Jordan and I traveled south to Ho Chi Minh City, previously known as Saigon, where we replaced Jordan’s long lost Lonely Planet guide (we got a boot-leg one with nearly non-existent maps from a local vendor), had the world’s best spring rolls, and visited the Vietnam War Remnants Museum.
The museum was four floors of heartbreaking, history-packed, journals, photos, and memorabilia. The entrance was lined with children and adults alike that suffer multiple disabilities due to the effects of Agent Orange, an often deadly chemical that was sprayed indiscriminately on the people and land throughout Vietnam. The disabilities are both mental and physical, and include blindness, deafness, and growth defects. Walking past them was a bone-chilling, stiff reminder that the Vietnam War is not just a thing of the past. Today, people are still living and adjusting to the horrible causes and desperate decisions made by the United States.
To not be touched by the War Remnants Museum, you honestly have to be cold-blooded. Jordan and I left nearly in tears and felt ridden with guilt that our country had caused so much pain and destruction. But what’s interesting is that the main message of the museum was not anti-american, but anti-war in general. The goal of the museum is to promote awareness and peace, and and prevent something so horrific from happening again, not just to Vietnam, but around the globe. The vibes of the museum were ones of forgiveness and hope, common to the vibes of the Peace Museum in Hiroshima that I visited with my family when I was studying abroad in Japan.
In both Japan and Vietnam, where the U.S. caused unimaginable destruction, I feared being disliked simply for being an American. And if I was, I would have understood. But in both places I was welcomed with open arms, and open discussion of our countries past was encouraged with the common hope that together we can prevent history from repeating itself.