Saturday, May 22, 2010

Đặng Thùy Trâm Plate

This piece is a response to Andrew Pham's book Last Night I Dreamed of Peace, a translation of Đặng Thùy Trâm's diary. From Wikipedia:

Đặng Thùy Trâm (born November 26, 1943 in HuếVietnam; died on June 22, 1970 in Đức Phổ, Quảng Ngãi Province, Vietnam) was a Vietnamese civilian doctor who worked as a battlefield surgeon for North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. She was killed, in disputed circumstances, at the age of 26, by United States forces while travelling on a trail in the Ba To jungle in the Quảng Ngãi Province of south-central Vietnam. Her wartime diaries, which chronicle the last two years of her life, attracted international attention following their publication in 2005.

The thing that I find most amazing about Thùy was her selflessness. Sure, she acknowledged and accepted her insecurity and her own longings—to be home in Hanoi, amidst her loving family, enjoying the comfortable lifestyle afforded to doctors and educators, and for the love of her life (a communist soldier). But more than anything she longed for peace and prosperity in her country, which is why she volunteered to become a battlefield surgeon in "The American War".

Her diary recounts gruesome details of the amputations and trauma surgeries she performed, but what's even more gut-wrenching are the recurring passages where she laments the deaths of her comrades and countrymen. While she is enraged by the invading American forces—she hates them, in fact—her heart remains full of love for her country, her family and even for the soldier whom she pines for.

She is extremely virtuous, too. As a beautiful young doctor, she attracts the affection of nearly everyone she comes into contact with, but is so wary of public opinion she won't allow herself anything more than the platonic love of a male friend. It almost seems like a propagandist's fairy tale—a young woman who committed her youth to studying before entering the medical field, who subsequently sacrificed the best years of her life to the war effort, and ultimately died for the cause she believed in.

As much as any of us are touched by the story of her tragic demise, nobody took the news of her death as hard as her own family. When her father, a surgeon and educator, heard of Thùy's death he instantaneously fell victim to a stroke and died.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jeff and readers,

    She was the opposite of our indifference toward others.