Tuesday, April 28, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Feelings from the past cloud the present

MarionFranckW

By
From page A11 | March 17, 2013 |

This column is my first about a recent trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. History from that part of the world is deeply upsetting to many people. I struggle with guilt about my inaction regarding the Vietnam War. Other people have different struggles, many far worse than mine, but I can only tell my own story. This column was written before the trip.

————

The country that is highest on my husband’s bucket list is low on mine. But we have agreed to take turns choosing travel destinations, so I said yes to Vietnam. He has selected an itinerary I will enjoy (river cruise, including Cambodia) and I’ve agreed to sample lots of food.

My opposition, I know, is irrational. It’s based on old feelings from my vulnerable early 20s, feelings of remorse and sadness about the Vietnam War which, in Vietnam, is called the American War.

Every night as a young person, I watched the news on TV. Body counts. Protests. Students killed on a Ohio campus. More bombing. More death. Civilians from other countries drawn into the fray. Prisoners of war. Failure.

There must have been some positive reports, perhaps about rapport with Vietnamese allies or successful missions, but I didn’t hear because I wasn’t listening. Just as I had blinders on my side, people had blinders on the other side. Families who didn’t even have soldiers in Vietnam fought among themselves.

I don’t want to revisit all that anguish.

We lost 5,000 troops in Iraq but 60,000 in Vietnam. Vietnamese soldiers and civilians died, too, about 2 million.

I still shudder when I hear words like “napalm,” “agent orange” or “My Lai.” Memories well up of Americans calling the Vietnamese “gooks,” failing to rescue allies when the war ended and being unkind to our own troops.

I should have protested harder to get us out of Vietnam, as many young people did.

Instead, when protests happened, I cowered on the sidelines — and then felt guilty. I still do.

Since then, of course, the world has changed. Most Vietnamese today were born after the war. Most Americans were born later, too. Fences have been mended, diplomatic relations restored. Tourism to Southeast Asia is booming, and the word on the street is that the Vietnamese people welcome us to their country.

For all these reasons, I have agreed to go with my husband, but as the date of our trip approaches, I remain uncomfortable.

Then I hear from a friend named Dick Blair who, long before I knew him, served in Vietnam as a Navy pilot. He wants to know which part of the country we’ll see. Might it be near where he served? Would I like to meet and talk?

Surprisingly, I’ve never had a long conversation with a Vietnam veteran before. When I was young, I didn’t know anyone who served there. This was a matter of luck, because people around me were being drafted all the time, but not from my personal circle.

I agreed immediately to meet with Dick.

In the long, complex story of the war, he represents one tiny sample of what happened. He can be seen as lucky, because he returned to America physically and mentally intact.

But he must have faced great risk. He flew in a helicopter gunship squadron, the Seawolves, that provided close air support to Navy patrol boats and Navy Seals in the Mekong Delta. He was 23.

We sit down together, and from the moment he starts speaking, his positive attitude surprises me.

“I think it’s fantastic that people are going to Vietnam,” he says, smiling. “I’d love to do that.”

“But how do you feel about our relationship to Vietnam?” I ask.

“It’s good,” he says, “when you think about it. If we had won, the government might be marginally more democratic, but I don’t know that it would have come out much different.”

This is not something I have considered.

“Think of the alternatives,” Dick continues. “We could still be enemies. It could be too dangerous for Americans to go to Vietnam. Or we could be forbidden to visit.” Dick, too, has heard that the Vietnamese are remarkably forgiving. They’re welcoming tourists, and their economy is moving up fast. Capitalism is booming despite their communist rulers.

Dick picks up my guidebook and flips to a page describing the area where he fought in the Mekong Delta.

He reads to me out loud about “placid” villages and peaceful pagodas. The location is 60 miles from where he was stationed. “You would never have walked there,” he says, “because it was all so dangerous.”

I feel as if I was complicit while America abused Vietnam, but I don’t know if other people view our role so harshly or make it so personal. The Vietnamese, in particular, have recovered and made a good life for themselves, despite the scars.

I see now that I need to move off the mark, too. I’ve been holding onto my old view of Vietnam as if it were my deceased grandparent, preserved in memory as ravaged and helpless. But Vietnam didn’t die — it’s bursting with economic initiative — and America has changed as well, working to be kinder to vets, for example.

I need to change, too. I need to take this opportunity to get “unstuck” and learn more.

— Marion Franck lives in Davis with her family. Reach her at [email protected]

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Teens embrace public art through Pence Gallery program

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Robotics team members reflect on their big win

    By Kellen Browning | From Page: A1

    City’s eco-classes will explore water, wildlife, pests, composting

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1

     
    Many hands make light work

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Yolo Basin Foundation celebrates 25 years, announces major fund drive

    By Felicia Alvarez | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Yolo County Bar Association honors Magna Carta, probation chief

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

     
    Sierra Club leaders will meet April 30

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Capay Organic hosts Cinco de Mayo party

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    Chicken manure compost class planned

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Party celebrates release of Lescroart’s new novel

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Curious about calculus? Try Barcellos’ new book

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Master Gardeners teach workshops throughout county

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Faithful Partner Fund established for K-9 officers

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Pedro party, lunch benefit Yolo Hospice

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Author — injured arm in sling — will sign her new book

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Holmes’ Green Team wins state award

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Vacaville contractor convicted of fraud

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Blueberries, apricots arrive at Sutter market

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7 | Gallery

    New UCD art lecture series named for Thiebauds

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7 | Gallery

     
    Pinball show features lots of free play

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    Asian garden open for tours this weekend

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10 | Gallery

     
    .

    Forum

    Waking up to the awful truth

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Dog’s freedom isn’t worth it

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Vaccine bill is vital for our health

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Thanks for camera’s return

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

     
    David Brooks: Love and merit

    By David Brooks | From Page: A6

    Davis’ active transportation plan is right on target

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    .

    Sports

    Huge first frame lifts DHS to huge baseball win

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Blue Devil girls run it up on Grant

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    UCD golfers move into first at Big West Championship

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Another big inning does in Devil softballers

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1

     
    AAA roundup: Cardinals break out big bats in Davis Little League win

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    Momentum Dance Company plans spring concert

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Get a positive vibe Wednesday from Tha Dirt Feelin’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Sacramento Youth Symphony holding open auditions

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9Comments are off for this post

     
    Winters Theatre Company performs on the Big Day of Giving

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    There’s no place like home in DMTC’s ‘Wizard of Oz’

    By Bev Sykes | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    ‘Contempt of Court’ next up at Winters Theatre Company

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

    Have breakfast in Oz on May 16

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    Black Sea Hotel to perform in Village Homes

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    DMTC’s young performers present a steam-punk ‘Snow White’

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 (set 1)

    By Creator | From Page: B5

     
    Comics: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 (set 2)

    By Creator | From Page: B7