Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"One Million Elephants Revisited", reading and disucssion on US bombing of Laos, August 6.

Laos has been in the local papers lately as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a visit there earlier in the month. Along with Vietnam and Cambodia, Laos is one of the countries pulverized by American bombing in the 1960s and 1970s, and the consequences of the war are of course still visible there. From a July 12 Washington Post write-up, via the Post-Gazette:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday became the first high-ranking U.S. official to visit Laos since the Vietnam War era, when the United States dropped some 260 million cluster bombs across the countryside in a nine-year campaign to crush North Vietnamese supply lines and bases.

Ms. Clinton met with Laotian Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong and other officials for talks that centered mostly on addressing that war's lingering effects -- including a sense of mutual estrangement -- and then toured a small museum devoted to its human toll.

Ms. Clinton walked through an exhibit of dangling cluster bombs and crude wooden artificial legs, made by villagers whose limbs had been blown off by unexploded ordnance -- the legacy of a war that Ms. Clinton herself had protested as a college student in the 1960s.

Then she met Phongsavath Souliyat, who had been blinded by and lost both hands to a cluster bomb. He told her he hoped that governments would ban the weapon.

"We have to do more," Ms. Clinton responded. "That's one of the reasons I wanted to come here today, so that we can tell more people about the work that we should be doing together."
As I wrote in November 2011, Americans are generally ignorant of the scale of destruction of the Vietnam War, have tended to manipulate its narrative to make the United States appear the greatest victim rather than the aggressor, and have calculated the war's devastation only in terms of its own losses. There are private groups doing more, though, and attempting to atone for our violence, such as Room to Read and Pittsburgh's Friends of Danang.

With Laos in the news again, and with the legacy of the United States' involvement there perhaps in the public's mind, the No Name Players present "One Million Elephants Revisited" on August 6th at the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning. The title refers to both the country's historical name of the kingdom (Lan Xang, "Million Elephants") and the original one-man production in Pittsburgh last April. Global Solutions Pittsburgh has a write-up:
In late 2011, local writer Robert Isenberg traveled to Laos to research a book on the Secret War, a nine-year bombing campaign that devastated this tropical nation. In April 2012, Isenberg presented his solo performance, One Million Elephants, at Grey Box Theatre, produced by theatrical mavens No Name Players.

Now the company joins forces with Global Solutions Pittsburgh to present a one-night event that includes readings from Isenberg’s book manuscript, a panel discussion about unexploded cluster munitions (UXO), and a gallery of photographs taken in Laos.

This presentation will take place on Monday, August 6th, 2012, in the Studio Theatre, in the basement of the Cathedral of Learning. The show begins 8 PM, tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door.

Ticket proceeds benefit No Name Players and Global Solutions Pittsburgh. Book and art sales benefit Legacies of War, an organization that helps educate Americans about Laos.