The Cu Chi Tunnels
Trip Start Nov 08, 2006
260Trip End Ongoing
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So the area is essentially a celebration of North Vietnamese bravery in the face of a more powerful and better equipped American and Saigonese army
Keep in mind that I don't support U.S. invasion of Vietnam. But I also didn't enjoy the black-and-white film they show at the beginning of the tour that congratulates the Cu Chi men and women who "killed many crazy American aggressors" and were labeled "Vietnamese American killing heroes." Now, my patriotism runs about as deep as a rub on tattoo, but hearing the term "American killers" a dozen times in a 6 minute film left a bad taste in my mouth. I recognize that they were defending their country from perceived aggressors. It was a brave resistance. But I most often think of it as failed policy on the part of American politicians, and don't like the celebration of death, particularly this long after the war. I don't know. Maybe I've just heard the Star Spangled Banner enough that I'm more defensive than I realize. Plus, it cost $4 to get in, so I was really ready to dislike it.
The tunnels the VC used were 60-80 cm in diameter
And did I mention that you can fire an M-16? I'm from El Paso, so I grew up doing that sort of thing. But for all the small town kids it was very exciting.
I find it insane that a country like Vietnam and its tragic history can inspire a tourist to fire an automatic rifle. There was no part of any museum or passage in a book that made we want to use weaponry of any sort. People amaze me. I bet if they'd let people fly a plane and drop napalm on some small piece of jungle, someone would do it. And someone would want to make money badly enough to offer it. Perhaps you can. It just wasn't in the brochure. I heard that in Cambodia you can shoot a rocket launcher at a cow. Sound apocryphal? Not if you've been to Cambodia.
So I didn't enjoy the Cu Chi tunnels visit. It was fascinating that our tour guide was a former Saigonese soldier. So he takes tours to a site that contributed to his losing a war. He still uses pronouns like "us" and "them" when discussing the conflict. That amazes me. I don't like talking about getting beat up as a child. I pretend it was someone else. It's too painful and humiliating to place myself in those memories. And none of my friends or family died. So the fact that he speaks without distancing himself was quite a shock to me. But I guess if you lived through that time in Vietnam, on either side, there is no distancing yourself. It is immediate and personal, no matter how much time has passed. It will always be "them." And it will always be "us."