I just finished reading "Last Night I Dreamed of Peace". It’s the diary of a young doctor during the Viet Nam war. It was a really interesting read because she was very young, I think 24 or 25, and she was right in the thick of war. As a doctor, she saw the worst side of war–the injuries, the deaths, the sadness of families losing loved ones. What also made it interesting was that she was on the side of the Viet Cong. I felt almost guilty about reading it. I’m the daughter of a man who faught for the South and was imprisoned by the VC and to this day after 30 years has not set foot on the soil of his native land. I like to think I’m pretty open-minded, so even though it took a while to crack open the book, I did end up finishing it (kind of the nice thing about feeling under the weather… you get to read and read and read, which I love).
There were a couple reactions I had to this book. As much as I thought Thuy (the young doctor) was all but brainwashed by the VC, reading the tragedies she witnessed, I found myself sympathizing for her. No one should have to go through what she did… the daily fear and struggle to survive, never knowing if you’ll get raided by the enemy or catch a stray bullet or shrapnel or have chemical warfare unleashed on you. It was really sad and very easy to commiserate with her. It was also a little scary how cult-like her thinking was… very self-deprecating, self-sacrificing and almost an unquestioning devotion to the communist regime. It was enlightening to read her own words because she obviously believed that the VC was fighting for what was right for Viet Nam. And even though it saddened her to see so many friends and comrades fall to injury and death, the sacrifice was worth it because they were fighting for a cause they believed in. I’m sure the people who faught for the South felt just as strongly about their beliefs. People don’t fight wars to kill other people–they fight them to defend their beliefs and their rights. Surely wars can’t be the only way to work out those differences, but is war ever warranted? The United States wouldn’t be where it’s at today if it weren’t for a few key wars. We’re in a war now that a lot of people feel we shouldn’t be in… when is it worth it and when isn’t it?
I also wondered if this is a book my parents would read. I’m sure the original Vietnamese is a lot more evocative and moving. I wonder if it would help them understand the other side… maybe see that there were people and young kids on the other side who died needlessly as well. Would it cure old wounds? I do feel enriched to have read this book and I’m glad T recommended it to me.