favor liberal imperialist ambitions?
4. Do you think that the United States is the savior of the people and refugees of the Vietnam War or do you think that the Vietnam War would have been better off without the intervention of the United States? Why or why not?
5. How has the stigma of being mixed race affected our perspectives today?
6. The idea of “passing”, “a behavior that seems both resistant to and in compliance with dominant ideology” can be applied to many other characteristics not just being mixed race (Daniel, 1992b; Ginsberg, 1996).  What is a characteristic that you find yourself “passing”?  Why do you decide to “pass”?

Pham, Andrew X. "For Father, For Country."
Kieu-Linh Caroline Valverde, "Doing the Mixed- Race Dance: Negotiating Social Spaces Within the Multiracial Vietnamese American Class Typology."
National Geographic, "Vietnam Unseen: Pictures from the Other Side" (2002).
Mimi Nguyen, "The Gift of Freedom, Introduction."

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Week 2 Mainstream History

Week 2 Readings Blog Entry

In the article “The American Involvement” by Sucheng Chan provides a detailed account of the Vietnam War. The years before the Vietnam War Ngo Dinh Diem who ruled as president opposed communism. For this reason America was in support of Diem and his beliefs. The U.S started off by bombing Vietnam immensely on Ho Chi Minh Trail to cut off North Vietnam’s supplies. As the war went on many casualties were felt by all sides including the U.S. As news spread at home, U.S anti-war protest spurred the nation and pressured the country to pull the troops out. Almost two billion were being spent a month on war alone. While the U.S was pulling troops out they were training South Vietnam troops to fight their war. However, South Vietnam could not fight a war where they were under equipped. They did not work well with “American style of fighting” and would ultimately lose military bases. As North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam, U.S implemented evacuation plans but did not broadcast it to keep the civilians from panicking. As Saigon fell civilians would board helicopters, aircrafts, and boats to run away from the invasion. The civilians would go to neighboring countries  to hide from the Viet Cong and ultimately end up in America. In postwar Vietnam, America has accepted hundreds and thousands of Vietnamese evacuees.
The US’s motivation for going into Vietnam stemmed from the French failing and the US being afraid of another Korea happening as they saw communist politics spreading like a threat. Afraid that Vietnam would become another bloodbath like Korea, in order to control it for its “own sake” the US went in to “help” Vietnam. The US felt that if communism expansion ended in one country it will end in another “Thinking in geopolitical terms, they envisioned countries as dominos, if one domino fell, it would set in motion the collapse of the ones lined up next to it.” ( The US hoped to stop communism expansion in Vietnam by supporting President Diem who is against communism.

Framing Vietnam article:
This article looks at the 4 major films that recount the Vietnam war. Each of them were very different from each other but things they had in common were that neither of them went above and beyond to inquire the politics behind the war. They all focus on romanticizing the American Hero who goes through aiding his soldiers in battle while fighting “psychological crisis” as the article describes. The political hand behind the war is not acknowledged in either films. Instead of focusing on the destruction one in Vietnam by the US, the films empathize with the US and the crippled condition the states were in after the war. Family and true love are emphasized in the ends of each of the film. Ironically, after destroying populations of family and friends in Vietnam, the American vision of their own family and friends still has more spectator weight than the destruction done across seas to other families and friends. This article ends with the statement that maybe only the true sufferers of the war can be able to provide accurate depictions of the war, not Hollywood filmmakers who are trying to sell and make profit off of such films. But if war accounts were only told by the Vietnamese, who the author considers true sufferers of the war, then it would leave out the American perspectives of the war. In such politically sensitive historical events, all perspectives from all angles are necessary to portray, not just one or the other.

The Fog of War Video/The Lessons of Vietnam  
Robert S McNamara, was the secretary of defense during the Cold War. In this movie and book he talked about the lessons that he thinks we should have learned from the earlier wars, and should have implemented but did not. McNamara admits that the US did wrong in the Vietnam war. He states that we thought of it as a Cold War, where the Vietnam thought of it as a Civil war. The difference in perceptions of the war made big difference in the way it was all executed. The US only caused destruction in Vietnam continuously dropping bombs and focusing on targets without regard for the residing populations in country they were attacking. McNamara and VanDeMark stress how important it is that the US communicate with other nations, it can help prevent so much destruction in these wars. Communication between nations can lead to mutual understandings politically, which in turn decide the direction of the nations, especially in cases with war on hand. Although McNamara speaks of ways the war was wrong, he also at the end says that the US going into Vietnam was justified in the end though and if they hadn’t it still would have had bad consequences for the US.

5 Questions for Class:
1. How could the US have done a better job perceiving the Vietnam war in the same way that the Vietnam were?
2. What are the images of the Vietnam war that have been portrayed to us by Hollywood/media?
3. Based off of Vietnam’s experience, how is Iraq justified by the US?
4. Which of the 11 lessons of war do you agree with or not stated by McNamara?
5.What was similar between the lasting consequences of the Vietnam war and the previous wars and the Iraq war now?

Sources: Documentary: Errols Morris dir. “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara.” (2003)
Documentary: “S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine”
Chan, Sucheng. “The American Involvement.”
Shute, Jenefer. “Framing Vietnam.”
McNamara, Robert S. with Brian VanDeMark. “The Lessons of Vietnam.” 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Week 1- Introduction: Our Past is Our Present


On May 25, 2012 the White House Secretary Press released a proclamation by President Obama honoring and calling the Viet Nam veterans a generation of valor and honorable men. As proof, 58,000 names of  US veterans have been etched onto the granite walls of the Viet Nam War Memorial in Washington DC.  It took the US government fifty years after the war to honor the 1.6 millions militants still missing in action and approximately 800,000 surviving veterans (Veteran Today, 2009). While sounding patriotic and morale, the proclamation eluded to address many key issues of the Viet Nam war.

 According to Tom Hayden (2013), true recognition and honoring of the Viet Nam War would mean accurately accounting for the devastating impact the war had on the US veterans, their families, Viet Nam and its people.  However, the proclamation neglected to mention an essential player/casualty in the war, the roles of the Vietnamese in the war that bared their name.  Approximately over 3 millions of Vietnamese have been killed, injured, disabled, displaced; and their land, environment and institutions were destroyed by the bombing (Hayden, 2013).  

“As of May 28, 2012, through November 11, 2025, the Federal Government will partner with local governments, private organizations, and communities across America to participate in the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War -- a 13-year program to honor and give thanks to a generation of proud Americans who saw our country through one of the most challenging missions we have ever faced” (White House Secretary Press Release).

The patriotic language of, “proud Americans, valor and sacrifice, heroes who suffered…” imbues a strong sense of hero worship and national pride which correlates with a sense of duty suggesting that these men did the right thing  in the war by serving their country.  While in reality the Viet Nam War was met with tremendous civilian antiwar resistance by middle class White, Black, Latino and Asian activists who were fighting against the drafts and the involvement of US soldiers in Viet Nam.  Five generations later, the younger people’s sentiments and historical accounts of the Viet Nam war has drastically shifted.  Recent Gallup poll shows that 51% of Americans ages 18 to 29 believe that it was not a mistake to send US forces to Vietnam; and 34% supported the war, highest level of support for American involvement in Vietnam since 1970 (Hayden, 2013).

For many of the older generations, the historical moment of the war extended beyond patriotism, ‘manhood’, and morality (Hayden, 2013). Thus, the language of hero worship and patriotism may side-stepped the real issues that coexisted with any war: the devastation of the humanistic reservoir on both sides.  For the Vietnamese in diaspora, April 30th is known as “Black April”. For those who felt displaced, it’s a commemoration of those who died due to war and the loss of their country.  Fifty years later, many US veterans are still suffering from physical and psychological distresses.  They are struggling with grief and grievances.  A few were brave enough to confront their past by returning to Vietnam to seek peace and forgiveness; hoping to find it within themselves or  from those they had hurt. Due to the interchangeable flow of capitals and commodities between US and Viet Nam, Vietnamese in Viet Nam have looked past the war and are looking toward to an economic prosperity with a global economy.  Case in point, during the Irag War, President Bush urged people to “go shopping”; it’s just another way US war culture has been normalized (Hayden, 2013).          

The Viet Nam war was and still is a multifaceted concept with layers of controversial secrecy, diplomacy, propagandas of a military industrialized complex; thus, even those who were involved did not have a real understanding of the US involvement in Viet Nam or accountable facts about what really occurred in Viet Nam.  Individual experiences and perspectives were radically diverse and convoluted that it became difficult for many who were fighting the war to differentiate between allies and enemies. As a result, many claimed a piece of history by telling their version through their own personal account through the lenses of political, capital or social perspective.  Rather than spinning the truth, those who writes about the war should accurately account for the facts and voices of the people who absent or missing from the conversation.  Commemoration of the Viet Nam war should be about teaching the younger generation the accurate accomplishments, hardship and sacrifices as well as the aberration that have been made. The focus should go beyond the symbolic heroism and patriotism if we want the younger generation to have a meaningful understanding of the cause and effect of war.  Ultimately, we do not want the younger generations to repeat the same historical errors due to elusive facts or by calling it another name.  

                                                   American Vets Return to Vietnam

What's Going on? -- The "We-Win-Even-When-We-Lose Syndrome

Before, I used to believe that the celebration of multiculturalism, emphasis on freedom and democracy, patriotism, and unconditional respect towards American veterans of the Vietnam War were simply traits of American culture. I thought that these traits were not used in any political propaganda or agenda in rewriting the historical narrative of the Vietnam War.  However, after reading Yen Le Espiritu's article The “We-Win-Even-When-We-Lose Syndrome: U.S. Press Coverage of the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the “Fall of Saigon,” I realized that the ideas of multiculturalism, democracy, capitalism, and traumatic memories of the war veterans were apart of a means to an end to enforce the American, white perspective of the Vietnam War. Additionally, the increasing sympathy for Vietnam War veterans was used to downplay the US's defeat in the Vietnam War, to conceal the wartime atrocities of the US soldiers against innocent Vietnamese civilians in Vietnam, and to exclude the experiences of Southeast Asians with the war from US history. Moreover, the paired theme of victimized US veterans and liberated Southeast Asian refugees helped the US restore its masculinity and respect of “whiteness,” which were severely weakened by the US’s defeat in the Vietnam War. These tactics, alongside with the mentioned ideas above, portray the United States as the moral leader of freedom and socioeconomic success and the liberator of ethnic groups who originated from another countries (such as Vietnam) that are perceived to be deprived of democracy, safety and financial security.

In Loan Dao's article What’s Going On with the Oakland Museum’s “California and the Vietnam Era” Exhibit?, erasure of Southeast Asian experiences  and exclusion of artifacts that realistically depict the Vietnam War --such as military weapons and graphic photographs of the wartime atrocities committed by US soldiers -- reinforce the white, American retelling of the Vietnam War in a power play. However, by restricting the exhibit organizers from showing the violent, gory essence of the war, the board (who were majorly White American at the time) of the Oakland museum also concealed the details and truths of the wartime atrocities committed by US soldiers. According to the documentary Vietnam Holocaust, US soldiers couldn't fight effectively against North Vietnam’s guerrilla forces, which halted the US military’s statistical reports for numbers of Viet Cong killed. The US army needed human corpses that could substitute the North Vietnamese soldiers in these casualties reports. Only then could the US military continue to fight in the Vietnam War. Therefore, the US soldiers mutilated and killed “anything that moved, which ended up to be Vietnamese villagers (from babies to the elderly) from the North and the South. Yet, by the keeping the bloody atrocities and Vietnamese genocide withheld from the public,  the board of the museum also promotes the idea that Vietnamese immigrants should be grateful for being saved from communism by US troops. 

On another note, in  “We-Win-Even-When-We-Lose Syndrome . . . .” and What’s Going On with the Oakland Museum’s  . . . . , the United States has used propaganda that contrasts the financial, academic success of Vietnamese people assimilating to American culture to the destitute state and low socioeconomic status of Vietnamese civilians remaining in Vietnam after the Vietnam War. Yet, I was surprised by how Vietnamese Americans were seem as members of the model minority stereotype on the condition that they were anti-communist. This social phenomenon shows that the United States didn't waged a war against North Vietnam. The US as the symbol of democracy and capitalism declared war on all international agents of communism; the US is also the imperialist of democracy and freedom as well.

1. According to Yen Le Espiritu's article
The “We-Win-Even-When-We-Lose Syndrome: . . . . ,” an interracial relationship between a Vietnamese person and a person outside of their ethnic group can be seen as a symbol of freedom of the US. In the context of the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War, are there hidden, deeper meanings, functions, or propaganda behind the US's promotion of interracial relationships and multiculturalism? For instance, how can multiculturalism and the choice to interracially date (or marry) promote America's “moral authority of U.S. leadership on the world stage” (Espiritu)?

2. If the wartime atrocities of US soldiers against Vietnamese veterans could be exposed to the public, how would the evidence of these atrocities change the perception of the United States as a liberator of Vietnamese people? 3. For Vietnamese Americans, what are the pros and cons of knowing the truthful account of the US soldiers’ inhumane actions and involvement during the Vietnam War?  4. How would this knowledge affect the identities of Vietnamese Americans? 5. In the case of the Oakland Museum exhibit "What's Going on? -Vietnam Era," what are the alternate methods of informing the public about Southeast Asian experiences and perspectives of the Vietnam War (besides a museum)?

How did the US get involved in the Vietnam War?  

Spoken Word on Vietnamese American Identity Influenced by the Aftermath of the Vietnam War 
Artist: Bao Phi  

Posted by Jennine and Leslie