Below you will find a blog post by a good friend of mine, writer Kat Fitzpatrick, regarding her Stories of Vietnam project. I hope you will be inspired (as I am) to continue to read about her adventure at Stories of Vietnam and consider contributing to her IndieGoGo trip fund here.
Thank you and happy reading!
Vietnam is really far away.
I speak in both terms of distance and in terms of time. The small country is a half a world away, while the Vietnam Era, an eleven-year period of intense conflict, is almost a half a century old.
In some ways, it would make sense to just forget about it all, the country, the conflict, the lingering questions.
But that would be wrong.
Vietnam is not just a place, not just a time, not “just” a war, but a deep excoriation on the American consciousness. This is not the main reason I am interested in Vietnam, but it is the reason I cannot let it go. It’s not that I—or any single person—can bring about magical answers regarding the era. However, I think that ignoring the lingering questions invites no small peril.
Five reasons why I care about Vietnam:
I was there. I turned eight years old the year we moved to Saigon and we evacuated before I turned nine. I don’t have a great many memories, but those I do possess echo ever so persistently.
My father rescued people. My father saw to it that “his people” and their families got safely out of the country. Over 1000 people had a chance at a new life because of him. (Though one should never forget that they lost their country.)
My mom wrote amazing letters. My mother’s letters to her parents during that time are a wealth of information, insight and a dark sort of amusement. Imagine laments about the “laundry situation” tucked in between allusions to “avoiding burning monks in the streets” and to incoming artillery.
Our being there is a hard fact to swallow. In all my years of growing up, my siblings and I would touch occasionally on the fact that we had lived in Vietnam. The conversations seemed to go something like this: “We lived in Vietnam.” “We lived in Vietnam?” “Yeah, we lived in Vietnam.” “Huh.” Silence.
I am writing about it. This may seem to be a self-serving reason, but I did not set out to write about Vietnam. The “call” to do so came in the form of an overwhelming wave of unanticipated emotion which hit me when a friend suggested that I do write about it. So I got a notebook and began. That was nearly three years ago—and despite many reasons not to (time, money, raw emotions)—I am still writing about it.
Three reasons why you should care about Vietnam, too.
Vietnam is a huge part of America’s history. There is no question that the Vietnam War is an unsutured wound. It was a major turning point in the way America sees itself. What that means is still coming to light and it is a question that affects all of us.
Vietnam quite likely holds a significant role in the world’s future, just as Germany and Japan hold significant economic and political power in the world three-quarters of a century after the end of WWII. Vietnam has become a top travel destination and as it moves toward the 50th anniversary of its independence (yes, when we left, the winning side celebrated its new-found independence), its esteem and energy will continue to rise.
Vietnam is beautiful. Or so I’ve been told. I will find out (again) soon.
Oh, and the Vietnamese love us. Again, mere rumor at this point, but I will definitely be keeping you posted. (Oddly enough, they love us though we were their most recent enemy. They still do not like the French, however.)
Mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote “It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.“ The Vietnam Era and the land of Vietnam are a time and place where America stumbled; perhaps there is yet the possibility for us to uncover, if not treasure, then some peace, reconciliation and connection.