Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Will to Fight

Each of us has our own battles. For some, it is the constant battle to end our own addictions. For others, it is battling one’s way to climb the corporate ladder. Still, for others it is a daily battle to manage one’s time. There are an infinite number of battles one can fight, and very few of them are original. We humans have been fighting the same battles for thousands of years.

Today I found myself in a weakened state, not wanting to battle forces that disagreed with my own beliefs. I found myself counting the number of times I had gone to battle, trying to win a war that feels incredibly hopeless. I found myself counting my allies, and seeking out those whom I knew I could trust to confide in. I found myself feeling incredibly weakened and alone, save for one person who completely understood.

And tonight, as I reflect on the day I realize how silly my battle was in reality. It was so minor in comparison to the battles that have been recounted to me over the past few months. As this project moves forward, and as I fall deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole, my comprehension of the Montagnard-American compassion grows.

In the past week, I have been told countless stories of bravery, battles, challenges and victories. My past week has felt more like fiction than fact. As each story unfolds, and with each new contact I meet, I feel more and more like I have entered another world.

Saturday night I drove to Greensboro to film a Montagnard cultural event. I got there at about 5:30pm, entering the China King Restaurant weighed down with our equipment. People led me to the back of the restaurant where a man met me, and confirmed that I was, in fact, in the right place. Then, almost immediately I saw the warm smile of Surry’s friend who had been our host on June 13. Seconds later I saw another warm smile, and another, and another. For feeling like an outsider because of the language barrier, I was surrounded by friends and warm smiles.

Included here is a photo of a gift they gave me, too. It seems every time I meet with someone to talk about this project, I am given a gift! And each time, I wish that I had something to give in exchange. Then it occurred to me the other day that the big thank you will quite possibly be the film itself. By sharing these circumstances with others who—like me—didn’t know anything about Montagnard culture or very little about the negative outcomes of the end of the Vietnam War, we will be able to hopefully make some small impact.

But I am very careful not to make any promises, as so many American promises have been broken already. At the very least, we will be able to finish the interviews and start sharing them with others. And this audio and visual record will help document history—a history of a people and their land, culture and belief systems. A history of a people who—like Americans—have been fighting for their freedom for many, many years.

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