Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Moose in the Mekong

So many of the young women looked alike. Save one, they all had long hair halfway down their back, gold hoop earrings, and, for the most part, the same smile. Of course they wore the same swim suit. Even the women from Asian countries, African countries, and the African-American woman who represented the U.S.A. had essentially the same hair style. That's right, Miss Universe. But it wasn't the cookie-cutter models on stage, the competition, whether evening gown, swim suit or answering terribly relevant questions about international relations that gave me pause. It wasn't the host and hostess, Jerry Springer and a former Spice Girl. (the Black one) It was the venue. Vietnam. The Peoples Republic of Vietnam was host to the 2008 Miss Universe pageant.
Within minutes after I stumbled upon this telecast, I was lost in thought. No surprise that so many violent images of Vietnam are emblazoned upon my consciousness. After all, the war was the defining moment of my generation. Yet the incongruousness of a beauty pageant in Vietnam is an earthquake. Springer even narrated a short travelogue section that shows all the contestants visiting a monument to Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi. Jane Fonda must have chuckled at that.
How wonderful that Vietnam, in all it's Communist glory is so popular with the "free" world and all it's Capitalist glory. How marvelous that labor in Vietnam is even cheaper now than China. It's only natural that the world has come to Vietnam to celebrate this beautiful country, its culture, people, and new status in the community of nations.
One question: What do we tell the 58,000 people whose names are on the wall. Guess what, it really wasn't about democracy, communism or any of that stuff. It really didn't matter who occupied those valleys, those hamlets, those cities. We're all economic partners now. Isn't it great? Trouble is, they can't hear us.
Now, whenever someone asks me how I feel about consciously deciding not to participate in that war, no matter the consequences, I will know where to begin. When asked about the risks of disagreeing with the foreign policy of your government, I will know what to say. When confronted with the ever popular any regrets? I need only say Miss Universe 2008. The discussion begins there.

1 comment:

Cameron McPherson Smith said...

i recently heard that 70% of vietnam's population was born after the war. i'm not certain about the precision of the statistic, but it's probably reasonably accurate. interesting. what do we say to those 58,000 americans 9and two million vietnamese)? something like what we'll eventually tell the multitudes in iraq; it was a disgrace all along, as bill moyers neatly sums it up here;


cheers cameron