Student Bloggers: Izzie Villanueva, Sunny Tran, Ogee Erana, Venice Santos
Week 8 – May 19 and 21 Post War Criticism, Memory, and the Viet Nam Syndrome as Praxis
Week 8 Questions Provided by Professor Valverde:
- What is the “Viet Nam Syndrome”?
- How have the U.S. re-evaluated their policies of neo-imperialism in the aftermath of the Viet Nam War?
- In what ways are 911 and the Viet Nam War connected?
- What is the politics of memory?
Schlund-Vials, Cathy. “Cambodian American Memory Work: Justice and the ‘Cambodian Syndrome’.” [IZZIE]
Schlund advocates for the remembrance and acknowledgement of the Cambodian genocide due to the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot regime. Many Cambodian citizens feel the need to forget or tip-toe around the subject. As a result of this as well as a weak government in search of financial aid, most individuals affiliated to the Khmer Rouge have not been indicted. Since the end of the Pol Pot dictatorship, only 10 people have been imprisoned due to their affiliation to the regime / Khmer Rouge; these individuals were put on a life sentence but not death row nor execution. Schlund speaks about “historical amnesia” (Schlund 812) that is prevalent in both the American and Cambodian societies. Cambodian Americans are looking to dispel this notion; many Cambodian American rappers, artists and performers serve as activists in spreading awareness on the genocide by implementing their remembered stories and histories into their field of work. Cambodian Americans feel frustrated by their families’ neglect to their homeland by wanting to forget the atrocities of the past instead of coming to terms with it and moving ahead to advocate for justice in Cambodia and begin to seek the many apologies Cambodia is due by many outside capitalistic nations.
Westernization and Eurocentric Supremacy dominated many aspects of Cambodia with thousands of mass graves and genocide sites altering its surroundings to appear more “tourist-friendly” (810). Tourism and capitalism have infiltrated leaving Cambodia susceptible to manipulation by corporations and corrupt governments seeking to ride revenue off of the still recovering land. Schlund coins the term “Cambodian syndrome [referring to] a set of amnesic politics manifest[ing] in hegemonic modes of public policy and memory” (814). This notion plays off of the Vietnam syndrome and alienates and attempts to acknowledge the issue but in reality, downplaying its significance in order to make public eyes forget its severity and aftermath in both America and Cambodia.
I think it is important to remember the legacy of resilience in the generations that came before our own and the paths paved for us. It is crucial to stay awake and aware in times of need and for communities of color to stand in solidarity of the struggles each other has faced. People like “Cambodian American filmmaker Socheata Poeuv” (820) are essential to this movement of raising awareness. They document and share their story and narratives to the world to see and ensure that their homeland and community are no longer invisibilized, disregarded or forgotten. The Cambodian Auto-Genocide is should not be something that can be easily forgotten or disregarded.
Link to Image: http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1647257,00.html
Um, Khatharya. “Exiled Memory: History, Identity, and Remembering in Southeast Asia and Southeast Asian Diaspora.” [SUNNY]
Um discussed both effects of war and trauma on memory and identity for Southeast Asians, and the effects of memory and politics on the remembrance and history of war and trauma. Memory and remembrance are complicated and political for the Southeast Asian community, as it is one of grand-scale collective trauma, loss, and pain. Memory for Southeast Asians is filtered and refracted by time, distance, and the trauma itself, creating a selective recollection of the past that, over time, is further diluted and altered by over time, generational shifts, linguistic loss, and the natural erosion of temporality.
For Cambodians, the many instances of “disappearances” during the Khmer Rouge’s regime created a “censorship of memory” that denies mourning, and possibly, any hope for transcendence. By erasing social and cultural history, the Khmer Rouge disrupted the continuity of past, leaving Cambodians with a fragmented past and identity.
For refugees, memory is the key to personal and collective identity. Remembering is a struggle to reconnect, reclaim, and reaffirm, for both first generation and second generation Southeast Asians. By remembering our family pasts and experiences, we resist narratives of our own histories imposed by government textbooks or oppressive regimes.
Power defines what is to be remembered and how to remember it. Perpetrators such as the Khmer Rouge wield the power to silence histories with fear. Politics also appropriates and subverts memory, using power to select, represent, and inform. The memory of diasporic refugees exiled by their homeland are dealt blows by the dismissal of refugee testimonials and refugees’ own selective recounting.
Link to Image: http://warnewsupdates.blogspot.com/2010/08/concerned-about-china-southeast-asian.html
Priest, Andrew. “From Saigon to Baghdad: The Vietnam Syndrome, the Iraq War and American Foreign Policy.” [VENICE]
The Viet Nam War has had a long-lasting impact on the United States in terms of national defense and the continuous spread of US imperialism on foreign territories. Even before the US withdrew from Viet Nam, Americans were already assessing the results of the war and coming up with ways how to prevent these outcomes from happening to the US again. This lead to the US cover-up of the real events that occurred during and after the war.
McCrisken poses a strong argument that explains why the US gets so involved with foreign affairs. He says that the US sees itself as a distinct nation from the European powers and therefore felt the need to showcase themselves to other countries. This mentality is further expressed with the intervention of the US in World War 1 and 2. McCrisken also points out that the Viet Nam war defeat scared the US with the realization that they could be as weak as any other nation. I believe both of these mentalities further drive US intervention and imperialism on other countries to prove that the US is on a higher pedestal amongst the countries than it possibly actually is.
Melanson broke down the general agreement between the attentive public (executive, legislative and political elites) and the rest of population as three categories: policy, cultural, and procedural consensuses. These three consensuses are what the US are using as justifications for their actions against foreign powers. Under foreign policy, the US saw that the Soviet Union was threatening world peace and felt the need to contain the threat. Under cultural consensus, the Americanism way was to upload the American lifestyle of liberty, individualism, popular sovereignty, and equality of opportunity. These are all ideals that the US upholds, but prevents from not only Americans but the natives of countries they impose on. The US comes into a country and preaches that they offer their people these ideals to draws natives to immigrate to the US seeking these illusions and false promises, believing they would receive a “better life” in the US. Under procedural consensus, the President had the ultimate authority on decisions regarding military force. Nixon, Ford, Carter and Regan all tried to further advance military foreign policy during their presidencies in order to uphold US power. The US spent billions of dollars towards proving their elite status to countries they believed were threats and were able to manipulate information to the public that viewed the US as a holy savior to not only themselves but the countries they “protected and helped.”
Link to Image: http://www.cartoonmovement.com/depot/cartoons/2010/12/RiPvR6PPRvqn3DCK68VQng.jpg
Kwon, Soo Ah. “Deporting Cambodian Refugees: Youth Activism, State Reform, and Imperial Statecraft.” [OGEE]
Kwon addresses how issues of deportation for the Cambodian community has also brought light to discourse about politics, community, and the youth. Kwon provides an analysis of the continuous targeting of ethnic minorities, in this case specifically Cambodian Americans, via the exploitation of government passed bills and of people. Because of the unjust deportations, youth in the Cambodian communities are exposed to an understanding of politics that educates them on the injustices and motivates them to partake in activism.
Cambodian refugees entered the US to flee the Khmer Rouge. As a result, Cambodians do not have an established permanent residency definition which allows them to be subjected to deportation laws and the stereotypes stemming from the perpetual foreigner status which deportation implies. “The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act (IIRIRA)” (Kwon, 740), a bill passed by President Bill Clinton, in addition with the terrorist fear started the perpetuation of the criminal immigrant stereotype of America. This justification allows for situation where the government utilizes past felonies or minor transgressions of immigrants to deport them regardless of upbringing, family in the US, or the lack of current criminal convictions. Kwon mentions examples where Cambodian Americans get deported for offences such as unpaid fines or because of a past felony convictions get deported when attempting to get citizenship.
Learning and experiencing these deportations, the Cambodian youth are able to grow, create awareness of the issue, and offer further discourse upon the issue of not only deportation but on the American political system. Youth groups such as the “Asian/Pacific Islander Youth Promoting Advocacy and Leadership (APYL)” (Kwon, 738) unite and create communities that address and spread awareness of these issues. The youth are able to rally together and create events where it is a space for people to feel safe despite their status in America and also helps support those in the community that are being prosecuted. They are able to share the information to the community and those outside the community about how these laws who are supposed to be aiding in keeping Americans safe are actually: tearing apart American families with an emphasis on deporting patriarchs and deporting people who have lived if not all of their live then most of their lives in America which makes them essentially Americans. The ever changing standing of the Cambodian Americans status as immigrant, citizens, or foreigner allows for the government to be able to apply laws liberally towards not just the Cambodian community but also other minority communities as well. In fact youth groups are finding, that despite being told that being American allows them the liberty to address grievances with the government and freely rally for the change of the bills used for deportation; the world of politics is institutionalized in a way where any progress or chance for change is slowly won or not even addressed at all such as the case where the a group of APYL youth wrote to a local congresswoman twice to only get on both occasions a reply from her aide that commended them on their activism but did little to help support the fight against the unjust deportations.
Kwon has written of the exploitations of Cambodian refugees by the use of deportation laws. However, Kwon also writes of how these occurrences have united people of not only the Cambodian community but all communities that are allied against the unjust deportations such as the Chicano/Latino communities. The deportation of Cambodian refugees although having profound negative effect, has positively influenced youth in political and social growth and allowed for furthering questioning of issues of unjust deportation and the political system that allows it.
Link to Image: http://donyaphotography.com/blog/?attachment_id=1240
Five Discussion Questions:
- How can we continue the process of remembering across generations?
- Despite the biased portrayals of the US, would its people still face secure living here if the government didn’t implement its military force on foreign countries?
- If Americans knew the truth about US involvement would they want to stay in the US? Would they still feel protected and safe?
- Should people who have suffered great loss and trauma, like the Cambodian-Americans, continue to hide/forget about the atrocities that happened to themselves or their homelands? Do you see this as a defense mechanism or neglect/ignorance for the lack of information about what really happened?
- What do you think are the positive/negatives of the activism that youth are a part of?
- Kwon, Soo Ah. “Deporting Cambodian Refugees: Youth Activism, State Reform, and Imperial Statecraft.” Positions.
- Priest, Andrew. “From Saigon to Baghdad: The Vietnam Syndrome, the Iraq War and American Foreign Policy.”
- Schlund-Vials, Cathy. “Cambodian American Memory Work: Justice and the ‘Cambodian Syndrome’.” Positions.
- Um, Khatharya. “Exiled Memory: History, Identity, and Remembering in Southeast Asia and Southeast Asian Diaspora.” Positions.