Reflections on My Summer of 1965

Oliver Stone. (photo: The Wrap)
Oliver Stone. (photo: The Wrap)

By Oliver Stone, Oliver Stone’s Facebook Page

12 September 15

 

s summer recedes, I drift back 50 years to the summer of 1965. I lay under a mosquito net at the Free Pacific Institute, where I was a teacher in Cholon/Saigon, with a fever bordering 103/104 fahrenheit. Attended by a Chinese doctor and housekeeper who spoke no English, I thought I was dying. It was in fact my first ‘inoculation’ to the rigors of Asian life.

It took a few miserable days to come out of it, during which time I heard about the massacres next door in Indonesia. Time magazine, my bible out there, was celebrating our victory over Communism, but I had little idea of how awful (500,000 – 1 million) the bloodbath really was. Nothing in Vietnam at that point came close.

But it’d take 30 more years for me to learn the entire, sordid story of the CIA and other organizations’ involvement in inciting this massacre. (Peter Kuznick and I studied this extraordinary period in “Untold History of the United States”.) Nor did I really have an understanding of what was going on around me in Vietnam – only that the charming, old Saigon was daily being transformed into an occupied American military zone; ugly heaps of barbed wire and checkpoints began distorting its contours.

The ignorance of youth is understandable. In older age, it’s unforgivable. It tears at my heart every time I see a brilliantly-made commercial on American TV selling young people on the greatness of our Armed Forces, urging them to join a fighting force that has given the world Vietnam, 2 Iraqs, an Afghanistan, dozens of covert and overt incursions in numerous countries, drone attacks, and an empire of bases around the world. Nothing has been learned by us from our history. Our leaders, no matter how brilliant they are (the Bundys and McNamaras were brilliant), are as ignorant as I was in that summer of ’65.

I know there is karma. I know it will come for our country in one form or another. It already has in some ways – in the callousness of the majority’s response to other people’s suffering in wars we’ve needlessly begun. What is so much of this refugee problem in Europe about, but the people that we helped displace in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya– where not too long ago Hillary Clinton celebrated the murder of Gaddafi. She boasted, “We came, we saw– he died.” How in love with ourselves we’ve become, as we were in Vietnam. But one day we too will suffer in ways we can’t imagine.

Oliver Stone

Actor/Director · 321,545 Likes

·September 10 at 8:00am ·

“Reflections on a Summer”

A memorial service will be held for my Mother at St. James Church (in NYC at 71St St. & Madison Ave.) on Friday, September 18th at 11AM. Some of her close friends and I will say a few words. If you knew her, please feel free to come by.

As summer recedes, I drift back 50 years to the summer of 1965. I lay under a mosquito net at the Free Pacific Institute, where I was a teacher in Cholon/Saigon, with a fever bordering 103/104 fahrenheit. Attended by a Chinese doctor and housekeeper who spoke no English, I thought I was dying. It was in fact my first ‘inoculation’ to the rigors of Asian life.

It took a few miserable days to come out of it, during which time I heard about the massacres next door in Indonesia. Time magazine, my bible out there, was celebrating our victory over Communism, but I had little idea of how awful (500,000 – 1 million) the bloodbath really was. Nothing in Vietnam at that point came close.

But it’d take 30 more years for me to learn the entire, sordid story of the CIA and other organizations’ involvement in inciting this massacre. (Peter Kuznick and I studied this extraordinary period in “Untold History of the United States”.) Nor did I really have an understanding of what was going on around me in Vietnam – only that the charming, old Saigon was daily being transformed into an occupied American military zone; ugly heaps of barbed wire and checkpoints began distorting its contours.

The ignorance of youth is understandable. In older age, it’s unforgivable. It tears at my heart every time I see a brilliantly-made commercial on American TV selling young people on the greatness of our Armed Forces, urging them to join a fighting force that has given the world Vietnam, 2 Iraqs, an Afghanistan, dozens of covert and overt incursions in numerous countries, drone attacks, and an empire of bases around the world. Nothing has been learned by us from our history. Our leaders, no matter how brilliant they are (the Bundys and McNamaras were brilliant), are as ignorant as I was in that summer of ’65.

I know there is karma. I know it will come for our country in one form or another. It already has in some ways – in the callousness of the majority’s response to other people’s suffering in wars we’ve needlessly begun. What is so much of this refugee problem in Europe about, but the people that we helped displace in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya– where not too long ago Hillary Clinton celebrated the murder of Gaddafi. She boasted, “We came, we saw– he died.” How in love with ourselves we’ve become, as we were in Vietnam. But one day we too will suffer in ways we can’t imagine.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: