Over Spring Break this year I watched “Good Morning, Vietnam” for the first time in a few years. It is famous for Robin William’s portrayal of Adrian Cronauer a radio DJ with the Armed Forces Radio Service who is sent to Saigon for work and quickly disrupt the strict status quo enforced by his commanding officers with his flippant humor and insistence on playing rock and roll on air.
Though it is an amazing comedy performance, what hit me this time around was a much more powerful dramatic moment. Near the end of the film a bomb is set of in the GI bar Cronauer frequents. He narrowly escapes when he is dragged out of the bar by a young Vietnamese teenager name Tuan who he has befriended during his his time in Saigon. At first he doesn’t think about it, most likely assuming it was dumb luck. A few scenes later however Tuan is revealed to be a member of the Viet Cong who is responsible for the bombing. Over the next few scenes Cronauer pursues Tuan and when he reaches him he confronts him about the bombing and expresses the anger and betrayal he is feeling. Tuan responds,
“Big fucking deal! My brother is dead. And my other brother, who be 29 years old, he dead! Shot by Americans! My neighbor, dead! His wife, dead. WHY? Because we’re not human to them!”
This kind of violence toward civilians during the war is something that is even now goes relatively unnoticed by the American public. The only well-publicized instance was the My Lai massacre but there are approximately seven other similar instances as well as many more attacks on individual civilians resulting in at least 50 more confirmed casualties. After investigations the accused rarely received appropriate sentences – or any at all – and even less often actually completed them.
This kind of attention in popular media is significant as garnering attention from the public can influence people to take action. In this case it didn’t but, as we have seen with recent events in Baltimore, enough people acknowledging that something awful has occurred and standing up against those who would attempt to cover up or excuse it, people can make a difference in the path events take.