A friend shared this poem by Shin Yu Pai about the famous Vietnamese Buddhist Thích Quảng Đức who immolated himself in 1963.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. But I try to work one day at a time. If we just worry about the big picture, we are powerless. So my secret is to start right away doing whatever little work I can do. I try to give joy to one person in the morning, and remove the suffering of one person in the afternoon. That’s enough.
When you see you can do that, you continue, and you give two little joys, and you remove two little sufferings, then three, and then four. If you and your friends do not despise the small work, a million people will remove a lot of suffering. That is the secret. Start right now.
Sister Chân Không (“True Emptiness”) has worked alongside Thich Nhat Hanh for almost sixty years.
I was curious what happened to him after the film came out and found his obituary here.
Andrew Wimmer and I included his testimony in a 2005 piece about Iraq.
Shawn Francis Peters, The Catonsville Nine: A Story of Faith and Resistance in the Vietnam Era
Johanna Hamilton, 1971: On the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI
Shawn Francis Peters’ 2012 book is an account of the Catholic activists in May 1968 who burned draft files in Catonsville, Maryland. Johanna Hamilton’s 2014 film examines some of the men and women who stole FBI files from an office in Media, Pennsylvania, and shared them with newspapers, including the Washington Post even before Daniel Ellsberg leaked the “Pentagon Papers” to Katherine Graham’s paper. Hoping to play a role in stopping a hideous war against Vietnam, both groups of citizens felt compelled to act, even if it meant arrest, trial, and long prison sentences.
Mark Rudd, Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen (William Morrow, 2010)
If a white person wants to help our cause, ask him what he thinks of John Brown. Do you know what Brown did? He went to war.
Underground is an often engaging book, thanks to Mark Rudd’s honesty, maturity, and sense of humor. He was a privileged middle-class Jewish baby-boomer who went to Columbia University, got radicalized, became committed to ending the U.S. war on Indochina, and escalated his commitment, so he thought, to the faction of the movement that resorted to armed violence. What if, in 1970, Dan Berrigan had been able to sit down (when he was underground) and had a heart to heart with Rudd? Read the rest of this entry »
Tom Hayden was a major player in the antiwar movement of the 1960s as well as a familiar liberal and progressive activist, commentator, and researcher since. His last book is entitled, Hell No: The Forgotten Power of the Vietnam Peace Movement. Here’s his basic point: “What we should honor and strive for today is an inclusive demonstration of the power of the peace movement.” Hayden wanted the mainstream to acknowledge all that the peace movement had done. (He highlights the leading role in resistance to U.S. power by the Vietnamese themselves, U.S. communities of color, and veterans.) Even at this late date, Hayden yearned for recognition and validation from the powerful as to the history the movement “made.” Read the rest of this entry »
Today’s Email: “Thank you for signing up for the [New York Times] Vietnam ’67 newsletter. Over the course of the next year, we’ll examine the participation of the United States in the long war in Southeast Asia. The Vietnam ’67 newsletter will arrive in your inbox weekly.”
Journalist Bernard Fall writing in 1967: “It is Viet-Nam as a cultural and historic entity which is threatened with extinction. While its lovely land has been battered into a moonscape by the massive engine of modern war, its cultural identity has been assaulted by a combination of Communism in the North and superficial Americanization in the South.”
Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore infuriated some Vietnam veterans with his early May tweet that the U.S. should have national holiday on the date of the fall of Saigon, which should lead to “a commitment to never make same mistake again.”
“Mistake” is a common shorthand used by liberals to refer to the U.S. destruction in Indochina—Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Even veteran and antiwar critic John Kerry at the 1971 Winter Soldier hearings in Detroit asked this question, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”
Was the My Lai massacre a mistake? Was Operation Speedy Express likewise?
Was U.S. torture of the Viet Cong (a broad category) a miscalculation?
Were the 20 million bomb craters just one mistake after another? Read the rest of this entry »
35 years ago today, I participated in the mass demonstration in New York City against nuclear arms. While there, I heard Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh read aloud this English translation of one of his poems.
Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow–
even today I am still arriving. Read the rest of this entry »