Saturday, December 19, 2009

An ancient Laotian prophecy

The ancient people believed
that the eagle will come to the Lao land
to help us to fight the war.
The eagle will bring with them
more jobs for our men.
The army will grow rich and strong.
Great wealth will pour into Laos
like a waterfall in the Mekong river.
But the old people warned,
"Remember the bird who sits over the pond,
and drops its shit to lure the hungry fish closer.
The clever bird swoops down to catch them,
then flies away without looking back."
"Do not be deceived," the old people said,
"The eagle comes to shit in our hand."
-- The Betrayal

Sometimes I listen to my thoughts and I just have to ask myself, "Am I anti-American?" My gut instinct is to say no. I'm not a Hemingway. But . . . if I had the money, I too might find another land to feel at home in.

I could eat pumpkin sweets all year round. Basketball, baseball and football are my favorite sports. The 4th of July is my favorite day of the year. I love the stories of Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart, George Washington, Dr King, and so many others. There is so much greatness to our history.

I love to learn, and I knew when I graduated from formal education I was not done gaining knowledge. I spent all of 8th grade memorizing the greatness of my country. I explored political theories and ideologies as an 11th grader. Freshman year of college I learned about our early history without the usual biases. But still, I knew there was so much I hadn't been taught.

In the 4th grade I proudly told my father America was great because we'd never lost a war, and when we finished a war we never took over the countries we "beat." His reply has changed the way I learn forever. "No matter what your history books tell you, no matter what your teacher says, we lost Vietnam."

Age 22, while I'm lunching with my Vietnamese soul mate in Singapore (I love Hieu with all my heart) Hieu casually mentions the American War. For a brief second I honestly had no idea what war she was talking about. I asked for the years of the war and before she answered, figured it out on my own. My curiosity over powered the rules to avoid political conversation, I had to know if my history books had really lied to me . . . "In Vietnam, did they teach you that you won that war?"

"Of course we did. Ho Chi Man city is no longer Saigon. If America is still in charge of Vietnam the cities' name is still Saigon. We are a Vietnamese state, not an American state."

So much for never colonizing another country. I had believed that statement with all my heart. I assumed it was possible we hadn't won all the wars we ever fought in, but I had been certain we had never colonized another country. We were not European, we were not England, Spain or France.

I just wish my school books would have taught me all our errors. How hard is it to tell kids Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon; they all lied. They told us there was no war in Laos. But really there were 3 million tons of bombs dropped there by 1973. More bombs than WWI and WWII combined, dropped on one small country. One-hundred and seventy-seven sorties a day. One planeload of bombs dropped every 8 mins, 24 hours a day for nine straight years. A total of 260-million anti-personnel bombs, illegally dropped over a country of just 5 million people. How could one small group of men do that to an entire country, a country so far away and of such little threat.

My two requests, watch "The Betrayal." It is a documentary of a Laotian family during and mostly after the American War in Vietnam (I like that name better). If you have netflix, you can watch it instantly.

Request number 2: change our textbooks. Dedicate more pages to the lives of Americans of Japanese ancestry during WWII. Use facts to bring to life the lies told by Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. Teach the kids about Clinton's air strikes on Bosnia. Create a graph that compares the lives of Irai's taken by Saddam and the lives of Iraqi's taken by Bush.

If I had just been taught the truth, I don't think I would feel so much shame. If the books had told me what happened, instead of hiding it and forcing me to discover the truth on my own -- I wouldn't be so ashamed of my country. No country is free from grotesque errors. But the greater error is denying any wrongs committed. We seem to deny them all. What a disservice to our youth.

1 comment:

Mom and Dad Bassett said...

First me one politician who tells the truth?!!

Second point...history will never be written correctly, because all involved in its making see the same experience with totally different eyes. Mom

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