Letters for February 23, 2012

Vang Pao and Vietnam

Re “The amazing life of Vang Pao” (Cover story, by John Boyle, Feb. 16): So little of the reality of the Vietnam War is known that it was a pleasure to read an accurate article. Our schools teach a cartoon version of the Vietnam War.

The one bit I would take issue with is the statement that American pilots flew 100 missions, partied and went home. Missions over Laos and Cambodia didn’t count, so it might have been 150 missions, and I recall one American pilot saying he had flown around 400 missions.

My squadron, the 561st TFS, sent over 12 planes and had four shot down—one of them the last F-105 shot down in Vietnam. (Our “Wild Weasels” air-combat missions had a 63 percent casualty rate during the course of the war.) The Soviet Union made sure that North Vietnam had one of the most intense air-defense systems in the world.

Mike Peters

Your article failed to mention the numerous wives Vang Pao had, and the numerous children resulting. All these zealots who followed and still follow him, I believe, only did/do so because there is nobody else Hmong for them to follow.

Not all of us idolize such a bigoted and greedy man. So the Americans appointed him as general during the war: I do not believe he earned it, as most generals do; they simply had to pick someone during a tumultuous war, and out of the hat came his name. It could have been anybody.

And for a people who had no country and never have, of course the majority are not going to question his purported authority simply because he is one of their own.

I believe the Hmong have never been a peaceful, law-abiding people. They always had to migrate because of their inability to be ruled—too extremist to get along with others, not bold enough to claim their own country. I would compare the man, at the very most, to some of the more enigmatic cult leaders of this country, unorthodox in my American eyes, chauvinist brute in my feminist eyes.

Sometimes, if you listen carefully, you can hear the resentment in some elders’ voices when they talk about Vang Pao and the war. Usually they are not Vangs themselves. And usually they are quick to retract their statements, or they don’t finish what they’re saying out of fear, or outright disrespect, I suppose.

A statue is not going to make me feel any better about me or my culture; he does not represent me or my history. I will not be idolizing the man, in life or in death.

L. Xiong
Butte County

Nicely written article. But I would urge you to double-check the history behind the migration of the Hmong from Mongolia. Hmong history is documented further back in Chinese history. They were and still are referred to as the “Miao” occupying the southwestern regions of China.

Chong Lor

This is love

Re “What is love?” (Feature story, Feb. 9): I am a product of the ‘60s psychedelic revolution with a lifelong interest in spirituality and the experience of the transcendent. By that I mean we all have the capacity to experience directly the fact that all of nature, all of the cosmos is connected in a divine dance of energy transformation. Scientifically we understand this truth, and through the ego-death experience we can directly know this reality.

“What is love?” you ask. Love is the fundamental reality of this “totality of being.” We are love because it is all one energy-light-vibration. For fully conscious beings love is everywhere.

Ram Dass has said, “Romantic love is meeting someone who awakens within you that which is love.” We truly are all soul mates, emerging from the one light at birth, returning to that one light at death, and in between we get the chance to dance together in love for love. The universe is trying to “download” love to us. It is just our egos living in fear that blocks the flow. Remember, the opposite of love is fear, not hate.

Nelson Parmerter

If only Cuba were like China

Re “50 years of failure” (Editorial, Feb. 16): Walk into Walmart or any other large store anywhere in the United States and see what percentage of its products say “Made in China.” If you haven’t been paying attention, that is a communist country that regularly employs prisoners as forced, cheap labor.

Need an organ transplant? Go to China. They will find a suitable donor on death row, execute him, and voilà, you get a kidney, or a liver or whatever organ you have bargained for. But I can’t legally get a Cuban cigar?

Too bad Cuba isn’t an industrial nation with a virtually limitless workforce and without an environmental conscience like China. Then I could get a cigar.

Randy Glass
Yankee Hill

Who are the ‘elitists’?

Re “The overlooked candidate” (Newslines, by Tom Gascoyne, Feb. 16): My friend Tom Gascoyne isn’t going to enough Tea Party meetings. In his otherwise interesting and informative piece on Gregory Cheadle, the Happy Valley Republican with the impossible dream of replacing Wally Herger, Tom characterizes the man as sounding like a member of the Occupy movement when he speaks out against “elitists.” But Tom should know that whining about the “elitists” is part of the Tea Party catechism, right up there with complaints about any and all government assistance given to people who ain’t them.

But the “elitists” the Tea Party targets as their most dreaded foes are not the same people who have been the focus of the Occupy movement’s attention. The “elitists” the Tea Party people hate and fear are people who work for the “lamestream media,” or the rich Hollywood types who tend to support causes and politicians that Rupert Murdoch or the billionaire Koch brothers have told them are bad. In the Tea Party universe, even teachers and trade unionists are members of that band of elitists who demand scorn.

What guys like Cheadle (and the hack politician he dreams of replacing) definitely don’t mean when they talk about “elitism” is the monied elite, that tiny 1 percent of the population that now controls 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, those CEOs and Walton family members who use their deep reservoir of money to ensure that the game remains rigged and the money keeps flowing, unimpeded, in their direction.

Jaime O’Neill

Old-time religion

So the Catholic Church believes the government is violating its constitutional right to not offer contraceptive services owing to its religious beliefs. In the name of respecting religious freedom, let’s see where this might lead:

Having up to four wives is allowed in Islam (and was in Mormonism, until the federal government prohibited it). Perhaps we need to revisit governmental intrusion into this religious practice and allow everyone this freedom?

In Islam and Judaism, the charging of interest on loans is prohibited. Shall banks be forced to lend money at 0 percent interest? (Hey … that would kick-start the economy!)

There’s more. Some religious sects prescribe prayer over blood transfusions. Many don’t believe in abortion even when the mother’s life is in danger. Some evangelical Christians think that sparking Armageddon in the Middle East will precipitate the Kingdom of God; shouldn’t we therefore support a more belligerent military posture?

But, should Buddhists and social-gospel Christians be forced to tolerate innovating new weapons systems, waging pre-emptive wars, and killing strangers in their name?

And with so many religions requiring special exemptions, might we need to create a cabinet-level Department of Religion-and-State just to manage it all?

Tom Blodget

Superstition vs. fact

Re “Can science and religion be friends?” (Newslines, by Kim Weir, Feb. 9): Religion and science are incompatible. Religion is based on superstition and dogma. Science deals with observable fact.

Allen D. Hoffmann

Misplaced appeals

It is very sad and unfortunate that Anthony Porter’s wife suffers from cancer. It is very self-serving of Mr. Porter to use his column [From the Edge, Jan. 26] to ask for financial aid; and irresponsible of editor [Robert] Speer to endorse him [From This Corner, Feb. 9]. There are hundreds in need who don’t have press access to plead their case. There are also hundreds of local charities to support; not one based in Chicago.

Rich Golfer