GUNS and TV and how they are part of my life

The significant events that shaped my life often happened unplanned. From my birth to this day, those occurrences that etched in my biography intersected the flow of history and then coerced by the movement of civilization.

To understand how these events intersected each other, I should explain about my origin. I was born in Saigon, South Vietnam. My father’s family was not from there. They came from a village in the Mekong Delta called Tra Det. My father was born in 1929. Toward the end of the World War I, there were much fighting in the rural areas. My paternal grand-parents migrated to the city to escape the violence in the countryside. They took refuge in a confine of a Roman-Catholic church on the outskirts of Saigon. My father was sent to a monastery to become a priest. However, during his adolescent years, except for a few, males in the country must fulfilled their military duty. He became a reserve in the French-run military. He was never fought in any wars. However, because of his removal from the priesthood, my chance of being materialized was greater. This was a crucial event in my life. I could say that I’m a product of war.

My father in Dalat, Vietnam

And then, there is my mother. Her father died when she was really young. Her mother enrolled her in a convent to ease her mouths-to-feed problem. The Catholic nuns raised and educated my mother and her sister. They also turned them to devout Catholics. At that time, Catholics can only marry to other Catholics in order to stay religious. My mother met my father through their Catholic friends. Beside war, I owed Catholicism for my being here. My maternal-grandmother was a Buddhist. She was remarried and had five more children. She was a fertile woman. Equally productive was my paternal-grandmother. She delivered seven children of her own with my dad being the last.

I was always curious to know as why do people whose lives are challenged each day tend to produce more? If the answer is a better chance of survival, then the impact of war on society goes beyond death and destruction. Think of how many geniuses that made history would not exist if women have fewer children. In the case of my mother, she has three children. But she always said to me: “You weren’t part of the plan.” My mother had a miscarriage before I was born, after she planned to have only three children. If my short-lived older brother was a stronger sperm, he would have taken my place. In fact, his short history allowed me to write my own biography. I have him to thank also.

Myself, I was churned into a world of extreme violence. I was born on July 30, 1964, a few days before the Gulf of Tonkin incident. In the previous year, Vietnam President Ngo Dinh Diem and John F. Kennedy were assassinated in the same month :

On November 1 President Kennedy’s efforts bore fruit. A military junta seized power after murdering President Diem and his brother… In one of those odd coincidences by which life mocks art, the American President soon followed his Vietnamese opposite number to the grave, and in the same way. The guns of November took both their lives (O’neil, 82).

Abroad, Vietnam was a difficult situation for America. At home, she faced even more problems. Senator Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated. The Civil Rights Movement was uprising. Anti-War demonstrators upset Washington. During that time, while history was taking its course, American culture was defined by the two primary cultural symbols: Gun and TV. Ironically, these two materialistic cultural items, weapon and art, share similar capabilities- the power to produce extreme violence and their impact on people lives either by force or persuasion.

“To sit before the screen day after day exposed Americans to such images as no people had ever seen” (91.) Guns overwhelmed the content on television during the Vietnam War. As it was broadcast on television every evening across America, the war affected many American. Guns and Television have a tremendous effect in my life. With the guns the American soldiers brought to Vietnam, they brought along the television. American TV shows could be watched by many Saigonese. “Mission: ‘Impossible’”, “The Wild, Wild, West”, “Batman” and the “Mob Squad” were part of my regular diet. Through the tube, I saw another world, another culture. A culture of nice looking, laughing people. I fantasized wearing leather chaps, cowboy boots, lugging a pair of six-guns on my side and riding that white horse. Black horses only rode by Indians.

And then, there were the news. When my parents switched the channel to the Vietnamese broadcast station, only death and fighting could be seen. Occasionally, there were some dramas. But the content was too sad to watch. Television was a big part of the culture that I grew up in and a central part of my life today. When I was a kid, I often wondered if words can ever be more effective than bullets. I discovered that, the probability of a certain cultural thing to have a greater impact on a society is determined by the condition and the thing that society valued. Words are louder than bullets because our society values peace.

Guns, which spoke the loudest during the war, was not the tool I picked. I chose Television as my choice of weapon and the tool which earns my living. I learned how to use it to get food, and shelter and other essentials. Perhaps, being a professional who leans on cultural instruments like media to push out ideas, I became the driver that steers history down the undiscovered road. Meanwhile, I have war, the Pope, my ill-fated brother, guns and television to thank for my being.

Work Cited: O’neil, William L. “Coming Apart. An Informal History of America in the 1960's.” New York: Times book. 1971.




Emmy Award Winning director, filmmaker, writer, artist.

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Duc Nguyen

Duc Nguyen

Emmy Award Winning director, filmmaker, writer, artist.

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