A topic that's been weighing on my mind significantly for several years is the collection of oral histories from veterans of the wars for Laos during the 20th century. As we approach nearly 35 years since the end of the war and many of the chief participants passing away across the United States and around the world each month, we're losing a significant element of our past, our history, our heritage.
Many of the younger members of our community may not be aware that much of the conflict was classified and considered secret by many of the governments involved. To this day, there are few Americans and fewer still outside of America, France and Southeast Asia who understand what took place during that century due to deliberate obfuscation and evasive manipulation of the historic narrative-the way we tell the story of our experience.
For decades in the US, many have often sought to streamline the story of the veterans of the war for Laos for easy comprehension, but this is ultimately a disservice to all of our cultures. As I've traveled across the US over the last decade, I've encountered many stories that make it clear to me that the role of Khmu, Tai Dam, Iu Mien, Nung, Hmong, Lao and the Thai among others are being poorly recorded and documented.
Facing 35 years since the official end of the war, I find myself feeling now more than ever we need our communities to come together and reassemble a people's history of what truly happened out there. Beyond the 'official' and sanitized versions we've heard. We must collect and gather our history for many reasons, if for no other reason than if we are not interested in our own history and culture, how can we ask others to be? And if we are not interested in our own history, it will be written by others and our sense of ourselves will be controlled and defined by those who do not possess a compelling stake in the matter.
To me, that is wholly unacceptable.