Upwardly Dependent » walking the delicate balance of absolute truth and overwhelming grace.

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When I’m Not Proud to Wave My American Flag

I’ve always been quite a passionate little thing.

Someone thought it was a good idea to give me sidewalk chalk as a kid, so my five-year-old self marched outside to create a masterpiece on the driveway.

When my mother came to check on me later, she found my masterpiece to be an outspoken statement of bold {and racist} patriotism.

I had scribbled in big letters, I am proud to be a white American.

Photo Credit: acase1968 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: acase1968 via Compfight cc

Lee Greenwood had a hold on me, clearly. And I was in no way raised by some Neo-Nazi sympathizers, so I can’t explain the racial undertones.

What I do know is that I was very interested in knowing about the world and labeling my place in it, even as a kindergartener.

And while I still tear up during my national anthem and leave a red, white, and blue banner hanging in my home overseas, I’ve often wished I was anything but white and American.

The Trail of Tears, the African Slave Trade, or the Civil Rights Movement—It’s impossible for me to not feel shame about the way our nation has treated the dark-skinned foreigner.

And now that I’m in Southeast Asia, I can’t escape the dishonor associated with the Stars and Stripes.

The Quiet War of Laos

During the Cold War, the United States was highly concerned with the volatile nature of Laos. President Eisenhower viewed the political condition of Laos as the key to stopping communism.

These sentiments were passed to the Kennedy administration that feared the “Domino Effect” and believed if one country fell to communism, the rest of Southeast Asia would follow. While U.S. military advisors were being sent to Vietnam, other agents were exploring other options for Laos.

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Although the Geneva Accords of 1962 declared Laos a neutral state, the Kennedy and Johnson administrations ignored the very treaty written to protect the people living between Vietnam and Cambodia.

Kennedy authorized a cadre of Central Intelligence Agency {CIA} advisers to recruit and train a secret guerrilla army of Hmong soldiers. The Johnson and Nixon administrations continued the support of the Hmong Armée Clandestine, as it came to be called. At its peak, the Armée Clandestine was the biggest CIA operation in the world, eventually numbering more than 300,000 Hmong soldiers.

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The Quiet War in Laos was considered very “cost-effective,” ultimately meaning that the lives of the Hmong came cheap. The annual cost of funding the Armée Clandestine was about $500 million, while the Vietnam War was financed for $20 billion each year.

Hmong ate only rice, while American soldiers required well-balanced meals of meat and vegetables. In 1971, army privates stationed in Vietnam were paid a minimum of $197.50 per month, while Hmong fought for an average of $3 per month (Fadiman, 1998). In all reality, the Hmong and their loyal allegiance to the U.S. was indispensable for the time American forces were involved in Laos.

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All of the hopes of the Hmong began to fade as the U.S. started to lessen its involvement in the conflict in Laos. Although it had been called the “Quiet War” in America, the war was anything but quiet for the Hmong.

More than 270 million bombs were dropped in Laos by American planes during the war, averaging one bombing raid every 8 minutes for 9 years. Unexploded Ordnances (UXOs) continue to be one of the greatest issues facing the highland Lao today.

UXOs Today

Laos is the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in history. Up to 30% of the ordnances dropped onto Lao soil failed to detonate, and they affected every province after the civil war era.

Approximately 80 million unexploded cluster bombs remain throughout the country, with 25% of villages still being contaminated today.

Even after the post-war period {1974+}, 20,000 people have been killed or injured as a result of UXO incidences. Out of this number, 13,500 lost a limb and 40% are children.

There continues to be around 100 new casualties annually. Accidents may occur from searching for scrap metal, farming, forestry, lighting fires, domestic activities, or handling UXOs.

All types of homemade prosthetics used by victims of UXOs.

All types of homemade prosthetics used by victims of UXOs.

Cluster bombs collected from the fields of Laos.

Cluster bombs collected from the fields of Laos.



America + Me + Laos

Today I took some visiting friends to learn more about UXOs and the Secret War of Laos. Looking at the recovered bombs with USA still printed on them overwhelmed me with burden for these people.

We broke international law, we sabotaged peoples’ lives, and we left them to clean up the mess we made in the first place.

In America, it is so easy to believe the best about the Land of the Free and the Brave. And it’s wonderful to swell with pride at the mention of your Mother Land.

But when patriotism blinds you to the evils of your fellow man, you are suddenly in a dangerous place where your government becomes your God and the dark-skinned foreigner becomes your enemy.

I’m living every day in the face of our country’s mistakes. The pain is written all over this city and these mountains and these people.

I should hang my head in shame at the legacy my passport country has made for itself in this place.

But I continue to leave those Stars and Stripes hanging in my living room.

Because there’s power in redemption, and there’s hope for resolution.

I can spend the rest of my life in the shadows of my nationality, or I can choose to be owned instead by the Giver of Light.

Thank goodness I am not defined by a national symbol as much as I am a Heavenly Father. May He make right all of the messes we create by the power of His saving grace.

I’m that same little white girl. And you can’t strip away my nationality.

But why do I need an earthly flag to wave when I’ve got a kingdom in the skies?