Postscript: response to hate e-mail, April 2005

These pieces on Vietnam have generated several hate e-mail. If believing that the USA could and should be better than it is now and if criticizing it for its short-comings are anti-American, then I plead guilty to the charge. Sorry, I have never subscribed to the view “my country right or wrong.” My feelings of pride and shame of being American are complex. History will judge whether my criticisms are ahead of their time as was my disdain for segregation in the 1950s when, growing up in the rural South as a boy surrounded by few who shared my views, which history has since vindicated, I felt then like a voice in the wilderness. My admiration for Lenin, Mao and Ho is from a historical perspective. They deserve my respect, something I don’t give away lightly, certainly not to politicians. These founding fathers put their nations on the paths to modernity. They were not perfect. They made big mistakes. Like their American counterparts—founding fathers who were racists and perpetuated a genocide against the Native Americans—they must however be judged for the sum of their acts. If we had known then what we know now… But we didn’t. I believe that Washington and Jefferson, for example, were not evil men, although they enunciated some evil policies, as we have come to view them framed by our current values. But history has been kind to these men, as it has been kind to Mao, Ho and Lenin, whereas it has not been kind to leaders who have in hindsight come to personify evil: Hitler, Stalin, Saddam. So, to the charge that I admire evil, I also must plead guilty. So keep sending the hate e-mail; that’s what freedom of speech—one of American’s good values—is all about.