NetFlix Documentary Review: The Untold History of the United States
As with many, I am (or a least was) perplexed by how the United States managed to elect a President that, in almost every way, is the polar opposite of his predecessor, Barack Obama. After reading dozens of news articles linked by various FB friends, as well as having rooted out others from various sources, I was no further ahead. Heck, no one came close to understanding how the man managed to become President.
Almost all sought to explain the troubling aspects of Donald Trump’s ascent to power, in terms of his personality and the cult surrounding him. Of course, the same explanations, from the flip side of the coin, could be applied to Barack Obama. However, none of the explanations took into account the historical aspects of America’s ascent to world domination, both militarily and economically, over the middle part of the last century (1940 – 1960). It was a time when politics flowed out much as it has over the past two decades, with the Obama Presidency being the most peaceful interlude in decades of US hegemony.
Preparing for a Citizenship Ceremony
Several newspapers and TV stations this week quoted statistics about the changing numbers of immigrants in Canada. (e.g. I867: 16.1%, 2011: 20.7%, 2036: (Est): 24% – 30%). One article was so bold as to list children born in Canada to immigrant parents, as immigrants. That further skewed the numbers. Including children of immigrants in this manner is inflammatory as those children are full-fledged Canadian citizens who need not apply for citizenship. (1)
Never a week goes without some FB post, newspaper article or TV program lamenting the abysmal state of our education system. These discussions often spike when teachers threaten to strike, or a ‘think tank’ such as the Fraser Institute disparages public schools when comparing them to private school counterparts, or when the government implements some policy mandating an action that is not pleasing to all given there is not action that would be pleasing to all.
Others rail about a lack of discipline among students or point to cell phones and texting as destroying the ability of our youth to socialize. Many suggest kids today are mollycoddled to the point of graduating without having achieved the slightest degree of competency in “reading, writing, and arithmetic.” If only, they suggest, we could get back to basics as was present in an earlier age (presumably their age).
Then, I happened upon an English Literature textbook written in 1974, in which one essay clearly articulated the criticism being levied against students and the system. Some may recognize the problems as first witnessed in our misspent youth at the Cold Lake High School. The article was first published in the early 1950’s, a time when I was just entering Junior High.
(The essay was copied from the book as an online link could not be located).
Let’s Take Bubble Gum Out of the Schools
Student at a Cambodian Country School (photo by Esther Dunn)
We had the good fortune to visit an elementary school in a remote area along one of the tributaries of the Mekong River, a place where welcoming and exuberant children could barely wait to demonstrate their English language skills. “What’s your name.” and “How old are you?” were the favourites, but that was just the opening of two hours of interaction with the students.
Lynn and I spent part of our time with a ten-year-old boy (photo above) who appeared to be the oldest in the class. Although a bit shy, he focused intensely on getting the wording of his questions correct, then intently listened as we answered. Had he been born forty years earlier, he could well have been the boy featured in part of the story below.
Part I: Introduction to SE Asia and a Short Story from Cambodia
To gain an understanding of the progress the people of Indochina have made over the past 25 years, take a few minutes first to watch the three slideshows linked in the footer. While incredible natural and manmade beauty greet you at every turn; the happy, healthy and carefree people you see at school, work and play today, contrasts sharply with immense challenges the people faced from 1940 – 1990. Perhaps you are aware of these challenges and the progress made, but we weren’t and the more we learned, the more amazing it all became.
This series begins with a short, personal story which took place in Cambodia in the late 1980’s, a story of one boy’s quest to survive. His story was similar to that experienced by thousands of men, women and children whose lives were taken or shattered by war, genocide, starvation and disease. This story was related to us over several parts by our Cambodian guide.
Southeast Asia – Colonial Powers
Colonial Powers, as listed above, played a large role in the ebb and flow of the fortunes and misfortunes of Southeast Asia from the early 1800’s onwards. The French played a dominant role in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos and while it ended in war there are still many positive reminders of the occupation.
Part I: Introduction and the Rice Paddy
Part II: Indochina Wars: 1940 – 1990
Part III: Resilience of the Human Spirit (passcode required as post under revision)
Part IV: The Future Belongs to the Young
Part V: Travelling with Uniworld (In progress)
Part 11. Indochina Wars: 1940 – 1990
Ordinary people do not start wars unless they are oppressed. Governments or dictators make wars with an ideological or expansionist purpose in mind. When this happens, ordinary citizens are pushed to fight whether they want to or not. This was no better expressed than in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade”:
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Such was the case in Indochina where not six hundred, but an estimated 8000 times that many would be driven into the valley of death. The Viet Nam or Second Indochina War, was just the second part of fifty years of war that began when the Japanese occupied French Indochina in 1940. Following the departure of the Japanese and the French again occupied, then Communist North Viet Nam (formed in 1945 after the war) (3), began a push to remove the French who resumed their Colonial control status that was ceded to the Japenese for a few years. One occupying force simply replaced another.
These young women were part of a group of Cambodian folk dancers who performed during our time in Siem Reap. The gentle movement of these dancers and their male counterparts was mesmerizing and clearly express the inner strength and peacefulness of the people.
Photos in these albums were selected from those taken mainly by Esther and Harold. In a few cases, representative photos selected from the Web.
Part V Cruising the Mekong with Uniworld (being written) December 4. This part was split off to Part V. Part IV is being readjusted.
Part III: Resilience of the Human Spirit
Young People – A Majority in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos
The photo was taken in front of the Presidential Palace in Saigon (October, 2016 hdm).
This group of young people wanted a photo with two of our group from South Africa with whom they had been chatting. Virtually everywhere you travel in Viet Nam and Cambodia you will young people who are eager to exchange a few words and to have a photo taken with a tourist. Look at those wonderful smiles.
Part I: An Open Letter
Part II: Indochina Wars: 1940 – 1990
Part III: Resilience of the Human Spirit (in progress, Password Protected)
Part IV The Future Belongs to the Young
Part V River Cruising (in progress)
Part IV: The Future Belongs to the Young
The title, of course, is used in a figurative sense. As I grow older and particularly over the last 25 years (50-75), I have become convinced that forging a better world must be placed in the hands of positive, forward-looking young people. You might also include older people, but only if they have not become jaded and are willing to debate the issues with an open mind. Any discussion that focusses on Us versus Them is going nowhere.
Lynn and I have travelled to many countries that have only recently emerged from war or were controlled in whole or in part by vicious tyrants. It was pretty easy to tell how well the country was doing by simply talking to young people. If the young are happy and forward looking, we felt assured the country was moving in a positive direction, but if they were looking for a way out, it was a good bet the country was not doing all that well.
Happy Birthday Kari
The beautiful Tsusiat Falls where father and daughter took a well deserved rest.
All that is left of the father is his boots and socks. “Yaa! But you’ve made it over halfway Dad. That’s good isn’t it?” Guess who helped him?
It’s hard to believe twenty years has slipped by since we completed that magical eight day trek on the West Coast Trail with David and Jenn. What inspired me to prepare the following slide show and write this post was finding that old slide tray tucked away in one of the storage boxes. It brought back so many fond memories for me and I bet it will do the same for the three of you. As I was writing this post I spoke several times to David, as well as to your Uncle Barry and Auntie Agate.
Before getting into the details of the trek, take a few moments and enjoy the slides as they slip by. I tried to find music that expresses the love a Dad has for his children and, as well, displays the sense of pride that comes from having one of your children lovingly act as a mentor and guide in taking on a difficult challenge. The three songs were selected after pouring through dozens of father/daughter/son lists posted on the web.
Precious Memories, J.J. Cale
When You Need Me, Bruce Springsteen
Wildflowers, Tom Petty
The photos in this slideshow have also been uploaded link to the
McNeill Life Stories Facebook Page
Opportunities arise but once.
Life provides many opportunities for adventure, but when one declines an opportunity for any reason, it is most often gone forever. Having achieved a Golden Age in retirement and understanding this, when our oldest daughter Kari phoned and ask if I might like to join her and a cousin from Montreal, David McGregor and his friend, Jenn D’Aoust, in challenging the West Coast Trail, the answer came without a second thought, “yes”. Sure I had concerns about my ability to tackle that particular trail, but if my daughter thought I could do it, who was I to argue?
Also, it gave me comfort knowing she was an experienced backpacker, held an Industrial First Aid Certificate (just in case pops packed it in), had tackled that trail twice before and, being an extraordinary backcountry trekker had at one time considered taking up a career in the emerging field of Eco Tourism.
When this opportunity arose I was nearly two years into retirement, in fair shape and while I hadn’t recently attempted any long distance wilderness hiking, I remember Kari’s comforting words: “Don’t worry Dad, you can do this and, besides, I’ve got your back.” Hmmm! Of course, it was a done deal as when someone, particularly one of your children, offers to share a moment like this, It must be taken as the memories will last for the rest of your life.