to Vietnam

When I think of Vietnam, I think of the war. Arriving here is like arriving in any unfamiliar country. Getting off the bus at some no-name side street instead of the bus station. Being surrounded by taxi drivers and touts. Wanting a W.C. and an ATM. Unsure if the guide book hotel address will be understood. Avoiding scooters, pickpockets and scams. Coughing from the noxious fumes of air pollution.
Hanoi. I grew up with the word, Hanoi. A country on the other side of the world. The war in our living rooms. Family, friends, names, faces, photos, caskets. Deferments, dodgers, lottery, protests, massacres, honor, domino theory, carpet bombing, agent Orange and on and on. A flood of words, memories and feelings.
I don’t doubt the warmth of the Vietnamese people and a wealth of beaches and tourist sites. But I feel compelled to visit the battlefields and memorial sites. Once again I will try to make sense of a war–and more generally dwell on mankind’s inhumanity to Man.

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