26 April 2011

war of minds

As soon as the sidewalk divided and turned into evenly laid mahogany-colored brick, not a voice was to be heard. Only the slow tapping of shoes on the cold stone.
On our left is a wall, a modest wall, made out of granite. In it are names. Thousands upon thousands of names. Each name reminding us of a loss that shouldn't have been. Some people walk quicker than others, some walk very slowly, reading each name carefully. Some hold back tears.
This is the memorial commemorating the lives lost in the Vietnam War, located in the nation's capital. Some say it is one of the most poignant wars our country has fought. Perhaps since this was not so long ago, and our wounds are still open; even a gentle breeze will agitate them.
Today in our history class this kid got up to present the question he researched. The subject was the Vietnam War.
It was somewhat of an opinion question, so I was curious to see what he would say.
He gave some background information, as one must, before continuing. But when he really caught my attention was when he started talking about the Tet Offensive. Tet is a very important Vietnamese holiday that celebrates the Vietnamese New Year. And on this day, the Viet Cong invaded South Vietnam and began guerrilla warfare.
Imagine if we were bombed on Christmas. Or Easter. When does war go to far? When do we draw the line? When does it stop being "effective", so to speak?
Another thing he said was that the Vietnam War was really a war on ideas. And you can't win in a war against ideas, he says. Because you can't change someone's mind by bombing their country and killing their civilians.
Did we think that we could get rid of Communism?
Try as we might, but we cannot persuade people of things that we know they truly believe in. In a microcosmic way, this works with people. That's why discussing really controversial things like the beginning of the universe, stem cell research, and anything to do with politics is just a bad idea because our arguments are futile. Avoid a conflict if you know you cannot win. And this is not being weak; this is smartly averting trouble.
We really can learn from history. But do we?

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