Tag Archives: Vietnam

In which the nature of history is reflected on a little more.

15 Sep

Last week, Yahoo News’s HealthDay reported on one of the more historically significant speakers at a burn survivors’ conference in New York, and later interviewed her: Kim Phuc Phan Thai, first seen by the world at nine years old, when Nick Ut photographed her after her village in Vietnam was bombed and she was doused with napalm.

Here is the thing: history happens. I definitely think the line I like to pull out is true—the past is another country—but like I’ve also said, it’s the one we came from in getting to where we are now. It’s easy to forget sometimes that history informs who we are, that it may be another country but it’s not another planet. Kim Phuc isn’t nine years old anymore: she’s had an entire life beyond that photograph (against a whole lot of odds, too). Heck, even the focus of the article isn’t the ~historical significance~: it’s an article on a burn survivors’ conference first and foremost, written with a health focus. About as much lineage is devoted to the progress we’ve made in burn treatment since the early 70s as to Kim Phuc.

(I will leave untouched the stupidity of the line “What the iconic photo — snapped in 1972 by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut — doesn’t show is the girl’s struggle to survive and thrive in the aftermath of that day.” No, of course it doesn’t show that, because it’s a still photograph. There had to be a less awkwardly redundant way to convey all the information you wanted to get across there, dude.)