A few days ago I went to a Documentary Screening at Cantigny where the First Division Museum is, in Winfield, Illinois. The documentary was called Waiting to Explode.
There were three panelists and a man running the event. I didn’t catch his name but the panelists were:
Journalist Jessica Pearce Rotondi, Board member of Legacies of War and author of What We Inherit: A Secret War and a Family’s Search for Answers.
Jim Harris of We Help War Victims.
Yosh Yamanaka, of UXO Clearance Laos, the film’s producer.
Now, I thought it would be interesting to learn more about the Shadow/Secret War in Laos during the Vietnam War. This was not something I knew about or understood the severity of until I attended this event. I also bought Jessica’s book before the event, because I wanted to learn about inherited trauma through this lens. My focus has normally been WWI-WWII as far as trauma research, so I hoped she would talk a little about that in the Q&A after the screening. She did not. The film is being shown at various locations but is not widely available on television or streaming services, although that is a hope for the panelists.
The film was interesting, informative, and quite sad. I sat there questioning again WHY all the endless wars and endless suffering. Suffering that has never ended after almost 50 years because there is so much unexploded ordnance in Laos. Google Cluster Bombs to learn more about this ordnance scattered all over the country. I didn’t know these types of bombs existed until I saw this film. I again pondered how many ways can we kill a man?
Several stories were told about people affected by the ordnance and how their families were forever changed because of U.S. involvement. This, like so many other pieces of history should be known, but I was not impressed with how the Q&A went or the views of the panelists. Their energy was so strong I left with a massive headache after the hour-long Q&A which seemed to not want to end so others could watch the 3 p.m. screening.
The man running the event and the men on the panel went into a shame the veterans energy. They spoke of how they argued with Cantigny staff to host the film ON Veterans Day instead of the day after. The presenters felt veterans needed to know what they had done. They also expected a higher turnout for the screening on Veterans Day than on Saturday. I don’t know how many people visited Cantigny during the day of Veterans Day but for the evening ceremony, if there were 50 of us in attendance I’d be surprised.
The presenters also seemed to be a little scattered and I’m going to wager a guess, never served in the military.
I don’t personally feel we need to blame veterans for things they participate in during their time in service. They were following orders, which I realize is not an excuse for damage done, however, that’s how the system runs. Accountability and change has to begin at the top on more of a collective energetic level. On an individual level, each person who participated in a war or bombardment has to also make peace within themselves about their actions. This is not for us to judge – especially if we have never served – we were not there.
I left with a lot of emotions and thoughts about the film, the panelists and presenter, and how individuals just following orders created massive collective trauma. Trauma that continues today. I have a lot of questions now and no answers. The only thing I know is I left with a bad taste in my mouth about the veteran shaming energy.
Have you seen the movie or read Jessica’s book? I’d love to know your thoughts on both.
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