Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ghosts Of War

Cong Caphe is a Vietnamese coffeehouse that capitalizes on a wartime theme. Sure, it's a fun, hipster-driven motif. But sitting in an apparent base camp for the  North Vietnamese fills this American's veins with ice and her heart with a strange, outdated fear. 

When my daughters visit Danang, they experience tropical breezes, ocean waves, and a delightful little city full of bridges, motorbikes, and endless food. 

But when I come to Vietnam, I see ghosts. 

Ghosts of war. 

A war that was fought when I was just a child. At the time, I thought I didn't understand what was happening in this mysterious, far-off land. 

But now I see that I grasped the terror all too well. 

Children dying unspeakable deaths. 

Innocent men and women fleeing danger, desperate for a new home, a new village, a safe place to plant their rice and raise their chickens and pray that life could return to normal. 

American soldiers dying for a war that their countrymen rarely understood and didn't support, fighting an enemy they didn't know how to fight. 

A tiny Asian nation turned against itself in a proxy battle between the two Cold War super powers. 

And a post-nuclear world that looked on in horror as the conflict edged closer and closer to the abyss. 

* * * * *

This is what I think about when I come to Vietnam. And I worry how the people here will respond to a person like me, an American, who dares to come back and stir up those old memories.  

But each time I visit, the gentle people of Danang wrap me in kindness and generosity and love, and I understand that we are all helping each other heal from those terrible ghosts of war. 

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