Like many of my generation I have some very strong feelings about the American war in Vietnam. Now forty years since the withdrawal of U.S. forces, not everyone has mellowed at the same pace. Some not at all.
I have for some years taken a literary path, reading dozens of books about the war. For those who have not heard this recommendation before - A Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan is the quintessential book on the subject. I should probably do a separate post of the top ten Vietnam War books, maybe later.
What nearly everyone from that era will tell you is that Vietnam was frustrating, maddening and horrifying. That sense of frustration was captured again for me last night as I read yet another book on the war. A new novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer. What got me up to grab a pencil and paper was this line:
". . . swimmers doing the backstroke towards a waterfall."
The line was in context of a several chapter description of the chaos surrounding the final days of American withdrawal from Saigon viewed from the perspective of those Vietnamese who had supported (collaborated) with the U.S.
The sense of frustration and powerlessness from decades ago, came back in a most uncomfortable reality. And I had to wonder, why don't we feel the same about Iraq and Afghanistan?