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Nothing Ever Dies
By Steve Krug (reviewer)
Nothing Ever Dies
by Viet Thanh Nguyen
(Harvard University Press, 2016)
"As a Gook, in the eyes of some, I can testify that being remembered as the other is a dismembering experience, what we can call a disremembering. Disremembering is not simply the failure to remember. Disremembering is the unethical and paradoxical mode of forgetting at the same time as remembering, or, from the perspective of the other who is disremembered, of being simultaneously seen and not seen." - Nothing Ever Dies
This is a book about how memories of war are modified to suit different political and cultural motives. There has been a constant struggle of how we remember wars, especially ones as divisive as our war on southeast Asia. Nguyen covers how all aspects of our culture (Nguyen calls them Memory Industries) are used to attempt to modify what happened and why, from a perspective I found quiet refreshing.
I had just finished reading "Race and Reunion" by David W. Blight, a book that covers how our own civil war was purposefully recast in a historical context, to justify in loftier terms why the South fought the war. I mention this as another example of how memories are reworked to suit certain interests.
I was hesitant to review this book for the VVAW's The Veteran as Nguyen is dismissive of the motto "Honor the warrior, not the war," but I felt that other VVAW members, as myself, could handle that criticism and appreciate the whole of the book.
Ken Burns has a film coming out in the fall which deals with the war. After reading "Nothing Ever Dies" I will view it through a slightly different lens. If it is yet another attempt to get past the "Vietnam syndrome," so we can reconcile ourselves to militarism, then we have learned nothing from war and can be sure that future generations will fight more wars, only to have their memories of them modified, and on and on.
"All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory." - Nothing Ever Dies
Steve Krug is an equally proud of being a member of VVAW and a conscientious objector.