The destructive effects of the US war in Vietnam encompass not only a body count, but also the festering intellectual wound of a war that could not be satisfactorily explained away. The battles of Vietnam, in particular, seemed an affront to conventional understandings of ‘American culture’, military power, the limits of technology, the very possibility to control, and the causes of wartime atrocity. This deeply unsettling part of the Vietnam experiences the US endured revolve, at least to a degree, around the division between the inside and outside. The inside going into the war, from the US perspective, was an ‘American culture’ with ‘American values’, entailing an entire worldview with attendant sets of behaviors considered domestic. The outside was, of course, the radically alien junglescape populated with in-credible enemies, ‘shifty’ and ‘dangerous’ peasants, and untamable environmental hazards to boot. Apocalypse Now works from a context fixated on the terms of inside and outside for analysis of the battles of the Vietnam War to question these categories by a strategic challenge to both totalizing theories’ explanatory power with elements of layered complexity.
Of the post-war 1970’s commentary and reflection on the Vietnam war, the anti-war and rather pacifist afterglow of wartime activists offered perhaps the clearest analysis of the tragedy of the war and its atrocities: the problems are deeply internal to American culture. The 1978 film The Deer Hunter addresses the issue head on, with the Washington Post review opening,
As the world moves down the various roads that converge at apocalypse, the ultimate issue becomes life itself, transcending politics or ideology...
... middle of paper ...
...e before the theoretical, where place cannot exist because there is not yet a relation formed to tell the experience where it is. In the bright flames of a reality with uncertain connection to simplistic theories of division of place, the credits roll as the forest and dichotomy of place explode and burn away.
Apocalypse Now. Dir. Francis Ford Coppola. Miramax, 1979.
Bonds, Ray. The Vietnam War. New York: Crown, 1979.
Hornbacker, Robert Allen. Real Ultimate Power. 2002. UCLA. 1 March. 2002.
Kroll, Jack. “Life or Death Gambles.” Newsweek 11 December, 1978: 113+.
Matthews, Jay. “Chinese Assert Viets have Been ‘Taught Lesson’.” The Washington Post 4
March, 1979, A1+.
Price, Bem. “They Fought In Vietnam with One Hand Tied Behind Their Backs.” U.S. News & World Report 30 June, 1975: 41+.
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