Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Ken Burns and "healing" from the Vietnam War

If the Memorial Day op-ed in the NY Times is any indication, Ken Burns's documentary on the Vietnam War will try to satisfy everyone---or at least not anger anyone:

If we can unpack this enormously complicated event, immerse ourselves in it and see it with fresh eyes, we might come to terms with one of the most consequential, and most misunderstood, events in our history and perhaps inoculate ourselves against the further spread of the virulent disunion that afflicts us. Nothing will ever make the tragedy of the Vietnam War all right. But if we are to begin the process of healing, we must first honor the courage, heroism and sacrifice of those who served and those who died, not just as we do today, on Memorial Day, but every day.

The "healing" treacle is particularly annoying. No one who has had a relative or loved one killed in Vietnam can ever really "heal" from that wound. The same can be said of any war or, for that matter, a terrorist attack. This is Teddy Bear psychology, as if what America needs is some kind of national group-hug.

"The courage, heroism, and sacrifice" of the Americans who fought in Vietnam was wasted in a bad cause. The same has to be said about Confederate troops in the Civil War---fighting in defense of slavery---and German and Japanese troops in World War 2.

More teddy bears from Burns:

There is no simple or single truth to be extracted from the Vietnam War. Many questions remain unanswerable. But if, with open minds and open hearts, we can consider this complex event from many perspectives and recognize more than one truth, perhaps we can stop fighting over how the war should be remembered and focus instead on what it can teach us about courage, patriotism, resilience, forgiveness and, ultimately, reconciliation.

As I pointed out the other day, the simple truth of the Vietnam War is that it was essentially a colonial war that the US adopted and re-branded as an anti-Communist war after France failed to regain control of its colony in Indochina. 

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