Tuesday, October 22, 2013

War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City

One of the things I didn't get to do enough of was touring in Vietnam.  It was a little disappointing as I thought I might have more travel companions than I did, and I often found myself shopping rather than doing much else.  I didn't feel like I had enough time to learn more about life there and about Vietnam in general, which is one of my favourite things to do when I visit a country (aside from eat, and I did a lot of eating!). One of the other recruiters recommended that I see the War Remnants Museum, not because it's "enjoyable", but because it's powerful.  I figured it might be better to see something like that since it would likely have a lot of impact in the short space of time that I had to learn something about the country, and indeed, the Vietnam warm was a significant part of the country's history--I hadn't remembered that it lasted for 17 years!

The museum is definitely difficult to go through.  It's not for those that are sensitive to violence and gory scenes.  Yet it's so necessary to see it.  We have the option to look away.  The victims, both soldiers and civilians, live with images they witnessed first hand, the lives of those they lost, the physical defects of the chemical warfare that the US launched in the country.  They do not have the option to look away.  Unless they end their lives.  And we know that so many have, soldiers suffering from PTSD, feeling guilty for the role they played, probably many Vietnamese that have done the same, though I don't know how to find out the impact.  So much of the world condemned the US invasion.  While some countries were limited in their condemnation through only their national socialist and communist parties, Canada's government, among others, condemned the act.  Many said it was act of aggression.  It's hard to disagree. 

I have taken several photos from the museum, and when I'm able to post the album, I do caution that you view at your own risk.  It's not meant to make you feel happy and good.  It's meant to inform and to impact, to remind us that war is horrible and should never be taken lightly.  I sometimes think about the original series Star Trek episode called A Taste of Armageddon in which two planets engage in a simulated war where casualties are determined by computer "attacks" on the other planet, and various people are sent to incineration chambers when they are declared as casualties.  Captain Kirk destroys the computers, telling the leader that they'll have to engage in real war, which is bloody and painful and where people actually suffer and that if they want to prevent it, they'll have to negotiate with the enemy and agree to end hostilities.  These days war is kind of like that to me; it's easy because most of the people that decide to send people to war don't have to endanger their own lives or mental health.  They can hear about the casualties on the news or through their information sharing mechanisms, but they don't have to face the gruesome realities anymore, not like in the past when a King would even go to battle with his army, and combat was more often hand-to-hand than not.  It's easy when you're sitting in your safe office to make these kinds of decisions about other people.  How long it will take for Vietnam to recover I don't know; but the population has proliferated, and I'm happy to learn that the economy is growing, so hopefully this is a positive thing.  It's a wonderful country with warm people.

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