Last night I watched the first installment of the new documentary on the Vietnam war. I was flooded with memories.
I’m enormously impressed that, so far at least, Burns and Novick got it right. They laid out the historical settings that led the U.S. to become involved in the war despite our commitment to national self-determination and our opposition to colonialism. I was so struck that the documentary described what I saw happening at the time, that the U.S. misread history. When Vietnam freed herself from French control, it was the step in the universal movement that ended colonialism throughout the world. I saw that Ho Chi Minh was more a nationalist than a communist, determined to free his nation from foreign domination. We Americans had become so anti-communist that we sided first with the French, then with the undemocratic Diem regime.
I was fascinated that the various Vietnamese who appeared in the film spoke a variety of Vietnamese dialects—northern, central, and southern. I had somehow expected those who supported North Vietnam to speak the northern dialect, those on the south side to speak as southerners. Wrong.
I was annoyed that the narrator consistently mispronounced Vietnamese names and words. Are we Americans still so parochial that we can’t pronounce other languages correctly?