The video clip I saw of a young Vietnamese-American woman who opened an art gallery in Vietnam led to my humanities moment. She said that her mother disowned her because of her decision to go back to Vietnam. I could relate this to my personal experience. My mother was very upset when any one of her children wanted to go back to visit Vietnam. She told us that she risked her own life for us to escape Vietnam in 1978, and we should not want to go back to visit a country with a horrific and unjust communist dictatorship. She said that we should not support the communists by going back there, even as a tourist. This made me realize that our lives are full of conflicts because we are tempted to believe that our own experiences and points of view are more important than others.

Like Ambassador MacWhite and his Asian friend in The Ugly American, we refuse to listen to each other’s perspective. Just as Vietnam was contested territory, our autonomy is also contested. Rather than being open to different avenues for deeper understanding, we are often close minded. I know that conflicts are inevitable. While I may not have power to control every encounter, I must accept that these challenges strengthen my understanding and empathy.

– Julie Doan (Elementary Teacher, Oregon)