Saturday, June 3, 2017

Looking for that first turtle


First there is this.

And then there is this: 

I have been reading about American involvement in Vietnam, but I have run into a problem that is metaphorically embraced in the foregoing link. Yes, locating the beginning is the problem. With each page of history turned back and revealed -- e.g., Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower, Truman, Roosevelt, and beyond -- I find another preceding page, another turtle, that must be considered. I guess that is a problem with studying history. It's so frustrating.

Perhaps my central problem is my overarching ignorance of American history. Yes, in order to understand America and Vietnam, I have to find the foundational turtle at the bottom. So, let me ask you: where is the beginning of the American story? What do you think?



13 comments:

  1. Tim,

    Why not with the agreement that separated Vietnam into two parts? Wasn't that the basis for our military intervention?

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    1. Wasn't it fear of the Domino Principle that 'forced' the US to intervene? So you'd probably have to go back to 1917.... Which means you'd probably need to go back to 1914 to explain that.... Which means you'd need to go back to 1848 to explain that..... Which means.... [muses]

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    2. Yep, it's turtles all the way down, CyberKitten!

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  2. Good idea, Fred. However, Roosevelt failed to prevail with his idea that Vietnam would be free of French control following WW2, which would have been a significant change in historical trajectory, and U.S. interests in Indochina preceded Roosevelt's efforts. I'm trying to dig down to the root of the problem, and my digging leads me to the 19th century! Damned turtles!

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    1. Tim,

      Well, you know the old question about turtles. . .

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    2. Fred, I had an English prof who insisted the turtles metaphor and myth was a native American story. According to what I see at Wikipedia, he was quite wrong. Isn't it interesting the ways in which professors perpetuate false information. It happened a lot in my literature classes, too!

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    3. Tim,

      A Native American story? I had never heard that one before. I had heard it was from India. Perhaps the prof had read that it was an Indian tale and thought that mean Native American or American Indian back then.

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  3. I guess that the ultimate beginning of the American story, if you want to go that far back, is the beginning of the human story.... So about 2.5 million years ago. But that's quite a lot of history to absorb. More than a lifetimes work I think. Maybe you could start with the Romans. That'll probably be far enough back. Probably.

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  4. CyberKitten, I hope I don't have to go back that far! Yikes!

    Still, here is part of the issue: When the Japanese surrendered, they vacated occupied Vietnam, and the French returned to resume their colonial occupation. However, Ho Chi Minh, waiting for more than 30 years for his opportunity, seized the moment and began his fight against the French; after several years of the First Indochina War, the Battle of Dien Bien Phu became the capstone moment. Then the division of North and South Vietnam was a certainty. But, of course, neither the Communists (North Vietnam) nor the anti-Communists (i.e., Americans) would permit the status quo. And, then, as the saying has it, the s--t hit the fan. How is that for a fractured history lesson! (Note: I might have my facts skewed, but that is my understanding of the late 40s and 50s, and my reading and studying must continue.)

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  5. i don't even know what is happening today, much less in history... human behavior , the little bit i know of it, has not materially changed, tho... argumentative, violent and dumb...
    even studying a minute portion of it leads on, remorselessly, to ramifications ad infinitum... call it the onion skin theory of history...

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    1. Mudpuddle, I like that onion skin metaphor. I once ascribed to the artichoke metaphor. Peel the thistles away to get at the heart of the matter. Delicious!

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  6. You raise a very good point here. As someone who reads a fair amount of history I find myself also searching for The First Turtle. It is an elusive creature and difficult to find.

    Though not the First Turtle by any means, I highly recommend 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann. I found it to be a wonderful and informative survey of native people's up until 1491. It think that it makes a good starting point for what came after. The richness of the cultures and their histories presented in this book is so impressive.

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    1. Thanks, Brian, for the visit, comment, and recommendation. I do wonder about pre-colonial America, but at the same time I believe indigenous influences on colonists pale compared to intruders' influences upon indigenous people.

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