It was one of the most painful bits of viewing I've endured for years. But I did it and now suspect all my worst suspicions have been confirmed.
(The documentary was co-directed by Lynn Novick. And I'll admit my focus on Burns is in part sexist, but I still think legitimate.)
It's typical phony-liberal bullshit: Honor the American soldier, gently question the justification of the war without even challenging the whole concept of war, and ignore the war crimes.
I confess a lot of bias; I've come to dislike Burns.
Oh, I admit I was mesmerized by his documentary on the Civil War, but began to backtrack upon watching it again years later. Fortunately, I've changed in the interim and was repulsed by the way Burns gently treated the leaders of the Confederacy, despite their active support for slavery, that crime against humanity.
He even goes so far as to give legitimacy to that dangerous myth that the war wasn't about slavery.
There was no honor in the southern cause: It was treason in defense of degenerate barbarism.
Subsequent efforts by Burns have left me with, at best, a big "meh," as he has increasingly reflected the Baby Boomers' and yuppies' self-absorption and need to feel good about themselves, at the expense of painful truths whose evasion only strengthens the neocon agenda.
In the preview, for example, there's a clip of a protester apologizing for calling returning soldiers baby killers or something similar. I was just so young and didn't know what I was doing, she says.
Well, guess what? Every American who participated in that war, either directly or indirectly, was part of a machine that killed babies.
And until we acknowledge that we are all -- not just the soldiers -- a part of the never-ending illegal wars -- and the subsequent slaughter of civilians -- done in our names and until we see the blood on our own hands, our crimes will only expand and deepen.
(And make is ever more vulnerable to "terrorists.)
What I saw in the preview was a lot of white people, with the occasional Asian thrown in. The most prominently touted Asian is Yo-Yo Ma.
Um, his Asian roots are Chinese, not Vietnamese.
Yo-Yo Ma, the musical director of the film, is an extraordinary man, both as a musician and as a humanitarian.
But there were no Vietnamese available?
Well, you know, those Asians: They're all the same.
Reading "The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen, brought into focus my increasing suspicions about how Americans view the war, including his exceptional parody of "Apocalypse Now."
The Vietnam War is always seen as about Americans, with a few Vietnamese thrown in for flavor.
Never mind that the military losses of all Vietnamese is more than 20 times those of Americans. And that is only half the death count for Vietnamese civilians.
And, oh yeah, we destroyed huge chunks of their beautiful country with bombs and chemicals that still pose a danger today.
At the least, can we start calling it "The War Against the Vietnamese?"
In fairness Burns invokes Viet Thanh Nguyen in a bit* he coauthored with Novick for the New York Times. But I can't help but wonder if that was done as a masterful stroke of providing cover for what I suspect will be more than a bit of criticism.
Here's a telling point: The authors list the number of American deaths, but can't even bring themselves to do the same for the Vietnamese, military or civilian.
The entire essay confirms my worst fears.
I truly hope I'm wrong, but this film, based on the way it's being promoted, appears to be just an updated version (tweaked to appeal to feel-good liberal hypocrisy) of a salute to American arrogance -- the arrogance that got us into Vietnam and the arrogance that continues to perpetuate American war crimes all across the world.