Beyond The Rice Paddies |
Over the last several years, I've made it a point to ask the Vietnamese I've met in America two questions:1)What is your view of life in America?
2) If you had a chance to go back and live in Vietnam, would you?
Rarely have I found one who would go back and live in Vietnam; and, I might add my informal research has included a good number. My barber, for instance, was thrilled when I told her I was going to my Vietvet reunion a few months back. She joked," Tell all those GIs about me". What she meant was tell them how successful I am and she is. She owns three full-service shops, i. e., manicures, facials , etc.
Her view is that in America your success is limited mainly on how much you want to work (sounds much like our parents, not present day Americans). She has two kids in college and is living the American dream. Maybe it is a little overboard by present American views but pretty inspirational to me, not to mention the lesson we might need to relearn. "If I want to go back to Vietnam, I can go back on vacation," she says.
Why am I insistent on asking questions to Vietnameses immigrants? I think it
is guilt! I hope that somehow for all the suffering we caused,
some good came out of it. The presence of the successful Vietnamese in America may salvage a little of our guilt, especially if they are like my barber. (Vietnamese are probably the most successful immigrant group in America).
Along that line, I've just finished this sweet and charming little book about the Vietnam war, seen from a child's viewpoint, called Beyond The Rice Paddies.
The author was a small child when we older American soldiers were trudging through her village. I always wondered what the people felt as they were watching us. After I had been there a few months and realized the futility of what we were doing, I hated it and felt badly about our actions effected the Vietnamese civilians (Wonder how the Iraqi vets will feel in a few years?).
In Nam, the villagers were just trying to survive and had done nothing to deserve the turmoil. Sure, there were probably some VC (Viet Cong, the insurgent group), hiding out, but we didn't know.
When I heard about the book, I immediately ordered a couple of copies. All Vietnam vets should read it, guilt or no guilt.