From Ken Burns to Angelina Jolie, all eyes are on Asia

By on September 19, 2017

What is it about Asia that haunts us so?
I mean think about it. From Ken Burns’ new piece, Viet Nam, to Angelina Jolie’s new movie, First They Killed My Father, we remain fixated and fascinated by Asia. If not a bit repulsed. What is this?
Remember The Deer Hunter? A movie that talked about what happens when a trio of Pennsylvania Russian immigrant kids go to Viet Nam and come back? I can still hear the sound track in my head. The iconic scene of Russian roulette played where the stakes were your very life. Why do we fixate on this?
Perhaps it’s the absolute “otherness” of it all. That part of the world seems so far away. And yet I, a child of the fifties, whose dad came home from WW2, a disabled vet who had been in an Asian POW camp, remember most his nightmares, where he cried out in his sleep. I remember my mom had to wash his socks separately in a white wash bowl with powerful cleaner in a vain attempt to rid his very feet of the stench of Asia. They called in “jungle rot” and it plagued him until the day he died.
Jolie’s movie captures the horror of the Khmer Rouge which overwhelmed Cambodia for nine or ten years. I’ll grant you the movie reeks of racial stereotypes, but hey, it’s a movie, folks, what do you expect. The main theme here is hunger. The captured Cambodians are forced to tend rice paddies and to eat anything they can catch, including a snake, a chicken and a number of beetles. Starvation is their constant companion.
But the most important take away for me from that movie was that communism is fucking dangerous, man. It strips away all the values that we here in our democracy revere. It reduces human beings to nothing more than worker bees.
And for that reason alone, I believe every American should make an effort to see it. You don’t even have to go to a theatre, it’s streamed live on Netflix.
Because the real dangerous “otherness” it reveals is seeping into our culture by way of Donald J. Trump with his vile coarse simpleton’s presentation of what it means to be an American.
Not in my lifetime, have I witnessed such a danger to our society. However, if I’d paid better attention to history, this might not come as such a surprise. Ken Burns terrific piece “Viet Nam” is playing now on public television.
What Burns reveals is not always comfortable, it’s not always pleasant, but it is important for us to think about.
When cultures go awry, the citizens suffer. We gotta pay attention folks. Look and learn. Our society is worth saving. And don’t forget those smelly socks.

About Linda Eckhardt

Linda West Eckhardt, is an award winning journalist, food writer, and nutritionist. Her more than 20 cookbooks have garnered prizes including the James Beard prize for the best cookbook for a text she wrote with her daughter, Katherine West DeFoyd, entitled Entertaining 101, Doubleday. Their follow-up book, Stylish One Dish Dinners, Doubleday, was also nominated for a James Beard prize. Their next book, The High Protein Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, remains a best seller after 12 years. That book was designed to accompany low carb diet plans. Her ground-breaking book, Bread in Half The Time, Broadway Books, was named the Best Cookbook in America by the prestigious IACP, The Julia Child award. Her award winning radio work with Jennifer English, for a national show on the Food and Wine radio network, was nominated for a James Beard Prize for a show called, “I Know What You Ate Last Summer.”