is this korean

anonymous asked:

hope this isn't offensive, i'm just curious, why do you read so much vietnam war literature?

It’s not offensive at all, and there are basically three reasons for it. One is research. I’m working on two different creative projects right now which take place in years when it would be a huge oversight not to include the Vietnam War. (And if you’re going to include it, you need to know what you’re talking about.) Another is my own family history. My grandparents were in the Foreign Service and stationed in Southeast Asia in the 1960s–my grandfather was in Saigon, while my grandmother, my mother, and her sister were living a little farther out of harm’s way in Thailand, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. So this conflict is closer to home for me than it is for many people my age. (My grandfather did not die during the war, but the war did kill him, years later. Exposure to napalm causes cancer, which is one of many far-reaching effects of the Vietnam War people don’t often think or talk about, and which we still don’t fully understand.) The last and most immediate reason is that the current political climate is frighteningly reminiscent of what it was 50 years ago, and that is not something we should ignore. Trump sounds a lot like Nixon (read up on the madman theory if you’re not sure what I’m talking about). We are all but inviting war with North Korea, and the anti-American sentiment there is a holdover from previous wars waged in Asia (more on that here). Both the Korean War and the Vietnam War started as ideological conflicts that spun out of control and resulted in massive losses of life (on all sides), and it’s something that history classes tend to gloss or overlook, because it’s difficult to teach and unpleasant to talk about. We often get to WWII–where it’s comparatively clear who the good guys and the bad guys are–and stop before we have to talk about the huge casualties and murky morality of Western attempts to stop the spread of Communism in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. Trump’s UN speech was unsettling for many reasons, but partly because you could have replaced the word ‘terrorism’ with ‘communism’ and it could have been 1971. He kept talking about “learning from history,” but we’re turning a blind eye to the history that’s the most relevant here, and we do that at our peril. 

But this post is getting overlong. So I’ll just say this: I would really encourage you to learn a little bit about what went down in the Asia between the 1950s and 1975. There’s a reading list here you could start with. Alternatively, there’s a monumental new documentary by Ken Burns streaming now, for free, on PBS. It’s a massive undertaking, it’s only ten episodes, and it is very worth watching.