CPAC - Friday, May 24, 2024 - 03:00 p.m. (ET) - Segment #14

nguyen are canadians as well. And the reason why I thought it was important-- yeah, give it up for your own people. You're too modest. The reason why I felt it was important not to work with americans in the making of this tv series is americans would tote ale screw me on this. Because americans are so preoccupied with their version of the war in vietnam from an american-centric point of view that it's really hard for americans to see outside of that framework. And I for one I think can speak with authority on this issue. Because I was born in vietnam. But I was made in america. So I came to the united states as a refugee in 1975. But my family having fled from vietnam because we had been on the losing side. And obviously being a refugee was-- a difficult experience, but I am kind of grateful for it. Because it left me with the requisite emotional damage necessary to become a writer. A lot of that damage was afflicted by american popular culture. Especially the movies. With hollywood being america's unofficial ministry of propaganda. Hollywood made a lot of movies about the war in vietnam. And that was actually my first exposure to the history of the war was through movies like apocalypse now. And I saw apocalypse now when I was much too young for it. 12 years old and my parents, these hardworking refugees who never got time to spend with me, had bought a vcr. Cutting edge culture in the early 198 0s. So I watched apocalypse now on that vcr. And as a young boy, I identified as an american. And I was a war fanatic. I loved watching american war movies. I identified with the american soldiers and in watching apocalypse now, set in vietnam, I identified with the american soldiers. Up until the moment they massacred vietnamese civilians. And at that point, I was split in two. Was I the american doing the killing? Or was I the vietnamese being killed? And I was shaken very deeply by that experience but at 12 years of age I don't think I realized how deeply. I suppressed it and forgot about it and didn't think about it again until college at the university of communists at berkeley. And there in a film class I was asked to recount a cinematic episode that made a deep impact on me. And the first thing I thought about was that massacre in apocalypse now. And as I talked about that massacre, as I recounted it to the class, I found myself shaking with rage and anger. And it was at that moment I think I realized that stories, not only have the power to save us, which I do believe, because stories saved me as this young refugee boy trying to find refuge in the stories of literature in the movies. Stories not only have the power to save us, but if they had that power, they had the power to destroy us as well. And that's what I felt in watching apocalypse now. And not just apocalypse now. I had seen almost every movie that hollywood has made about the war in vietnam. And that is an experience I recommend to nobody. Especially if you are vietnamese. But watching those movies, from the 1970s to the 1980s to the 1990s-- to the 2000s-- let me know that all wars are fought twice. The first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory. The power of that second campaign in memory that was carried out on celluloid from the american perspective, that was so powerful that I internalized that american perspective. I internalized the ideology that was found in those movies. How did I know that? Well couple years after I watched apocalypse now, I went to high school. Went to a primarily white high school. Except there were a handful of us who were not white. We were of asian descent. We knew we were different. We just didn't know how to put it into words. So every day we would gather in a corner of the campus. And we would call ourselves the asian invasion. The only language we had for ourselves was this racist language. Irony. That was lost on us. Was that asians had never invaded the united states. If anything it's the united states that has invaded asia. The point I make in both the

sympathizer and the last book I wrote, a man of two faces, which is that many refugees are grateful for having been rescued by the united states. But maybe we wouldn't have needed to be rescued by the united states if we hadn't been invaded by the united states in the first place. This idea of the asian invasion threatening the united states is of course both an old one and a new one. If you remember from 2020 not too long ago, in the era of covid, donald trump described that as the china virus. And the kung-flu. And in response, liberals were angry. Like no, we cannot use this racist language to describe asian immigrants and asian americans! A sentiment I heartily agree with. Except I had to remember that in 2019, hbo made a really good tv series called watchmen. I don't know how many of you have seen that tv series. If you are a liberal, it's great. Because the villains in it are the ku klux klan. And our hero is a black woman police officer. But one of the subplots in watchmen involved a vietnamese character. Because in this alternate universe, america had won the war in vietnam. And vietnam had become the 51st state of the united states. And this vietnamese character's name was lady jee-- named after one of the most iconic legends in vietnamese history. Lady ju in the hbo series watchmen is a trillionaire and a genius. And she has used her intelligence and her wealth to try to make the world a better place. Only that's not how it's interpreted by the other characters in the tv series. So in the end, lady ju has to die. And she dice in the most america way possible. Via aerial embardment. So the last thing you see by lady ju played by hong chow, the last thing you see is her death under a rain of frozen squid dropped from outer space. Don't tell me how to interpret this for you. And I'm not even going to have time to recount this complicated plot episode, but that is the way that she dies. And that was perfectly acceptable entertainment in an anti-racist series from 2019. And you have to remember that in 2021, a gunman in atlanta shot and killed eight people, six of whom were asian women. And the asian american reaction to that immediately was this is a racist and sexist act. Fantasies carried by this white male gunman. And so I do see a distinct connection between the ideology of popular culture and imminent manifestation of that ideology in violence. Even in theory created by the liberals of hollywood. But when we think of anti-asian violence and we think of incidents like the murder of six asian women or many other kinds of violent incidents throughout american and canadian history from physical actions to legislation, I think one of the things I have to remind myself and to remind you is that the greatest acts of anti-asian violence have been america's wars in asia. Which have killed millions of people. This is not something the way that I phrase it is not something that is spoken often about by asian american writers. Or by asian americans in general. And that's because I think that asian americans have lived under conditions of what I call narrative scarcity. Narrative scarcity is when almost none of the stories are about you. And when a story about you comes along, you get very excited. So when crazy rich asians came out, all the asians freaked out. Like oh my god, at last! A movie about us! Too bad it's not a very good movie. And I'm being very unfair to crazy rich asians. I admit I read the book by kevin hua, but I haven't seen the movie. And it's unfair of me to say this about crazy rich asians because all the krasy rich asians wants to be is a romantic comedy. Nobody involved in that thought they would have to carry the burden of asian repgs. But under conditions of narrative scarcity, that's exactly what happens. And the opposite of narrative scarcity is narrative mrent platt you tooed. That's when almost all of the stories are about you. Mrent you tooed. And this is how you know you are a part of a majority. However you choose to define that majority. Almost all the stories are about you. And so when a story about you comes along that you don't

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