“Vietnam needs to embrace its history fully”

Those-who-cannot-remember-the-past-are-condemned-to-repeat-it.

This well-known and often misquoted quote by George Santayana (1863-1952), a Spanish-US American philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist who was born in Madrid and died in Rome, literally assumes there is something learned in the first place that has since been forgotten.  This is not the case with people who don’t learn the good, the bad, and the ugly of their country’s history, or any history, for that matter.  

Vũ Viết Tuân, a Vietnamese journalist, recently wrote an article entitled  Khoảng trống lịch sử that was subsequently translated into English with the more descriptive title Vietnam needs to embrace its history fully.  This is a simple yet profound lesson that many countries need to learn, including the United States.  (The first time I began to fill in the gaps of the top-down history I was taught as a child was when I read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States as a high school student.)  

Any culture and civilization that ever existed on our land is a part of our historical legacy.  – Phan Huy Lê (1934-2018)

I should add that Mr. Tuân wrote this article in the context of the recent national high school graduation examination and the death of one of Viet Nam’s greatest historians, Professor Phan Huy Lê, who passed away on 23 June.  

As someone who studied, taught, and conducted research in Germany, I know there is plenty of convincing evidence that this country went to great lengths and was largely successful in overcoming its Nazi past in the spirit of Vergangenheitsbewältigung, which means the “struggle to overcome the [negatives of the] past” or “working through the past”.  Sadly, the US has yet to accomplish this goal only as it relates to the American War in Viet Nam, not to mention many other tragedies of US and world history starting with the annihilation of Native American tribes in the 17th century in colonial America.  

While ignorance may very well be bliss, it is not a recommended state of mind for anyone or any society that wishes to learn from its mistakes and not repeat them in the hope of creating a better future.  

Peace, MAA

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Just Because the Golden Arches are in Vietnam Doesn’t Mean the US Won the War

Here’s my latest CounterPunch article, in response to a statement in a TV interview by a Pulitzer Prize-winning Vietnamese-American author that the US won the war because Viet Nam shifted to a free market economy. 

Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:

Last December, Viet Thanh Nguyen, a chaired professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at USC, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer, described by Amazon as “thrilling, rhythmic, and astonishing, as is the rest of Nguyen’s enthralling portrayal of the Vietnam War,” made the stunning pronouncement in a TV interview that “the US won this conflict” (8:03) because Viet Nam adopted a capitalist system, what is officially referred to as a socialist-oriented market economy.

I could see many viewers nodding their heads in solemn agreement.  “Yes”, I could hear them proudly and confidently saying to themselves, chests puffed out and hearts beating red, white, and blue, we belatedly yet ultimately triumphed because Viet Nam acquiesced and became like US.  Wasn’t that our goal from the beginning?

The Big Lie

This is a line, a fairy tale, a lie that I’ve heard many times.  It somehow makes US Americans feel good that the “commies” finally came around and saw the light.  It’s a psychological and emotional salve that reassures the gullible, the uninformed, and the nationalists that the sacrifices on their side were not in vain.  The problem is it’s dead wrong.

MAA