I think of the barbecue on July 4th last year, American Independence Day, San Francisco Mission, ideologically hollow hipsters, absolute truth in a can of PBR bullshit, and someone in an arabic Joy Division t-shirt asked me what I was thinking about, and I said the bombing of Cambodia, and how I knew that at that moment he, understandably, had no idea what I was talking about, and how I wanted to shove it down his throat to make him understand what I was talking about.

2,756,941 tons of ordinance. Operation Breakfast. More bombs in four years on tiny Cambodia than all of the allies combined during World War II. This is what I thought about on Independence Day.

I met with a friend today, a revolutionary, an exile from Burma facing life imprisonment, and we talked about the eradication of history, how the Burmese junta has distorted Burmese reality, and I thought of the Khmer Rouge, the proclamation of Day Zero on April 17th, 1975, the Orwellian nightmare, how the regime systematically wiped out Cambodian history and culture by executing the intelligentsia and artistic class, and how, as a refugee, as an immigrant raised in the states, entirely divorced from my culture, my people, my history, how I am a son of the enlightment, of Voltaire, David Hume, John Stuart Mill, and not Angkor Wat, that I am a direct product of that historical cleansing by Pol Pot, and I felt, for the first time, an intense sense of pain and guilt in my heart for being American.

4 Comments

  1. Wonderful work Pete. I don’t think you should feel guilt, especially about something you had no control over. You are so fortunate to have the head, the heart and the talent to tell that story so hopefully we can learn from fucked up shit like that and progress in this increasingly competitive world. I look forward to seeing more of your story.

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