Quoting the words of Atticus Finch, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.” This is not a quote pulled from google to give my blog some spice; instead, this quote was truly the first words that appeared on the screen when my fingers hit the keyboard. I think this quote is akin to the theme of my day today. Today I was able to view history and events from a different perspective and in a way that sparked a change in my own perspective and fundamental understandings.
The day started with a Vietnamese history class at the University of Economics and Finance. We learned about all of the different cultural groups throughout the country and how Vietnam evolved into the country it is today. I had the opportunity to listen to the perspective of my Vietnamese friends. One of the first things they explained was that what we call the Vietnam War in America is referred to as the American War in Vietnam. Now this wasn’t life shattering information (it is logical actually), but I see it as almost the beginning of my new understanding. In many classes in the United States, we spend so much time discussing and studying our own side of the story that we fail to consider the other perspective.
Our lunch today does not quite fit my theme of the day. It is actually quite the opposite. Today we ate at McDonalds. We had big macs, fries, and chicken. After eating the meal, I was surprised to realize how much I actually missed the taste of American food.
We then spent the rest of our afternoon at the War Remnants Museum where I could really feel my perspective start to evolve. The first exhibit I walked into explained America’s use of chemical weapons on Vietnam during the war. I knew this occurred, but I do not think I ever understood the extent of the harm and pain the Americans inflicted. Moreover, I couldn’t have even fathomed the fact that there are still chemical cleanup efforts occurring today. Another exhibit displayed the artwork of children that were affected by agent orange. For those that do not know what that is, agent orange is the chemical mixture that the Americans deployed on the citizens on Vietnam. It contains an especially harmful category of chemicals named dioxins. These chemicals often cause severe birth defects in children including mental retardation, missing limbs, deformed bodies, and many other terrible problems. The children’s artwork was dark and very powerful. The artwork captured the innocence of not only the Vietnamese children but all Vietnamese civilians that were harmed during the war. The next exhibit was probably the hardest to walk through. It showed hundreds of pictures of people that were affected by agent orange. These images were very moving and helped me to see a new perspective from the point of view of the Vietnamese people.
Overall, I am very thankful to have attended the museum and the history class because I think I am really growing as a person.