April 4, 2015 § Leave a comment
It is the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, a strange day, liminal time. It was always hard for me to know how to feel on this day. Ever practical, I would be properly solemn on Good Friday but on Saturday I would say I knew how this story turned out and there were things to be done – eggs to be dyed and braided bread to be baked and, in the time when I was going to church, candles and lilies to be arranged and potted flowers to be put out for the children. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 26, 2015 § Leave a comment
Buried within Seymour M. Hersh’s look back at the massacre at My Lai, The Scene of the Crime, published in The New Yorker, there is the account of a poignant exchange between the director of the My Lai Museum, Mr. Pham Thanh Cong, and an American veteran who had been one of the perpetrators.
The American, Kenneth Schiel, says he wants to “apologize to the people of My Lai,” but that is as far as he goes. “I ask myself all the time why did this happen. I don’t know.”
February 12, 2015 § 2 Comments
I never thought I would say this: the controversy about Brian Williams has made me miss the Vietnam War. I miss the reporters who really went there, went there to report. I miss the visceral feeling I had when I saw the grass waving under the choppers and the sound of the blades that still alerts me, all these years later. I miss the reporters ducking and running. I miss being made to feel horrified and grief-stricken about events that deserve horror and grief. « Read the rest of this entry »
January 15, 2015 § 4 Comments
“Have you finished the book?” It was the first thing Fred said when he saw me one day and he followed it up with, “I’m going to ask you that every time I see you.”
And he has, too. He asks when he arrives for dinner, or at Cafe Dewitt where we are meeting for lunch, or even at his own retirement party at Ithaca College.
“Getting there,” I say. Inwardly I ponder the process, briefly touching in on a world that has become intimately familiar while remaining utterly strange – the world of the war in Vietnam in 1967 to 1969. « Read the rest of this entry »
December 8, 2014 § Leave a comment
I used to be annoyed with Mark’s friends and family for not at least trying to talk him out of going to war in Vietnam and then going back for a second tour. I could let myself off the hook because while I knew him and knew most of his friends I wasn’t in much communication with them.
When he set his sights on the Army we were in high school. He was an extrovert, school photographer and reporter. I was catatonically shy, loving French and my few friends but otherwise being generally miserable. But that isn’t the time that concerns me now. I am thinking of when he got back after his first tour in January 1968. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 11, 2014 § 5 Comments
Yesterday I wrote in Point of View that connection is an act of peacemaking, that connection subverts the forces of war. Today I listened to Sebastian Junger speak about Why Soldiers Miss War. What he says in that talk calls my conclusion into question, or at least betrays it as the wistfulness of a civilian.
That soldiers miss war puzzles most of us who want nothing to do with it. I am uncomfortable still when Mark tells me that he misses the war. I accept it. On some level I think I “get” it – he misses the excitement, the sense of competency, the pride in doing a miserable job that no one in “the world” wants to do. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 10, 2014 § Leave a comment
Two writers, one American and one Vietnamese, met at a conference after the war and collaborated on a book, The Other Side of Heaven: Post-War Fiction by Vietnamese and American Writers. Wayne Karlin, who had piloted a helicopter, imagines his co-author, Le Minh Khue, who had worked to clear American bombs from the Ho Chi Minh Trail:
… I pictured myself flying above the jungle canopy, transfixed with fear and hate and searching for her in order to shoot her, while she looked up, in hatred and fear also, searching for me …