Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Bombshell for a Vase

There's usually more to the story than the narratives handed down by conventional and official versions of just about anything and everything. The last thing anyone should believe wholesale is government or corporate propaganda. But the same is true culturally. How much, for instance, do Americans know about the Vietnam War from the Vietnamese perspective? Have Americans seen clearly through the scrim of the lives of women and children? Most of the many Americanized Vietnam movies I've seen portray women as "love you long time" prostitutes or nurses, as passive victims or as girlfriends/lovers of soldiers/officials, or if they're Viet Cong or North Vietnamese, as nameless ant people/automata.

Since the Clinton Administration ended the US embargo against Vietnam in 1994 -- and with the burgeoning internet -- much more is being revealed.

Even the Women Must Fight: Memories of War from North Vietnam by Karen Gottschang Turner with Phan Thanh Hao (1998) is one of several emerging books that give a fresh perspective on what the Vietnamese call "The American War." I'm learning a lot, from specific experiences of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, to pure numbers and large scale. An estimated 60,000 women fought as part of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), for instance. Some 1.5 million served in militias (p. 20). When American men rained bombs on North Vietnam, women and children bore the brunt -- but not passively.

Of course, if American women were ever drafted, US foreign policy would proceed on a vastly different course -- and don't you know it.

Today's Rune: Movement.


the walking man said...

I would be willing to bet that of the 3,000,000 North Vietnamese killed that the women who took up the gun numbered in the tens of thousands. But I doubt that drafting women in this country would have a sizable impact on foreign policy and to this I look to the Israeli model, which have been drafting women since the inception of their army into compulsory service.



Charles Gramlich said...

It's good to get these varied perspectives on the issue. There are always multiple sides.

t said...

"love you long time" - :)
I learned something today - chatting with a friend who's preparing for a test in post-colonial feminist theory. How little I knew about these names and terms in "the Humanities" - but the content, the thought, the questions, are cooooool.

Anne said...

I am a north vietnames girl who was born just after the war. My dad joined the army as a doctor during the American War right after his marriage to mum. He left when mum was pregnant for my sister. He came back after 12 years. Although mum did not directly participated to the army but just like many other millions of vietnames women in those days, her life has been destroyed by this war. Many other intangible impacts from this war still last till today to many vietnamese women. I am an example of it. I had to find all the way in life and took many risks to support my family. There are many many things about northern vietnamese women that many books or movies haven't cover.

But I am glad that more and more American like you started to come to some realizations and have more ideas about Vietnamese women.

Out of curiosity, Have you ever been to Vietnam? I haven't got a chance to go through every blogs of yours which might mention about it.

Larry Tooley said...

What a sad nightmare that the ignorance of the North Vietnamese caused them to fight for bondage and oppression under communism. Many Americans want it to. Can you tell the difference between East Berlin and West Berlin?