I recently watched The Chicago Seven, a movie about Vietnam War protesters, selectively arrested and tried for inciting violence outside a political convention in 1968. In the news over the past half year, protests have filled our own streets. In this era of Post Trumpatic Stress, one cannot help having flashbacks, of the U.S during the Vietnam War, and the civil unrest our country experienced, when I was still too young to know or care.
But what truly touched me in this vein, was a letter I found in my parents’ things, dated Saigon 1977. It was a very simple, polite letter, more telling, in the things it left out, than in what it chose to mention. The past years were only referred to as indescribable. And thus, no attempt was made, to describe them. That very omission spoke volumes.
Now, as we experience upheaval again, though perhaps more muted, than those tumultuous years, let us take a moment, to peek back into the past for its lessons. So we we do not commit the same errors, yet again.
The items in the photo were the only things remotely Asian I could find. Please forgive any blundering American cross-cultural incorrectness. Enjoy!
Fed on sweetmeats of TV, most pampered generation,
Hear now the voices of the past.
Typed in English, stamped, addressed.
Broken phrases from a broken nation.
Shuddering, silent recrimination.
Manners, eked from suffering,
Carefully, calmly wondering,
How could such kindness also crush a nation?
A thousand invisible slights, unsaid.
Omissions grow crescendo.
Not named, just innuendo.
There’s nothing even slightly slight, about it.
We entered their wicked temple, Jesus:
Knocking the tables to the floor.
The jigsaw fell. A whole, no more.
Their grandchildren still picking up the pieces.
Amazed, I face this faceless voice,
Across the miles and years.
My childhood blessed; his, tears,
With napalm dropping, burning village boys.
No thunderous applause, this war.
No nations joined in unity,
No fighting with impunity:
Vast legions, wondering, what they’re fighting for…
This bloody war, condemned, forgot,
(Marches, mimicking its fervor)
Freedom won—do we deserve Her?
Would, we could unspool this chaos, wrought:
Our just desserts. Not thinking first, we fought.
Copyright 2020 Andrea LeDew
For a remembrance of a marriage that began even before this war, read Sixty Years.
For a short short story about a reluctant protester read The Right Side of History.