Sunday, March 16, 2008

I was in My Lai, Vietnam in December and have thought much about that day, as it was one of the most profound experiences in my life to this time. I went to Vietnam to try and understand; to try and get it-- what happened there that irrevocably textured the souls and spirits of so many people I have know and love. There is Tim from the old neighborhood, the Navy Seal, who came back a bona fide drug addict. There is our cousin Butch, the infantryman, who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress his entire adult life. There is my best friend's husband, Dick the Air Force pilot, who was not able to emotionally connect with his wife as she fought and lost her battle with lymphatic cancer. There was my own brother, who doesn't talk about it to this day, saying only, I don't want the FBI showing up here. And it was not only them, it was us. Every college campus in this country was ravaged by the differences of opinion around war. Parents and children were alienated and estranged; families underwent separation as children moved to Canada; neighborhoods became awkward for the families left behind. It was a time of routine chaos, strife, and violence. And it became as normal in the cities, towns and communities of the USA as it was in the villages and cities of North and South Vietnam.

Maybe because I was a girl, maybe because I was younger, maybe because I just don't get it, I just didn't get it. I just didn't understand. And everyone, everywhere was talking about it; mostly in passionate, disturbed rhetoric. And my unfailing intuition, fully formed even then, failed me as well as the logic and rationale of the whole thing. I just didn't get it. And after, when it was all over, beautiful, gorgeous boys who were now men came home, caricatures of themselves, taking years and years and years to heal. I was extremely sensitive to the prevailing conflict of the time and the hurt and pain this conflict caused stayed with my for most of my adult life.

So I've always wondered about Vietnam. In your life, it's completely true that everything has its season. If you would have told me the spring that my little boy Ben was born, that after I raised him and his brother and sister, I'd set out to see the world, I would have laughed. I would have been charmed and interested, but I would have laughed. I'm from Tenth and Penn Ave; we don't vacation in Southeast Asia. We jump in the moho and our husbands take us to the Oregon coast for vacation. But Vietnam has haunted me always and I wanted to face it and see for myself, because I wanted to understand. How could this have happened to The Land of the Free and The Home of the Brave?

So I ended up in Vietnam by myself. And I knew I'd be going to My Lai and I dreaded it from the very moment the plane touched down in Ho Chi Minh City.

The 'Kan EWA

1 comment:

MarmiteToasty said...

I have no words.... just smiles....