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UXO, Chomsky and Other Lao Legacies

Fred Branfman has an article at Salon.Com “When Chomsky Wept” opening with “I first met Noam Chomsky in Laos, where I showed him the devastating effects of U.S. air raids.” While many of us may think it’s TLDR, it’s worth reading all of the way through.

It’s a timely issue as the Lao American play Refugee Nation begins its final week at the Los Angeles Theater Center, and Legacies of War has a small supporting exhibit there to raise awareness of the secret bombing of Laos in the 20th Century. In 2010, Minnesota was host to the Legacies of War: Refugee Nation Twin Cities exhibition that allowed us to present films, workshops, plays and performances from nationally-recognized and local artists and community voices about the Lao journey.

I’ve often admired Chomsky’s work, and Branfman’s remarks are poignant: “[Chomsky] believes there are too many variables involved in understanding human beings for the human brain to ever really comprehend it — not to mention the impossibility of conducting the kind of controlled experiments that might yield scientifically credible answers.”  This resonates with me.

Branfman added “Noam believes the major responsibility for this lies with a short-term driven corporate system that regards climate change as an “externality,” i.e., a problem for someone else to worry about. But it is also clear that the fact that not enough of the rest of us, certainly including myself, respond appropriately to civilization’s looming death is a major part of the problem as well.”

This is an interesting essay to work with. It’s hard not to appreciate the line “He is forever tormented, as I was in Laos, by the suffering of the “unpeople” — and works around the clock to try and reduce it.” and to not ask: Here in America as we rebuild our lives, where do we fit in to the process? Have we become people? Are we still unpeople? Are we becoming people who have made this journey to stand idly by as we veer towards what many may rightfully consider the calamitous, willful destruction of lives and civilizations?

What are the best steps to make our voices matter, and to choose the right, ethical course as we become voices in the world again?

-Bryan Thao Worra


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