With every passing day, I walked the streets of Vietnam, it became more and more clear to me, that there was a greater commonality to these portraits of the elder women of Vietnam, than simply their stoic countenance, their quite pride and the “something missing” in their eyes. Eyes are the mirror of the soul and the reflection shows something vital has been wrenched from the very essence of their life, something has been lost forever
These women are survivors, and what they have lost has come at the price of survival.They are survivors of a war the decimated Vietnam's infrastructure and economy. A war in which an estimated 2 million Vietnamese died, 3 million were wounded and another 12 million became refugees. A war in which the USA dropped 1 million tons of bombs in North Vietnam and another 4 million tons in the South. The infamous Agent Orange was sprayed over 4.5 million acres and reducing lush forests and verdant paddy fields to desolate wasteland. 400,000 people were killed or maimed as a result of exposure to Agent Orange, half a million children have been born with serious birth defects, while as many 2 million people are still suffering from cancer or other illness caused by Agent Orange. A country that was ravaged with war crimes, like the My Lai massacre where a US army platoon killed (and in some cases beat, raped, tortured, or maimed) almost 500 unarmed civilians – primarily women, children, and old men – in the hamlets of My Lai.
I was able to talk to a few in very candid terms, and could not but shed a silent tear. “NO … we do not hate, we do not even dislike ... But we can never forget”, they said.
Wars are not instigated by Nation on Nation, but by Individuals, demagogues, Egotists, by greed to usurp another’s rights, by a selfish false righteousness to impose ones way of thinking upon another. It is the pathos of humanity, to destroy itself. Wars will be fought, wars will be won and wars will be lost. It is always the innocents will always pay the greatest price. I dwell not on the reasons or logic or the why’s and how’. I simply ask “Then What?”