MIA Only Hanoi Knows

MIAonlyhanoiknows

My first real knowledge of the Vietnam war was from the movies. As I was a child, I wasn’t allowed to see The Deer Hunter and some of the more serious films to come out in the 70s. But by the 1980s, when America was making the lets-go-back-and-finish-our-unfinished-business movies, my brother and I were happily along for the ride. After watching Uncommon Valor at the local theater, we came back the next night to see it again. First Blood was a good movie, but the stupid Rambo movies that came later were what we loved. Unfortunately, this left me, and I suspect many of my generation, with a view of the Vietnam War that didn’t include real people and real hurts, but silly characters whose loss was treated, if not as a joke, then as something that could be fixed by sneaking back at kicking some commie butt.

So when I was in Vietnam to get my daughter, and I was looking for something to bring back to my yearbook kids who were carrying on without me, the gaudy, campy shirts featuring a giant face of Ho Chi Minh seemed perfect. My students got the joke. But you know who didn’t? Vietnam vets. More than one of these kids later shared stories of being backed into a corner and sternly lectured about the fact that Ho Chi Minh was responsible for the loss of a lot good men, and his image wasn’t a joke to them. Sorry about that kids. We learn things everyday.

The kids didn’t have to worry about wearing the shirts much anyway. Upon being washed once, the big colorful political leader’s face ran off the tee-shirt and onto the rest of their laundry. There’s another lesson there somewhere.

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