American Intervention: Domestically and Internationally The United States and its people take great pride in knowing that the U.
S. is the greatest nation in the world. That is why it’s our duty to father the rest of the world when conflicts arise. American culture and ideals are also thought to take precedents over all other cultures and ideals.
In the book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall down, written by Anne Fadiman, there are many great examples of how American culture is imposed on the people residing with in its enclosed boundaries. The U.S. going to war in Vietnam is also a great example of how the U.S. tried to impose American values on the “less fortunate.” Through understanding America’s so called “duty” in Vietnam one can interpret the intervention of American idealism in the life of a Hmong family.
Lia lee, a little Hmong girl, has a severe case of epilepsy. She is the daughter of Nao Kao and Foua lee who are among the many Hmong refugees that fled to the U.S.
The Hmongs are very simple and proud people. They take pride in the fact that they have never been ruled by anyone. Even though they have been driven away and separated many times they always seem to find themselves and their culture, never seemingly adapting to the major culture. Even when French missionaries settled in their area and brought their western ideals, medicine, religion, and values they never really accepted them. Fadiman stated in her book that in reality, “no Hmong is ever fully converted” (35). The Hmong believe that the human soul is a prized possession and should always be kept happy.
They believe that the soul has a domain where it rests usually where they were born. After a Hmong woman gives birth, the father digs a hole and buries the baby’s placenta. “If it was a girl, her placenta was buried under her parents’ bed; if it was a boy, his placenta was placed in a place of greater honor, near the base of the house’s central wooden pillar.” (5) Once a Hmong dies, it is believed that they must retrace his or her life path and reunite with his or her placenta, in order to be prepared for the dangerous journey ahead of them before they reach the sky and meet their ancestors. The Hmong’s also believe in animal sacrifice, which is method of keeping “dabs” (evil spirits that try to harm your soul) away.
One of the most important aspects of their belief is herbal healing and healing of the soul. They have soul healers called Shamaans that are able to get rid of the evil dabs and prescribe herbal medicine. If one was feeling ill, that meant that his or her soul had wandered away from his or her body.
When he or she felt better, this meant that his or her soul had found their way back. Treatments, to them, were supposed to be quick and most importantly painless because if they weren’t their soul might get angry and stray from their body.The Lee’s and many other Hmongs’ faced many complications in America due to their “uncivilized” beliefs, rituals, and culture. In the Lee’s case, it all ties back to the birth of the Lia.
When Lia was born her placenta was incinerated, among with the placenta’s of all the other Hmong births at the Merced Community Medical Center. The doctors thought that the Hmong women wanted to eat the placentas, and were disgusted by the idea so decided, on behalf of their expert medical rationale, to incinerate the placentas. In their beliefs, this may have caused their daughter Lia to become ill, since her soul had no where to return once she died.
In matter of fact, at the end of the book little Lia is medically brain dead, but is still alive. This can be accounted ultimately because her soul can’t find her placenta; hence she can’t start her journey to the sky. Many Hmongs’ also received criticism for their ritual sacrificing of pigs, chickens, cows, and many other animals. In one instance, “in 1996, tipped off by local newspaper coverage of a dog sacrifice in Fresno, the residents of Merced began to realize that similar things might be taking place in their town.” (108) The incident resulted in an ordinance banning the slaughtering of poultry and livestock within city limits. Many Hmongs in need of a cure for their sick family members ignored the ordinance and resumed with their customary rituals in private.
Another predicament arose when the Lee’s were sent home with Lia accompanied with a long list of prescriptions. The Lee’s did not like giving their daughter all of that medication. First of all they did not know how to administer the prescriptions. Second they thought it was unhealthy for her soul to undergo all of that unnatural healing.
And third they thought the medicine was making her more ill so they ceased the treatments. Although, they did believe in customary Hmong healing, in which they rub a coin on Lia’s chest in order to ward off any evil spirits. The government ended up intervening, like always, and took Lia away on the grounds of child abuse due to the fact that the coin was leaving a mark on her body.
This mark as well as restraining Lia’s medication was considered abuse in America’s virtually flawless parenting system. Since when is a family given a set order of rules in how they must raise their children? The Lee family and many other Hmongs had to live in accordance to American culture and values against their will. American government would not allow “uncivilized” acts of customary rituals that the Hmongs had done for the past thousands of years. If it wasn’t for American intervention in the first place their wouldn’t have been so many refugees that had to live in this so called “free” and “liberated” country we know as America. This is only a domestic example of the American government intervening when intervention wasn’t necessary. One of the greatest examples of this is the American involvement in the Vietnam War.
The Vietnam War is truly one of the most unique wars ever fought by the United States. It was never officially declared a war. It had no official beginning or no official end. The purpose of U.S intervention was to stop the rise of Communism in Vietnam once it had already started.
It was fought over ten thousand miles away in a virtually unknown country. The enemy and the allies looked exactly alike, and may by day be a friend and by night be an enemy. It matched some of the best trained soldiers in the world against largely untrained militia farmers. The Vietnamese War matched the most technically advanced country with one of the least advanced countries.
The lesser advanced country not only beat, but humiliated the strongest military in the world. When the war was finally showing signs of end, the Vietnamese returned to a newly unified communist country while the United States soldiers returned to be called “baby killers”, and were often spat upon. Although officially, the Vietnam conflict had neither a beginning nor an end, it can best be examined through the decade the U.S.
was involved: February 6, 1965- August 30, 1975. During World War II the French had been a major ally to the United States in the defeat of Adolph Hitler and the Axis Powers. France occupied and claimed the small coastline country of Vietnam in Indochina. In this region there had been recent Communist uprising funded by the USSR.
The Vietnamese were willing to accept Communism in return for what they had been fighting for over 2000 years: self-rule. In 1950 the United States, owing a debt of gratitude towards France, sent several advisors to aid French control in Vietnam. Over the next decade and a half, the United Stated would send an entire Army and Navy to aid the French in maintaining in South Vietnam, which had separated from the Communist North Vietnam by treaty in 1954.
On February 6, 1965, the United States began the bombing of North Vietnamese cities, marking the unofficial start of the Vietnam War. In the years to follow many anti-war movements started in the U.S. A majority of the citizens didn’t agree with the U.S intervention in Vietnam for the following reasons: First, there was no purpose of the U.S. to send American troops.
Second to impose their beliefs in a country that was ten thousand miles away when it was really none of their concern. Once the French retreated, the major goal of the U.S. was to defeat the (so called) nearly destroyed Communist. This goal would never come true due to the anti-war movement at home and even on the battleground in Vietnam and the persistence of the Vietnamese.
Finally, in 1972 the last United States foot soldiers were removed from Vietnam, and in 1975 the North Vietnamese over took Saigon (location of the American Embassy). At this time the United States Embassy was surrendered, marking the end of the war.The U.S. trying to “police the world” was a duty that was given and definitely not ignored. Although some American ideals and values are truly superior to others, they should not be enforced on the world.
In the case of the Lee family, ignorance played a big role. Maybe if the doctors at MCMC, or even the citizens of Merced, had known a little more about Hmong customs and rituals then all of the problems that the Lee’s or any of the other Hmongs encountered could have been avoided. Another major problem that caused grief was the language barrier, hence the fact that attending physicians can’t be blamed for their decisions.
In the case of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, the Vietnamese were given the opportunity to rule themselves. Even though Communism isn’t the best way for a country to gain its independence, it was a reason for the Vietnamese to fight.
The U.S. had many casualties and a federal budget that was deeply injured. Back home, these occurrences seemed like an endless war with no apparent reasons. Even though in both cases the U.
S. was trying to look for the welfare of the Lee family and for the Vietnamese, their complete and total assistance was not necessary.