you and I walk a fragile line
“Why do you write?”, he once asked me.
I take in a deep breath, and then exhale. This question is one that I’ve received a countless number of times, and its always the same answer.
“I write to stabilise myself, in a sense. I write so my thoughts are all down, and it becomes easier, to think more, because after all, I am an overthinker. I write so I can scream, stab and shoot at everyone and everything, in a peaceful, more hurtful way – with words. I write so I can see the truth I hide from myself, so I can feel the bitterness of myself. I write so that I can look back at events and laugh, then cry, so I feel a little proud of myself. I write so I can capture the metaphors that should guide me. I write so that I can feel more liberated, with just a pen and a paper, no vodka, no cocaine. I write so that I can feel real, raw emotions, untouched by others, nor by myself.”
perhaps the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves.
you hated your eye colour,
called it dull and dirty brown,
wished for the deep blue of an ocean,
where countless hearts would drown
and it pains me as I realise,
you’ll never see them as I do;
how your eyes hint at a story,
and oh, I want to read right through
they hold specks of stolen sunlight,
that you’d miss with just one glance
and a depth of raw emotion,
that can freeze one in a trance,
they’re like a fix of melted chocolate,
when I’m craving a little sweet,
but hold a gaze so unwavering,
that I find it hard to meet
I fall straight down the rabbit hole,
every time I see you eyes,
the brown of earth’s unaltered beauty,
that I hope I’ll memorise
when I was tired of not belonging,
they made me feel found,
and please, don’t ever say again,
that your eyes are simply brown.
she had stars behind each eyelid,
and a galaxy in her soul,
that drew people into her endless heart,
like the pull of a black hole
she was made of earth and fire,
of wishes cast onto shooting stars,
she was like a new solar system,
unlike any known so far
with constellations always changing,
no one could memorise her skies,
so they thought what they ought to do,
was to bring her to their size
they shrunk the universe within her,
told her that her vast expanse was wrong,
that she should make her life much smaller,
if she wished to belong
as they collapsed the world around her,
she felt her inner stars grow cold,
until her life felt heavy,
for her once strong arms could hold
you might wonder how it happened,
but it does make sense,
for a life becomes much heavier,
when it’s the universe condensed
never not chasing a million things i want.
I remember everything crystal clear, of when I visited Vietnam about a year ago. For my Vietnam blog, click here >>> Vietnam Travels
During World War II, Japanese forces invaded Vietnam. To fight off both Japanese occupiers and the French colonial administration, political leader Ho Chi Minh—inspired by Chinese and Soviet communism—formed the Viet Minh, or the League for the Independence of Vietnam. Once World War II ended, in 1945, Ho Chi Minh saw it as an opportunity to take control, as the Japanese left behind Emperor Bao Dai in control. The Viet Minh took over the North of Hanoi, and declared a Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) with Ho as president. Seeking to regain control of the region, France backed Emperor Bao and set up the state of Vietnam in July 1949, with the city of Saigon as its capital. As anyone can see, it was chaos.
Both sides wished for a unified country, but had different ideologies. Ho’s side wanted a communist country, Bao’s side wished for a Vietnam close economic and cultural ties to the West.
The subsequent treaty signed in July 1954 at a Geneva conference split Vietnam along the latitude known as the 17th Parallel (17 degrees north latitude), with Ho in control in the North and Bao in the South. In 1955, however, the strongly anti-communist politician Ngo Dinh Diem pushed Emperor Bao aside to become president of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam (GVN), often referred to during that era as South Vietnam.
At this same time, the Cold War between USSR and the USA was intensifying, and the US was against any country that was an ally of USSR, and wanted to interfere in any communist spread. By 1955 President Dwight D. Eisenhower had pledged his firm support to Diem and South Vietnam. When Diem’s forces received training and equipment from the US, they were able to track down Viet Minhs staying in the South, they called them Viet Cong (Vietnamese Communist), around 100,000 of them.
Working under the “domino theory,” which held that if one Southeast Asian country fell to communism, many other countries would follow, John F. Kennedy increased U.S. aid, though he stopped short of committing to a large-scale military intervention. By 1962, the U.S. military presence in South Vietnam had reached some 9,000 troops, compared with fewer than 800 during the 1950s.
Diem was killed by a coup by his own generals, three weeks before Kennedy’s assassination. Lyndon B. Johnson took over Kennedy’s role. In March 1965, Johnson made the decision—with solid support from the American public—to send U.S. combat forces into battle in Vietnam. By June, 82,000 combat troops were stationed in Vietnam, and military leaders were calling for 175,000 more by the end of 1965 to shore up the struggling South Vietnamese army. Despite the concerns of some of his advisers about this escalation, and about the entire war effort amid a growing anti-war movement, Johnson authorized the immediate dispatch of 100,000 troops at the end of July 1965 and another 100,000 in 1966.
The war was fought mainly on ground, argely under the command of General William Westmoreland. Westmoreland pursued a policy of attrition, aiming to kill as many enemy troops as possible rather than trying to secure territory. By 1966, large areas of South Vietnam had been designated as “free-fire zones,” from which all innocent civilians were supposed to have evacuated and only enemy remained. Heavy bombing by B-52 aircraft or shelling made these zones uninhabitable, as refugees poured into camps in designated safe areas near Saigon and other cities. North Vietnam still believed they could recover lost territory and get arms via the Ho Chi Minh trail, through Cambodia and Laos. They also got help from China and USSR. They strengthened their air forces.
As the war stretched on, some soldiers came to mistrust the government’s reasons for keeping them there, as well as Washington’s repeated claims that the war was being won. The later years of the war saw increased physical and psychological deterioration among American soldiers—both volunteers and draftees—including drug use, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mutinies and attacks by soldiers against officers and noncommissioned officers.
By the end of 1967, Hanoi’s communist leadership was growing impatient as well, and sought to strike a decisive blow aimed at forcing the better-supplied United States to give up hopes of success.
On January 31, 1968, some 70,000 DRV forces under General Vo Nguyen Giap launched the Tet Offensive (named for the lunar new year), a coordinated series of fierce attacks on more than 100 cities and towns in South Vietnam.Taken by surprise, U.S. and South Vietnamese forces nonetheless managed to strike back quickly, and the communists were unable to hold any of the targets for more than a day or two.Reports of the Tet Offensive stunned the U.S. public, however, especially after news broke that Westmoreland had requested an additional 200,000 troops, despite repeated assurances that victory in the Vietnam War was imminent. With his approval ratings dropping in an election year, Johnson called a halt to bombing in much of North Vietnam (though bombings continued in the south) and promised to dedicate the rest of his term to seeking peace rather than re-election. In the next election, Republican Richard M. Nixon won the presidency.
Nixon, in an attempt to limit the volume of American casualties, he announced a program called Vietnamization: withdrawing U.S. troops, increasing aerial and artillery bombardment and giving the South Vietnamese the training and weapons needed to effectively control the ground war.
The My Lai Massacre came to the attention of the public – where 400 unarmed villagers in Vietnam were massacred by American soldiers. Anti-war protests continued to build as the conflict wore on.
On November 15, 1969, the largest anti-war demonstration in American history took place in Washington, D.C., as over 250,000 Americans gathered peacefully, calling for withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam. The anti-war movement, divided American. For some young people, the war symbolized a form of unchecked authority they had come to resent. For other Americans, opposing the government was considered unpatriotic.
As the first US troop was withdrawn, those remaining became extremely frustrated. Tens of thousands of soldiers received dishonorable discharges for desertion, and about 500,000 American men from 1965-73 became “draft dodgers,” with many fleeing to Canada to avoid conscription. Nixon ended draft calls in 1972, and instituted an all-volunteer army the following year.
In 1970, a joint U.S-South Vietnamese operation invaded Cambodia, hoping to wipe out DRV supply bases there. The South Vietnamese then led their own invasion of Laos, which was pushed back by North Vietnam.The invasion of these countries, in violation of international law, sparked a new wave of protests.
In December Nixon authorized a number of bombing raids against targets in Hanoi and Haiphong. Known as the Christmas Bombings, the raids drew international condemnation.
In January 1973, the United States and North Vietnam concluded a final peace agreement, ending open hostilities between the two nations. But the war between North and South Vietnam continued, until April 1975, when DRV forces captured Saigon, renaming it Ho Chi Minh City, although Ho himself died in 1969.
More two decades of war resulted in a massive toll of Vietnamese population – an estimated 2 million Vietnamese were killed, while 3 million were wounded and another 12 million became refugees. Building of infrastructure and economy began slowly. In 1976, Vietnam was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, though sporadic violence continued over the next 15 years, including conflicts with neighboring China and Cambodia. Trade and diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the U.S. resumed in the 1990s.
And in the US, the effects of the Vietnam War would stayed long after the last troops returned home in 1973. The nation spent more than $120 billion on the conflict in Vietnam; this massive spending led to widespread inflation, followed by a worldwide oil crisis in 1973 and increasing fuel prices.
Psychologically, the effects were much bitter. The war showed Americans the myth of American invincibility, and divided up the US. Veterans returning got negative reactions from both sides – some who viewed them as killing innocent civilians, others who saw them as having lost the war. There was a lot of physical damage, too. A toxic herbicide called Agent Orange was sprayed, almost 80 million litres, in Vietnam by Americans. The exposure to this led to heavy damage in Americans and Vietnamese, although more in Vietnamese. Short-term exposure to dioxin can cause darkening of the s kin, liver problems and a severe acne-like skin disease, diabetes, nerve disorders, muscular dysfunction, hormone disruption and heart disease. Developing fetuses are particularly sensitive to dioxin, which is also linked to miscarriages, spina bifida and other problems with fetal brain and nervous system development. It can also result in skin irritations, miscarriages, psychological symptoms, type 2 diabetes, birth defects in children and cancers such as Hodgkin’s disease, prostate cancer and leukemia. These defects also carry on to many generations. I personally saw, in a museum in Vietnam, pictures, paintings, an entire floor almost, of effects of Agent Orange. My reaction? I think about it every single day, feeling grateful for my life, crying for those who took in Agent Orange, remembering the pictures of the deformities of the Vietnamese, remembering how I cried into my mother’s shoulder, while everyone just looked at me, feeling sorry, every single day.
Other than Agent Orange, the US also used chemicals like Agents Pink, Agent Purple, etc.
Lawsuits were filed by Vietnamese, and Americans.
Many say that the reason the US government does not admit this, and compensate the Vietnamese victims is because then mean admitting that the U.S. committed war crimes in Vietnam and that would lead to lawsuits that would cost the government billions of dollars. In 1982, the Vietnam War Memorial was unveiled, with almost 58,000 people’s names inscribed; those who were killed, or went missing in the war.
There you go, a summary of the Vietnam War.
And here you go, me crying once more.
Maybe the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves.