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."

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