Friday, October 19, 2007

Tears of Autumn, Again

In another scene part-way through Charles McCarry's The Tears of Autumn, CIA agent Paul Christopher is having lunch in Saigon with Nicole, a Vietnamese woman of about 24. She's a relative of the South Vietnamese president, who's been recently assassinated, followed by President Kennedy 21 days later. Christopher accuses Nicole's family of taking pride in the murders it's ordered lately. He continues with an example:
"There's a tribe in Ghana that believes no one dies a natural death -- when a man dies, they use magic to find who in the tribe has killed him, and by what spell. Then the dead man's son is given his father's sandals. When he grows big enough to wear them, he kills his father's murderer. Eventually, of course, he too is killed in revenge. It goes on, generation after generation."

"You think the Vietnamese question is as simple as that?" [asks Nicole]

"I think the human question is as simple as that, Nicole. Intellectual systems are developed to justify the exchange of death; the system of the Ghanaian tribe is as sensible as Christianity or your own family's sense of aristocracy, or what the Americans call the dignity of the individual. In Germany, two thousand years of Christian teaching produced the SS. In Vietnam, two thousand years of colonialism produced this slaughter of peasants Ho Chi Minh calls a revolution and Diem never put a name to. It required only a hundred years of technology to produce the Hiroshima bomb. All achieved the same results -- Murder without guilt."

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