Last night (Sunday) was the first in a new Ken Burns series on the Viet Nam War. The series is 18 hours and is being broadcast on KCPT during the next two weeks in a 7 pm time slot. Whatever Ken Burns presents from baseball, to jazz, to the Civil War is always impeccably researched and gripping.
This series is about remembering something many would rather forget. Those of us living during that time each have our own remembrances of how this war touched us personally. For me, it was seeing a classmate come back from the war so unlike the carefree spirit he had been before he left. I see him sitting with heavy metal playing in the background, watching TV with the sound turned off, all in a haze of anesthetic smoke. It is teaching literature to students about to be drafted and being asked why they had to go through this when all too soon they would be worlds away. And then, years later, working with veterans coming into the VA psych center with PTSD and finally beginning to talk about it.
Before the first session of this TV series I had never asked how the war came to be in the first place. I am beginning to see the seeds of it in breakdown in communication, not only in language but also in culture. Then there are the ugly and selfish motivations of predators that we sometimes do not see soon enough. There it is all played out in a jungle, before our eyes, of what happens when we objectify those unlike ourselves.
Although difficult to dredge up old atrocities of any sort, we can, with support and care, avoid repeating mistakes of the past and finally learn how to do better.