Mostly whimsical reflections on life
The maxim, “No good deed goes unpunished,” should be conjoined with a corollary, “Bad deeds are punished sooner or later.”
Vietnamese children, whose grandparents were exposed to Agent Orange dropped during the Vietnam War, are being born with birth defects such as bulging eyes, elongated heads and missing limbs that resemble human mutations.
Vietnam-era military veterans, who also were exposed, now face higher incidences of some forms of cancer, neurological malfunction and respiratory disease. In the case of female military veterans, there are children born here who suffer cleft palates and congenital heart defects linked to Agent Orange.
All this delayed agony occurs largely out of sight. It isn’t the stuff of daily news coverage. It isn’t the stuff most of us want to hear about. The Vietnam War is in the past, better forgotten than remembered. It was a story of a military gone mad and now is better left in the shadows of the past.
A group of veterans has produced a documentary called Lighter than Orange showing the after-effects of this potent defoliant that denuded forests and left a dioxin poison pill in large swaths of Vietnamese soil and water – and the DNA of survivors. It will air Sunday, May 18, at Fifth Avenue Cinema, along with other films of particular interest to Vietnam-era veterans.
What’s fascinating to me is that I learned about Lighter than Orange and was reminded of our military use of Agent Orange by reading Street Roots, the newspaper published by homeless people to raise awareness of the issues they and the community face.
Military veterans make up part of the ranks of the homeless, so the story about the documentary and the inter-generational impact of Agent Orange holds strong appeal to its writers, editors and readers.
Staff writer Emily Green does an excellent job in a long journalism format of exposing the issue. I’m glad Street Roots, which features the tagline, “For those who cannot afford free speech,” published the story. My question is, will other publications give it the same attention? They should.
The world is afire today, rightfully, over the cowardly abduction of Nigerian schoolgirls by terrorists intent on sending a message about the role of women and girls in their imaginary world. These girls have been missing three weeks and may have been sold off into slavery or handed over to men in the bush as child brides.” The families of the girls and the rest of the world worries about the trauma inflicted on these girls and how it will affect the rest of their lives.
We can see the horror and feel the horrible consequences of something that close at hand. It is much harder to kindle the same passion for sins committed at another time, in another place – sins for which we bear some collective blame as a nation. Green’s story is aptly headlined, “Ghosts of Agent Orange.
These are the apparitions that should haunt us, much like Ebenezer Scrooge’s ghosts. Hopefully, also like Scrooge, we can learn from our ghosts so we seek redemption for our past ills.