Thursday, October 4, 2012

My Simple Views on Voting

Last night's debate got me thinking about the right to vote. Please be kind while reading this, as I don't know quite how to put it into words but I'm willing to try.

You see, voting is something I once took for granted.

For so many years, I didn't think my one little vote would make any difference. There are so many people in America voting, why should I bother? All politicians are the same, anyway, right? It takes so much time to learn about each candidate and their stance on the issues.

Now, years later, I understand.

And it brings tears to my eyes.

This voting thing isn't about me.

During the past five years I've had my American bubble burst. I don't know how else to put it. I now see a certain truth about the world, and how I fit into it. I'm so humbled and grateful for my life here in the United States. My friends have taught me about the privilege of being an American.

Recently my friend from Lebanon decided to become a United States citizen. He's been living here and working hard for years, and this decision was one he took seriously. I watched him study for months. The day he was granted U.S. citizenship was one of great happiness. He grinned from ear to ear while telling me about it, saying that he couldn't wait to vote.

Other friends have told me about the persecution in their home country of Vietnam. They escaped through the jungle, walking for days and days, to reach a safe place in a neighboring country. They were resettled here in North Carolina. A few years later they became citizens, and so did their children. They tell me stories about life in Vietnam that break my heart: abuse, imprisonment, and untimely death. Then they take a moment to share the peace and joy they feel because they live in a place of opportunity and freedom.

Over the past few years, I've seen first-hand how much it means to my friends to become a citizen of the United States. The freedom and liberty I was given at birth, they may not have even dreamt about while living in their home country. I've seen them come to this land with the terror of persecution still radiating in their eyes.

Now I see it. Voting isn't about me.

Voting is about appreciating this gift of freedom. It's about honoring the people that fought so hard for the right to vote. The people that died to make this the land of the free. So that I might walk into that poll both, absolutely free of fear, and know that my vote will be counted.

Now I see this is about exercising my right as a U.S. citizen, born in a land of freedom and privilege. I will never again take that responsibility lightly. I will do my best to learn all I can about the candidates, make an educated decision, and hold my elected officials accountable. I have a voice, it will be heard, and I am one of many willing to stand up and be counted.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Dreams of a Photo Essay

I was handed boxes of films and photos like the one pictured here, while working on Abandoned Allies.
Now that the film is finished, I'd like to share these photos and the stories that go with them.
During the making of Abandoned Allies I collected more than 2,000 images. Most of them are taken by Americans living in the central highlands of Vietnam, from the 1950s to the 1970s. The subject matter is pretty similar: Montagnard life, Green Berets, and the two groups spending time together.

Now that the film is finished, I'd like to continue sharing these images. There are so many of them, and keeping them on my personal hard drive seems like a waste. I feel like the photos, and the stories that go with them, should be shared. They are not mine to keep, as it were.

There are many obstacles to turning photos into a book.

Lack of resources is the primary hurdle. Capturing the stories accurately would time, money, and energy. None of the photos belong to me, so putting them all in a book presents a challenge. I would need new permission from the photographers to publish them--and that would take more resources. Finally, putting all of them together--in some order that makes sense to a reader--likely requires the help of an editor, and I don't have one. So, there are some challenges.

I think a photo essay, in the form of a book or even a traveling art exhibition, would be really wonderful. Another way to keep sharing this story, with whomever is willing to listen. I'd need a bit of help with it, though. Perhaps that dream will become a reality one day.

Until then ... stay tuned. Thanks for the continued encouragement, y'all!