A tale of two conferences

Black Lives Matter, Chicago, guns, News, peace, police, violence
A young protester at the march on Saturday. (Photo by Nissa Rhee).

A young protester at the march on Saturday. (Photo by Nissa Rhee).

For my latest article for The Christian Science Monitor, I went to a Black Lives Matter rally and march on Saturday and then a giant conference of police chiefs on Monday. You can read about the competing events here.

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How small and sour-grapes our postwar punishment of Vietnam, our trade and diplomatic embargoes that keep the country in economic ruin. How self-punishing and miserly in American spirit are these policies. How much better it would be for our national pride if we offered this country our help, for it is we and those who threw in their lot with us who seem to dwell in needless quandary, who live lives punctuated by active resentments and pain.

Go visit Vietnam, I’d tell the troubled vets. Go visit, if you can, and do something good there, and your pain won’t seem so private, your need for resentment so great.

-John Balaban in “Remembering Heaven’s Face: A Moral Witness in Vietnam” (1991)

Remembering Heaven’s Face

Book, Quote

Reader mail: Paul C. Steffy

Book, Novel
"The Good Soldier" at home with my other Vietnam books. (Photo by Nissa Rhee)

“The Good Soldier” at home with my other Vietnam books. (Photo by Nissa Rhee)

A few weeks ago, I received a book in the mail from Vietnam War veteran Paul C. Steffy. It’s a novel about a veteran who returns to Vietnam to “lessen his war grief and post-traumatic stress disorder” and to better understand a gift he received from an elderly woman during the war. Needless to say, it’s a topic that’s right up my alley and the book has found a good home on my bookshelf.

If you’re interested in reading Paul’s book, “The Good Soldier,” you can find it here on Amazon. Paul was kind enough to autograph my copy.

Paul's autograph

Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki

atomic bombs, hiroshima, nagasaki, News
The "Peace Dome" in Hiroshima, taken after the bombing in 1945. (AP)

The “Peace Dome” in Hiroshima, taken after the bombing in 1945. (AP)

Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. In this week’s remembrances, I’ve heard again and again the argument that the bomb ended the war and that it saved countless American lives by avoiding the need for a ground invasion. This myth persists, despite being largely disproven. (See The Decision to use the Bomb by Gar Alperovitz).

The “bomb won the war” narrative is dangerous, because it ignores the countless victims whose lives were ended or forever changed by the bombs in favor of the American victors. This piece by Sofai Ahlberg is a good reminder on why we need to hear the stories of survivors and continue to explore the atomic bomb’s consequences seven decades on. Let us remember that the devastation created at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 was manmade, and it could easily happen again.

“Healing is Prevention”

Articles, Chicago, News
At Story Squad programs, students from the South Side share their experiences. (Photo courtesy Youth Safety and Violence Prevention program)

At Story Squad programs, students from the South Side share their experiences. (Photo courtesy Youth Safety and Violence Prevention program)

My latest article in The University of Chicago Magazine is outIt’s a profile of Ryan Lugalia-Hollon and Eddie Bocanegra, the heads of the Chicago YMCA’s Youth Safety and Violence Prevention Program. They’re doing some incredible work with young people on the South and West sides, including getting war veterans to mentor kids involved with gangs. You can read the article here.

Radio interview for 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon

history, News, saigon, Vietnam, War sites
Me and Dung Nguyen outside of the radio station in Chicago.

Me and Dung Nguyen outside of the radio station in Chicago.

I was on Chicago Public Radio’s Worldview program yesterday for the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. You can hear the interview here. I was joined on air by Dung Nguyen — a South Vietnamese veteran and refugee living in Chicago — and John Riordan — the “Oscar Shindler of the Vietnam War.”

My story in Guernica

Articles, Photograph, Veterans, Vietnam
Graffiti from a Marine unit on an abandoned Iraqi military barracks shows the Iraqi and American flags in 2003. Photo taken by Benjamin Busch.

Graffiti from a Marine unit on an abandoned Iraqi military barracks shows the Iraqi and American flags in 2003. Photo taken by Benjamin Busch.

My essay on the return of veterans to Iraq was published in Guernica Magazine today. You can read it here. And if you’d like to see some more photos taken by Marine vet Benjamin Busch, you can check out this feature in the War, Literature and Arts journal.

47th Anniversary of the My Lai Massacre

Travel, Veterans, Vietnam, War sites

Tomorrow is the 47th anniversary of the My Lai Massacre, in which American soldiers killed 500 unarmed Vietnamese in 1968. Every year at this time, US veteran Mike Boehm plays his violin at My Lai as an offering to the spirits of the dead and for those still living in the area.

While Boehm was not involved in the massacre during the war, he says that My Lai represents the darkness of the whole American conflict in Vietnam. Since 1994, his organization MQI has been providing support to the people of My Lai and Quang Ngai Provence in central Vietnam. In honor of the anniversary, I’m posting a Vietnamese documentary about Boehm and the legacy of the massacre. You can watch the first part above and the rest below.

To find out more about My Lai today, you can read about my trip to Quang Ngai here and here.