January 27, 2017
Parallel Inclusion - Week 4 Blog Post
The selected chapters from Judy Wu’s Radicals on the Road offer a captivating glimpse into the lives of the innumerable women touched by the American war in Vietnam. I find it intriguing that the book opens by featuring foreign travel into Vietnam during the war. Often times, it is forgotten that life for the transnational community does not simply halt when peacetime is shattered; it is impossible to forget one’s home or family just because circumstances take a disadvantageous turn. Wu describes the perilous journey, and stay, that many had to endure during this period and in doing so, brings a new dynamic to the story of the Vietnam War. In the same way that travel to Vietnam during the war was seldom brought to the public’s mind, travel to the Middle East in today’s more-recent and ongoing wars is also largely ignored. The vast majority of the American populace has no cultural or familial connection to the Middle Eastern region, and therefore, the only ones left to deal with the issue of travel are the minority in the United States, and abroad, that do have these connections. Many of the dangerous journeys featured by Wu have been happening consistently for the past decade and a half. Americans with loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention Syria, have had to traverse treacherous conditions with very little attention paid to them by media outlets. Wu’s piece is especially interesting because it brings to light our more current-day woes, and reminds us that a war many thousands of miles away, can radically impact even our next-door neighbor.
As the readings continue, the centerpiece of the book turns to the anti-war, feminist movement across North America during the Vietnam War. It offers a comprehensive analysis of the different groups affiliated with this movement and the interactions and impacts that these groups had on one another, themselves, and the global political climate. Wu outlines copious amounts of information, allowing the reader to experience every step that these anti-war movements took in their daily activities. One poetic theme touched on in this segment is the back-and-forth nature of the women's’ movements. Namely, the way South Asian immigrant women impacted the feminist movements across the United States, and how these same movements welcomed and at times, nurtured, these foreign women. Through this partnership, the radically different, immigrating women gave the the American women a new identity to define themselves as, and the immigrants were able to find a new home for themselves and establish a base of operations for their anti-war position.
However, one of the most compelling moves that Wu makes in her discussion is the fact that she does not only focus on the “good” interactions between the women’s organizations. Instead, she also outlines the difficulties and conflicts that sprung-up during the periods of identity-definition. Wu touches on the exclusion of homosexuals and Chicanas from many women’s groups, as well as the borderline mistreatment of South Asian refugees. The inclusion of these conflicts and “growing-pains” is a brave realignment of the widespread perception of the Left in the 60’s and 70’s. Many, at the time and in the current age, viewed/view the feminist and left uprisings as united, cooperating entities, with clear goals, and completed like-minded thinking. But Wu is fantastic in tearing down this fantasy view. The women’s movements, and on a larger scale, the left-leaning movements of the 60’s and 70’s were far more fragmented than the public believed/believes. This was not only true during that time period, but it is also true now. Especially with the recent American election, the mainstream media enjoys classifying Americans as either Right or Left, when in reality, every voter is different from the next. There are disagreements and animosity within political parties and many movements exclude on the basis of even slightly-different political or social belief. There is no united-Left, just as there is no united-Right; and movements that might seem affiliated, might only have their vote for commander in chief in common.
These excerpts from Wu were not only entertaining to experience, but they could not have been more relevant in today’s political atmosphere. In an age where labels are increasingly rejected, one must also be wary of the ones that remain. And as is a common critique of the modern-day feminist movements: far more care has to be taken in ensuring that the rights, views, desires, and concerns of all women are met. Not just those who seem to always have a news outlet following them. There are many women, South Asian Americans among them, who are feeling increasingly left out, and if peace and prosperity is to prevail, inclusion must be held to a higher importance.
Question: What effect, if any, did the mass-tendency to regard the Left as “united” and “like-minded” have on the 2016 U.S. Presidential election?
Image Credit: http://dispatchesfromtheclaphamomnibus.blogspot.com/2012/01/some-cartoons-i-have-been-working-on.html