CPAC - Friday, May 24, 2024 - 03:00 p.m. (ET) - Segment #15

like because you don't see yourself in that story, you can simply say, it's just a story. Because there are literally a thousand other stories that you can turn to. But if you live under narrative scarcity, you don't have that luxury of calling the story just a story. And so faced with these conditions of narrative scarcity. The temptation for so-called minority writers or artists is to turn to the logic of representation and inclusion. You want to be represented. We want to have our voices heard. We want to tell our stories. We want want to be included. And in order to do that, a couple of things had to happen. Number one you should not say things like-- the greatest acts of anti-asian violence have been america's wars in asia. Americans don't want to hear that. And what you should also paradoxically understand is that under this logic of representation, inclusion, narrative scarcity, if you are a so-called minority, you are given given one story to tell. And as-- said, you are given one trauma to talk about. And if you deviate and you talk about traumas that are not your own, you are rapidly silenced or effectively not published. Your stories are not heard. And so when I was becoming a writer, I knew very well that that the logic of representation and inclusion and narrative scarcity demanded someone like me. That I talk about vietnamese refugees. And the vietnam war. That was my one trauma. My one story. And if you've read the sympathizer, you will hopefully understand that it is a vietnam war novel. But it is more than that as well. It is also in my mind, a critique of american imperialism. And the difference is that americans want to understand the vietnam war as a singular episode in their history. A regrettable episode in their history. That's not how I see it. I think other vietnam war is one moment in a long history of american imperialism. That goes back to the very origins of the country. A country that has been founded on a contradiction that is still with us today. And that contradiction is between the founding of the country as the country of freedom and democracy on the one hand. And the country that is made possible through enslavement, genocide, colonization, and war. Now that very basic contradiction creates a problem for someone like me. Because my act of writing are made possible by that promise of freedom and democracy. And on the other hand, my privileges as a writer and as a citizen, as a refugee who has come to the united states and been rescued, all of those privileges are made possible by living on colonized land. So that reality of living as a refugee and as a writer and settler colonial country has made me reflect upon the history of the united states and how we tell stories about it and how I tell stories about it. From my perspective the united states was founded on settler colonialism. It expanded westward across mexico to the western frontier of canada. And then it kept on moving. Moved into the pacific. To the philippines. To other pacific islands and guam because the ultimate ambition of the united states and its expansion was to reach china and the markets there. The united states went to china and japan and then it went into korea, laos, cambodia, vietnam. A trajectory from east to southeast asia punctuated by these wars that killed millions of asians. In my mind, the war in vietnam was both foreshad ode by all the wars that came before it. And would in turn foreshadow the wars that came after it. In iraq and in afghanistan. Which have been called the middle east. Which were also a part of asia as well. And the culmination of that in our time is the war in palestine. The war on gaza conducted by israel for whom the united states is the chief supporter and the chief supplier of weaponry. By thinking in this vein has been influenced by edward sayid and his book orientalism. A book that asian americans like myself have pillaged. Because we have taken edward's arguments about orientalism and applied them to east and southeast asia to the chinese, the japanese, the koreans, the vietnamese. And this idea that we have been these fantastic others in the american imagination-- the objects of fantasy and desire in violence and hatred.

but sayid wasn't talking about east and southeast asia when he was talking about orientals. He was talking about what we call the middle east. About french and british imperialisms and the construction of muslims. And arabs. As oriental others. So in my mind there is a whole continuity between the creation of oriental others in the american and the creation of oriental others in the french and the british imagination. Now you can imagine me making these kinds of arguments is not always popular in the united states. And when I said set out to write sympathizer, I set out to offend everybody. Judging from my hate mail, I succeeded. There are americans out there who think I am anti-american. And then there are vietnamese americans who think I'm a communist. How do I know this? My own students tell me that. My parents think you're a commune frt. And not too long ago young vietnamese american woman came up to me and said you are the second most hated person in my parent's household. The most hated person? Joe biden. Ironically the vietnamese government thinks I am anti-communist. Which is why we were not allowed to shoot the tv series of the sim pa thiezer in vietnam. We had to shoot it in thailand. Which is why we're not allowed to air the series in vietnam. Which is why the sympathizer to this day is not published in vietnamese in vietnam. So after finishing the sympathizer, I had to ask myself, who else is there left to offend? The answer obviously was the french. So I wrote a sequel to the sympathizer called the committed. It's a gangster drama that continues the adventures of the sympathizer and the reason why it takes place in france and paris is because the sympathizer himself is partly vietnamese and partly french. We have to go to france to investigate this other side of its heritage and he has to settle in the refugee quarters of paris. So I think of this as the anti-emily in paris with the committed. The gangster drama lots of sex and violence all the good stuff that you saw in the sympathizer and also a satire of french colonialism. And french pop culture. And you have to remember that the united states came into what the french called indo china and took over the french colonial project. No one made the united states do that. The united states deliberaty decided to come in and to continue what it is that the french could not finish in vietnam laos and cambodia. Now the french in my opinion have gotten off pretty easy in regards to the historical memory of what they did in french indo china. And irony here is that the united states unofficial ministry of propaganda in hollywood has been so successful in projecting the story of the american war in vietnam all over the world that much of the world thinks that as of a bad war due to american photos, american journalism, american news reports and american movies. The french got away with it, you have to remember the vietnamese revolutionaries described experience of the vietnamese under french colonization as an experience of slavery. But the french kind of got away with it in historical memory because we're only left with some very romantic black and white photographs of that time period. And the movies that the french have made about their french colonial period the lover-- from the early 1990s cast as romantic glaze over an awful period of history. So you have to turn to someone like ricky pon, cambodia's preeminent film maker to get a contradiction of this french version of events. He wrote a book, a memoir called, elimination. Upon surviving genocide as an adolescent and then becoming a film maker and then as an adult, he went to find the only cameroon continue contre at the time who had been convicted in any kind of the genocide. A man named doik from a prison camp in-- pen. But in the f21 prison camp he oversaw the torture and murder of 17,000 cambodians. So rudy pon wanted to interview him to understand what drove him to do what he did. Ricky pon's argument in the elimination is that cambodia belongs at the centre of human history. And he says this not because the cambodians were the victims of a genocide. But because the cambodians were the agents of their own genocide. They were both the victims and

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