Coming home to Vietnam
by Edward Tick; Press Tia Chucha
As he details in the introduction to his new book, writer and psychotherapist Edward Tick was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War in his teens and youth. Yet the impact of war on a generation of young American men also motivated him, beginning in 1975 as a young doctor, to begin counseling former soldiers to try to help them overcome the emotional scars and psychology of war.
Tick, who lives in Belchertown, has spent much of his adult life in this practice and has written a number of books, such as ‘War and the Soul’, detailing his views on how best to help veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. . And for the past 20 years, he has organized trips to Vietnam for veterans, their family members, peace activists and others to enable veterans to find reconciliation.
He has now documented much of that experience in a collection of poetry, “Coming Home in Viet Nam” (the use of two words for the country’s name more accurately reflects Vietnamese pronunciation, writes Tick).
His poems in turn reflect the stories he learned from the Vietnamese friends he made, he says, as well as the experiences of returning American veterans and his own observations of the country, particularly how the Vietnamese welcomed American visitors.
“Poetry allows the voices of others to resonate through our own,” writes Tick. “Some of our most moving experiences in the country have been shared poetry readings in which the hearts and souls of veterans speak and survivors on every side seize the verses of others to exclaim, ‘Your story is my story. We are the same.’ ”
In works such as “Vietnamese Women’s Song”, he evokes the country’s long history of resistance to more powerful nations – China, France, Japan, the United States – as well as what he calls the stories stories of civilians, especially women and children, caught up in the Vietnam War.
“I will cultivate my rice beside your craters. / I will place my body in front of your chariots. / I’ll give my hands to stop your helicopters / and give my legs to cut your sons… I’ll give my father, my husband, my sons, / and bless their departure even though I’ll never see them again. / Please return to your mother’s arms / and forgive yourself if you take everything I have.
“Praying,” in turn, considers the experience of an American veteran who has dark memories of his combat experience, specifically a terrifying close battle “at the smoking foot of this mountain” when he “pray[ed] very difficult” for his life.
Now, however, the veteran remembers a better occasion, a return trip years later to that same mountain, where this time he was surrounded by Vietnamese friends – people who “took my hands and called me uncle / and the monks bowed to me as if I were a saint / and I kissed their dead like my true brothers / and the loving eyes of God looked through my torn and / restorative heart.
“Coming Home” includes poems related to specific parts of Vietnam, including former battlefields: the Central Highlands, the Mekong Delta and the “Iron Triangle”, the Viet Cong stronghold not far from the former South Vietnamese capital of Saigon. In these areas, only remnants of the war remain, from crumbling earthen tunnels to the wreckage of an American plane, to the guard towers of the DMZ – the former border between the north and southern vietnam – now “inhabited by spiders”.
Other poems point to the remaining scars, such as the Vietnamese weakened by the effects of Agent Orange, the defoliant the United States sprayed from the air during the war. But there are many new human connections. One is between Tick and his goddaughter, a woman named Nguyen Thi Ngoc whom he met in Vietnam in 2005 when she interviewed him for his university newspaper.
“The Red Bicycle” is Tick’s heartfelt tribute to that relationship, written from Ngoc’s perspective. The narrator recalls the old bicycle her aunt used to help transport sacks of rice and bullets to Vietnamese troops during the war – and now on her own red bicycle she pedals to meet Tick “under my load of textbooks, of questions, of hope, / in strange streets, between cyclos, motorcycles, smoke, / to be sure that I don’t miss you.”
Tick says that when he read some of these poems in Hanoi a few years ago, during a birthday celebration in the capital of Vietnam, a woman approached him afterwards and told him said, “You are an American man, but you give a truthful voice to what we Vietnamese women have sacrificed and suffered. So indeed there is hope for healing between our countries and our planet.
The Commoner’s Catalog for Changemaking: tools for future transitions
By David Bollier; Schumacher Center for a New Economy
Author, activist and independent researcher David Bollier says he was intrigued as a teenager when he discovered the ‘Whole Earth Catalog’, the 1968-1972 counterculture magazine that offered product information and essays relating to ecology, alternative education and self-sufficiency. ways to build a different life. Steven Jobs once called the publication “one of the bibles of my generation”.
Bollier, who lives in Amherst, produced his own version of this work with “The Commoner’s Catalog for Changemaking”. It is a compilation of many new projects and ideas from around the world (and the Valley), designed to create a more local, democratic and sustainable way of life, based on shared effort and equity, and not on fierce competition.
This type of project is more necessary than ever, writes Bollier: “The world we inherited no longer works. It’s bad enough that the future of the planet and of civilization as we know it is in jeopardy. And yet, there are also many encouraging signs.
“The Commoner’s Catalog” is published by the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, a non-profit group in Great Barrington. Bollier is the director of the center’s “Reinventing the Commons” program.
Her book offers snapshots of many cooperative efforts to protect the environment, produce and distribute food, prevent land speculation from excluding people from their neighborhoods, and more.
For example, something called the Milwaukee Water Commons has forged ties over the past few years between nonprofit groups, residents, businesses and city officials to develop better ways to protect waterways in and around the city.
Meanwhile, a coalition of indigenous groups in Peru have formed the “Peru Potato Park,” a 35,000-acre reserve and biocultural heritage area that protects some 2,300 varieties of potato found there. cultivated. This project prevents biotech companies from stealing the seeds, Bollier notes, and allows farmers to grow the crop through their traditional methods.
Closer to home, Bollier cites the Double Edge Theater in Ashfield as a good example of a progressive arts organization that has developed a distinctive style of performance while forging close ties to the city and the Native Americans who have long lived in the area. .
The ensemble’s artistic practice, he writes, “melted into everyday life itself, creating open, honest, and meaningful experiences he calls ‘living culture.’ ”
More information on the Commoner’s Catalog is available at bollier.org.