After looking through the slideshow for this portion of the class I felt a mixture of sadness and hope, disgust and inspiration, confusion and clarity. These images bounce back and forth from a crying child to one who has had access to medical attention, a naked child screaming in terror in the streets to an image of the same woman as an adult, happy and healthy. War is one of the biggest atrocities that man must commit but at the same time people are never as beautiful or as courageous as when they are in the midst of crisis.
Take the picture of the Young Beggar’s in Saigon for example. This picture is bittersweet. It is extremely sad but also really beautiful. The infant in the box makes me want to weep but I am comforted by the fact that these two young people are holding hands. They have each other. If nothing else these two have that little human contact that will make their situation bearable. Other examples of this include the shoeshine boys who have congregated together to form a young Saigon gang. Is this an ideal picture, no, but it is real.
These children may have to grow up quickly but they have each other and they are living the only childhood they will ever know. But then there are photos of the young victims of war, bombing victims and women trying to smuggle her children out of the war zone. These are not pretty pictures but again they illustrate the beauty of the human spirit. Could I appreciate life if I had never seen with my own eyes the sadness of a life taken too soon? Could anyone ever know real strength and courage if they had never felt the tinges of fear?
There were other pictures that were slightly confusing, such as the photo of the US Marine giving the young girl a cigarette. At first I thought, “Why would he give such a young child a cigarette? ” But then I realized it was because that was all this soldier had to give. I am sure that being an American, used to children having the right to grow up healthy and safe, makes it difficult to see children growing up in the midst of a war zone. It makes one want to “rescue” each other. And again that is admirable. Look at the girls face in that photo. She is radiant. She is the lightness in an otherwise bleak world.
In response, I really don’t know who the “good” guys are and who the “bad” guys are in these photos. And truly I don’t know that it matters. I was truck by the strength and beauty that was represented here. Look at the faces in these pictures and you see strength, perseverance, tradition and even love. For example, look at the woman in the photo A Vietnamese Woman, the trials and tribulations of life are etched all over her face. Ultimately these photos represent the good and the bad, the yin and yang of humanity. For some strange reason man does not appreciate life until life is taken away.
And unfortunately the world is a better place after we have had to clean up the rubble of war and human greed. Somehow in the midst of destruction we find the strength to help each other, pick up where we left off. Yet, when all is well in the world we get greedy and seek to destroy. These images are timeless. Despite our disgust at seeing a young child tortured we, as a race, will continue to commit these crimes. Maybe as a species man has self destructive tendencies. Maybe we can only appreciate the beauty of life when we see the ugliness in death.