:rolleyes: We had a similar discussion in my US Experience in Vietnam class last week. It came up that 60,000 Americans had been killed in Vietnam and this heartless bitch had the nerve to raise her hand and ask, “If 60,000 died in Vietnam, why are people so upset about 1,200 people dying in our current war in Iraq?”
Most of the people in class were shocked into speechlessness, and two guys walked out (followed by myself a few minutes later), but I reamed her for a solid minute or two before finally asking: What if your grandson was one of those 1,200 people? The kicker was that this woman is maybe in her early 40s.
A couple of things…I could very well be wrong but the statistics I’ve seen have placed the deaths in the Civil War at about 300,000, for both sides.
Secondly, I would note that if we included both side there as well and took the number of* people* killed in the Veitnam War as oppposed to the number of Americans, it would probably be pretty close.
But of course that’s not the point. What is, is that the Veitnam memorial seems to bring home to people the real human toll of war. Even if it’s “only” 60,000. So it’s less a problem with peoples reaction to the Wall, than the idea that maybe we should have had something similar 150 years ago.
Of course maybe that was the OP’s point. I can’t tell what the OP’s point is.
Actually, there are some people in my family who are still alive, who lost their grandfather in that war. He was my great-great-great uncle. I read his war diary and all of his letters. I feel like I know him pretty well.
Re: your comment above. Not exactly the same thing. My great-grandfather was in the Civil War. A kid I went to high school with and hung out with is MIA in Cambodia. I fought in Vietnam and saw friends die there. Many of us experienced the alienation upon returning and the indifference to those who died. People weren’t indifferent to Civil War soldiers or other war vets. This monument is a closure for a lot of us. A somewhat different impact, wouldn’t you say?
Of course, for you it has much more impact than for me. I know Vietnam only as history. I know this will be hard for you to hear, and I’m not trying to be mean or anything, but time is marching on; almost half of all Americans alive today have no recollection of the Vietnam War, much less know anyone who died in it. Those are the people I was referring to in my OP.
Much less than that. Let’s just say that each of the 56,000 Americans who died in Vietnam had 50 people - friends and family - who were effected deeply by their loss. That’s a total of 2.8 million, or 1% of the current US population.
I don’t see what’s so offensive about the OP. Vietnam was a pretty small war, at least from the American vantage point, and the farther we get from it, the smaller it seems. Yeah, I understand that it’s a big deal if you fought in it, or know someone who did, especially if they didn’t come back. On the other hand, almost as many Americans die in car accidents every year as were killed in the entire conflict in Vietnam. I don’t mean to minimize the individual experiences of those who served, or the loses of the friends and families of those who died over there, but it really was a minor conflict that was more important for the political and cultural impact it had back at home, than for anything that happened out in the jungles of Indo-China.
Car accident victims aren’t sent across the world to a tiny country that most of them have never heard of against their will en masse to suffer jungle-rot, physical and psychological torture, imprisonment, fecally-coated booby traps, tigers, venomous snakes, torential rain that can literally leave you drowning in the mud if you’re wounded, and various jungle diseases (not to mention agent-orange) just because a few politicians are too stubborn to admit that they were wrong. Would you dismiss the deaths happening in Iraq right now because more people die in car wrecks? Imagine that war times 50.
I would think that you could see how it is insulting to call this a “minor conflict” that had little impact for anything that happened out in the jungle. I wouldn’t want to be the one to say that in front of my cousin, who did two tours of duty, or my dad, who evacuated the last of the troops at Saigon.
It is, similarly, just as insulting to belittle the loss of life in Vietnam by comparing it to the loss of life during the Civil war, as it is to belittle the loss of life in Iraq by comparing it to the loss of life in Vietnam.
I think it’s because it’s a dose of reality. It’s not just a 30 second soundbite on the nightly news. It’s solid and it’s real and the more you look at it the more you realize what a total waste of life occurs anytime there is a war started by some fucking politicians who have never worn a uniform or watched someone die. They’re shocked because they heard about the casualties a few at a time and even the total mounting number was meaningless because who can imagine a pile of bodies that big.
Seen as a long, high wall covered with the names of the dead is somewhat overwhelming, whether or not you went there, were for or against the war, or even give a shit about those who died all those years ago. The impact would be the same if the memorial was covered with the names of the dead from any other war. It’s simply a shocking thing to see the reality.
So only the people who buried a loved one are effected? Those who lost limbs, sanity, or freedom weren’t impacted by the war? Families who were seperated for the length of a tour of duty or more weren’t touched by the war?
I just want to understand who should or shouldn’t be able to roll their eyes at the OP.
But seeing 60,000 names of the dead carved in stone tells only part of the story. I don’t remember Vietnam much at all either; I was four when US involvement stopped. But I have been to the Wall, and seeing all those names in one place is quite sobering.
Just because “only” 60,000 people died in a conflict doesn’t mean it didn’t have a major impact on an entire generation.