My father just returned from a trip to Vietnam, some forty years after his initial service to our country, as a Naval Advisor on a South Vietnamese patrol gunboat. The day after his return, he was rushed to the hospital because of edema in his legs, which had swelled frighteningly during the trip. Unknown causes. Almost no one in contemporary Vietnam wanted to talk about the war, and he was both relieved and saddened by this. Where did it go? What wounds were--and are--just below the surface of languages, of faces, of skin?
Who knows how we will remember and memorialize this current war? It's difficult to imagine a memorial as moving and provocative as Maya Lin's Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington, D.C.--that black scar of mirroring granite half-sunk in the earth. If there's a limit to its representativity, it's that there are no Vietnamese names, names of the 2.5 million dead. Yet, despite this framing, it's still a testament to how art can act both as elegy and as outcry.
Here are a selection of the past posts:
Abu Ghraib Torture, American Veteran Suicides (April 28, 2008)
Winter Soldier 2008 post (April 8, 2008)
Poems on/about the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial (March 22, 2008)
Operation First Casualty/Iraq Veterans Against the War (November 11, 2007)
Poems of Peace and Change (including veterans Brian Turner and Yusef Komyunyakaa and survivor Dunya Mikhail) reading (July 7, 2007)