I misunderstood the Geneva Accords and the reasons behind American involvement in Vietnam. I knew it was in the context of the Cold War but I did not understand why it had to happen and was I to teach a war or a conflict? After Pierre Asselin spoke on the subject and shared a similar map I understood that context was critical and that this was a war for the Vietnamese and a conflict the Americans could not politically shy away from.
The map chosen is significant as it is a Western perspective of a nation with delineations assigned by outsiders. Questions emerged. Where is Vietnam? Who is Vietnam? How could this map possibly tell me the answers.
It was in viewing this map and reflecting on the conversations and lectures from the seminar that I better understand this was a complex situation for a diverse group of people who had to answer difficult questions in the context of the Cold War. Who you claimed to be determined if you were a friend or foe of the United States. If a friend threatened to fall to our enemy, what choice did we have but to act in order to save an ally. As France used the Cold War to gain American support, the North Vietnamese used our own words to defend its independence. It was a time for hard choices, and we made ours: to defend democracy from tyranny of communism.
This moment in history resonated with me because I walked away finally feeling like I understood what various peoples of Vietnam were fighting for and how the United States fit into the narrative.