AN AMERICAN PRISONER IN VIETNAM

Chapter 9

Eight years ago, James Fisher was part of the plan by the Hanoi government to sell the bones of US servicemen to the USA. Now, after eight years, he has become a diplomatic gift from Hanoi to the people of the USA. James doesn’t know any of this. How is he supposed to know the dirty tricks of politics? Chi Mai has told him about his participation in a clash between two ideologies. James isn’t sure about his ideology, or whether or not he has one. James is certain of only one thing: that he had responded to the calling of his country to go to war. And he is proud of having put on the military uniform. As a soldier in the twentieth century, in the age of advanced technology and civilization, James believes a person from either side of a battle should be treated in a humane manner when he is captured and becomes a prisoner of war. He also believes that at the end of the war, hatred and hostility should cease, and all these prisoners should be released or exchanged. James used to think of war as simple as that. He never knew that in an ideological war, conventional things become unconventional. Ideologies have turned human beings into horses with their eyes partly covered, so that they can only see straight ahead; and once the rod strikes on their back, they will do nothing but dash forward. Because of ideologies, human beings are no longer able to see themselves clearly. Neither can they recognize where their real country is. And they blindly imprison their fellow-creatures, including James, in dark dungeons, for eight years, eighty years, or as long as eight hundred years. Wherever an ideology reigns, human beings become its tools of hatred and torture to track down the thought process of their fellow-creatures, to rip off their dignity, and dehumanize them. The claws of ideology are ever changing. An ideology can be a witch who is a thousand times more sinister than the witch in fairy tales. In our age, the innocent princess will sleep for ten thousand years, and no guardian angles will keep watch during her sleep. Neither will she be awakened by the loving kiss of any prince. In our era, witches and fairies work together; while the beautiful princess, who symbolizes the people of integrity, is besieged amidst a shroud of hatred. Fairies and witches take turns playing one role. In one place, witches disguise as fairies; while somewhere else, fairies disguise as witches, use the language of witches, and have the attitude and the heart of witches. Man cannot distinguish witches from fairies. The Wicked and the Good are going together, sharing the same ambition. The earth keeps on revolving, and man feels dizzy and tired. He drops everything and resigns himself to his lot. The claws of ideology have attempted to caress James. They clung to his feeling of despair and dragged him out of the dark quagmire. They provided him with physical comforts and appeased his soul. They treated him with sincerity, clearing his doubts by showing him living scenes, real images, sound, and words. At last, they threatened him. Only until then did James ask himself who Chi Mai was, and what she was there for…

James is lying on his bed, looking at the sad, gloomy bulb, and thinks about his lot, that of a prisoner who has been considered unaccounted for, who has been driven out of life. “For our part, we can do away with you whenever we feel like it.” Chi Mai has opened a window to show him the sad twilight of his life. ” You may choose the day of your return to your country,” she told him. Can he really choose a day for his release? ” You need to live, not because you are more valuable than a skeleton, but because we want to show the world that the Vietnamese government respects human beings. While your government has forgotten you, we have done everything possible to accommodate you with the American way of life. We Vietnamese consider national honor something very sacred. The countries which condemn us of human rights violations will have to shut up and be ashamed of themselves when they see how you have been treated.”

James is bewildered. He is struggling like a fish being caught in a net. He does not know that he is a poor fish caught in the net of ideology. James is not considered a POW. Neither is he treated as a political prisoner, or a prisoner of conscience. James Fisher has been marked as an enemy of ideology. For James, he only thinks of himself as a soldier who was unfortunate to be captured, who has survived like a vegetable because his captors do not honor the conventions for prisoners. James believes firmly that everyone can forget him, except his God, his nation, and his family. James has been able to endure sufferings, gain victory over his weakness, and withstand his captors’ plan to condition him. He has found freedom and peace within himself. James wonders why he has forgotten his victory and lost that precious inner peace. Since then, he has been feeling confused, shaken, and scared. James doesn’t know that the techniques that his captors have used on prisoners all aim at leading them to a state of confusion, bewilderment, and fear. Then these prisoners will be corrupt and volunteer to become like the horses with their eyes partly blinded, dashing straightforward under the rod of the stableman. They have been turned into the tools of ideology, completely stripped of human dignity, and bereft of their mission as human beings.

James is scared. He is afraid of becoming corrupt. He is afraid of sinning against his God, his nation, and his family. One concrete fear he has now is Chi Mai. He has been feeling uncertain, floating, and bewildered since he met her. Chi Mai is the unfortunate factor in his happiness. She deliberately opens the wide door, and he unknowingly enters. “… for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction.” James no longer wants to meet Chi Mai again. He doesn’t want to continue living in this comfortable new prison room. Conveniences and special treatment have dulled his mind. More than ever, he must stay alert. He must continue his fight against his own weakness. James suddenly remembers “The Sermon on the Mount” in the Gospel of Matthew. He jumps from his bed, kneels down on the floor, and with his hands clasped over his chest, James looks up at the gloomy bulb. He visualizes it as the mountain from where his Lord delivered that sermon. James, the sinner, is listening.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you, when man shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: For great is your reward in heaven…” James’ eyes brighten. He suddenly feels his soul and body strengthened in a mysterious way. James no longer fears anyone. Nor is he afraid of anything. The only thing he is afraid of is God’s judgment some day on him “Therefore, take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink ? or With what shall we be clothed ? For your Heavenly Father knows that you have need of all those things. Therefore, take no thought of tomorrow: for the tomorrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

James feels like Jesus is speaking directly to him. And the demon that possesses him has been driven out.

—> 10

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