Wednesday, July 9, 2008

War sucks.

I have a fascination with Vietnam.  Not in the typical American "'Nam" kinda way.  But a fascination with the other side of things, the underlying side of things.  To most Americans, Vietnam is a war that is deconstructed over and over again, in movies and books and 60's music.  To me, Vietnam is a country, full of people and places who've suffered but have never given up and continue to move forward.  I love the country and the people, find them both beautiful and heartbreaking.  I went to Vietnam for 6 weeks and wish I had gone for longer.  I miss the children there, and wish there was more I could do to help.

So I picked up The Girl in the Picture.  It's the story about the girl in that famous picture from the war, the one where the little girl is running naked, straight towards the camera, screaming and crying.  Everyone who has seen the picture knows what I'm talking about.  It's a heartbreaking shot.

The book is heartbreaking too.  It follows that girl and her family, from before the napalm explosion, to her defection from Vietnam years later.  It paints a picture of what life was like in South Vietnam before the Communists took over, and the difference afterwards, how she was both used and loved by people in the party, her conversion from the Cao Dai faith to Christianity.  It's an amazing tale, written well, well-researched, moving and incredible.  I cried reading it at times.  And I simply cannot fathom what it must have been like to be her.

I read this book after going to the extremely biased War Remnants Museum (once upon a time called the American War Crimes Museum) and the Cuchi Tunnels (where you are forced to watch an anti-american propoganda video).  Now, I am a patriot, but that doesn't mean I don't see things from both sides.  After reading this book, all I can think is how war just SUCKS.  For everyone.  Life under Communism sucked for the South Vietnamese.  But Americans were the ones who mistakenly bombed their own target (and therefore caught the girl in napalm).  War just SUCKS.

I LOVED this book, and urge anyone who ever wanted to know anything about the Vietnam War to read it.   It's an amazing, moving account.  Really really wonderful.

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