The Vietnam memorial that wasn’t built

Marking the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War (or the American War as the Vietnamese call it), NPR just ran a story on the origins of the memorial in Washington. Veteran Jan Scruggs was the driving force behind the memorial:

“I had a theory that we could put all the names on the wall. This is based on the thought of Carl Jung, a student of Freud. [He] writes about collective psychological states, and how we’re all sort of drawn together. Certain things hold us together. People who die in wars for a country, this is something we all agree on —you can’t forget them. Just as the individual military participants in the Vietnam War needed to be healed, so too did the entire nation.”

What did not need to be remembered or healed was the country of Vietnam. Of course, war memorials rarely make much note of the losses on the opposing side. Yet, this war of aggression (from the outset the U.S. was defending a client government in the south that it installed; it was not defending the people in the south, who would have voted for reuinification) was so monstrous the absence of an acknoweldgement of the meaning and consequences of the war is galling. Imagine if the existing memorial included also the names of the Vietnamese dead. As I’ve noted before, if the height of the wall, layout, and spacing of names were held constant with the existing Wall, it would be not 493 feet in length but 26,288 feet long. “That comes to just shy of five miles. At that length the new wall would extend from the site of the current memorial out of the National Mall, past Capitol Hill, and cross the Anacostia River. It is little wonder that it has never been constructed to haunt the capital.”


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