Day of Remembrance, PIVOT's Statement on War
April 30, 2017
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
April 30th, 1975 marked the end of the Vietnam War, a day that ultimately led Lady Liberty, with Lazarus' iconic lines in hand, to welcoming over 1 million Vietnamese cascading in waves through various refugee and migration policies. Ripples from that day were felt throughout the world as millions of Vietnamese ultimately sought refuge on foreign shores.
Many Vietnamese Americans had braved death and unimaginable atrocities to reach land and country. The motivation? To survive the fallout and aftermath of the war in Vietnam. We came to the US as victims — displaced for our beliefs, religion or affiliation.
If there is any silver lining, in understanding the various failures and successes of the irrevocable choice to go to war, it would be that Vietnamese Americans now contribute to the United States with our talent and economic power.*
We are a population of Americans essentially and instantly created by war. The double edged sword of irony does not escape us as we sit with the freedom to reflect on this 42nd anniversary, decades later, with our own American stories to tell, with organizations, causes and lives that have taken root and been championed. We, as PIVOT- The Progressive Vietnamese American Organization, are a group that advocates for human, civil, immigrant, and refugee rights. As PIVOT was founded on the principle of vigilance in order to secure our collective liberty and promote our values around common good, we offer this organizational perspective on war, in hopes that decisions leading up to it are carefully considered.
History makes clear that the impacts of war do not end when America ends its involvement. And it goes beyond the millions of Vietnamese and thousands of American lives lost during the War. For everyone who died, there were many who suffered from the loss.
The monetary cost of war does not stop when it ends, as reparations are often needed for damages to the regions where the war was fought. U.S. veterans need to and must be loyally cared for long after they return home as evidenced in the Brown University study on the cost of war (~$4.79 Trillion).*
In Vietnam, the US used many cancer-causing substances in its efforts to block its enemies through deforestation, substances which are still being cleaned up in this present day by both governments. Many thousands of unexploded ordinances still exist. It is estimated that 3 million lives were displaced,* with over 2 million refugees leaving the country.* Many (brutally robbed, savagely attacked and raped on the open seas) died along the way. The trauma of the war and the refugee experience led to significant mental and physical health issues for many of those who made it to America as asylum seekers and those returning as Vietnam war veterans.
We recognize that if the war never happened in Vietnam, the Vietnamese American population would be very different, and an organization like PIVOT would not exist. But here we are.
As this current Administration, under the 45th President, bombs Syria and sends a naval fleet to North Korea, beckoning another war, we, as PIVOT, as part of this Vietnamese diaspora, choose this day—the 42nd anniversary of our Day of Remembrance, to reflect upon the impact and consequences of war.
The message that war inevitably promotes in its disregard for human life should educate our leaders of what is permissible action given the unintended consequences of any military action.
The 7th Generations Principle, as codified in the Native American Iroquois Great Law of Peace which later became the cornerstone of the US Constitution,* recommends that any decision about war considers the impact of the choice on the next 7 generations. We, too, urge all people to think about the many generations ahead of us, and to urge our leaders to apply strategies for diplomatic solutions over military action.
As a displaced population from a war that “ended” over four decades ago, we can attest that war has no simple end. We advocate human and refugee rights through our own personal experience with war, and call on our leaders to factor in the myriad innocent Syrians and North Koreans on the ground who will perish or be displaced when engaging in military discussions regarding preemptive strikes and wars.
History repeats itself inevitably, but the brushstroke and paint need not be of bloodshed and destruction repeatedly dawning our landscapes.
Somewhere along the way, each step in human understanding, through missteps and triumphs, we have the ability to make choices that are in the interest of not only citizens and country, but also humanity.
To donate to Syrian refugee relief as part of our Day of Remembrance, please visit Charity Watch Dog to learn more about respected organizations helping victims of war.