Actor Bill Murray’s clumsy attempt to glorify the Parkland gun control activists by comparing them to Vietnam protesters was shockingly ignorant and insensitive for an elderly man who was actually alive during the Vietnam War aftermath and the Cambodian genocide. The truth of that history provides a powerful argument against gun control fantasies.
In remarks to NBC News on Thursday, Bill Murray wrote:
You’ve got to surround a deeply political issue like gun control or a war, to come at it from every single direction. You can’t just focus on one thing, or aim for just the one goal.
Ending the Vietnam war was not a simple thing, either: You had to make sure that all our people were safe; we had to make sure that they were as safe as you could be. And, you might remember, people thought it was going to be the end of the world if we lost Vietnam. But that war had to stop.
And now, well, Vietnam is one of the most wonderful places to go in the world. People love going there; they love the people. And we all survived: they survived, we survived. People will survive. If you can just stop shooting at them, they really do pretty well.
Vietnam did not become a land of sweetness and light because crusading hippies convinced America to end the war. Instead, America’s departure unleashed one of the most horrifying tides of murderous cruelty ever witnessed by the human race.
Bill Murray is not an oblivious twentysomething whose left-wing teachers just kind of forgot to mention the killing fields of Cambodia when they taught him about the Seventies, so he should not need anyone to remind him of what actually happened, but here goes.
South Vietnam was swiftly overrun by the savage North Vietnamese after the American withdrawal in 1975. The good guys with guns left, so the bad guys with guns rolled in and started murdering people on an industrial scale.
Pound for pound, Vietnamese Communism was one of the most bloodthirsty ideologies the world has ever known. They managed to kill ten percent of the national population by the time they were done with their wars and purges. The carnage was staggering. Up to 2.5 million South Vietnamese were marched off to “re-education camps,” where at least 165,000 of them died of starvation, disease, exhaustion from hard labor, summary execution, and exploding land mines.
Another million South Vietnamese were thrown out of their homes to make way for the conquering Communists and forcibly relocated to areas so uninhabitable that a journalist described them as “a prefabricated hell and a place one comes to only if the alternative to it would be death.” Up to 155,000 of them died out there.
Another two million gun-free Vietnamese decided to avoid the prefabricated hell their heavily armed conquerors planned for them, so they threw themselves and their families into just about anything that could float and set sail for Europe, America, and Australia. They were at sea for six months in some cases, facing everything from pirates and storms to malnutrition and disease.
Of the two million Vietnamese Boat People who fled the Communist horror, an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 died at sea or in refugee camps.
The Vietnamese Communists had a lively spinoff franchise in Cambodia known as the Khmer Rouge, managed by a fellow called Pol Pot, a Hall of Fame monster in the annals of genocide. Two years after America pulled out of Vietnam, the Khmer Rouge overthrew the U.S.-backed government of Cambodia.
A few days later, the gun-toting Communists marched the politically undesirable members of their gun-free captive populace into concentration camps even more brutal than those of Vietnam, or simply murdered them on the spot and shoveled them into mass graves.
There are individual fields in Cambodia where over 10,000 people were murdered. There is a concentration camp that took in 14,000 inmates, but only seven of them survived. The overall death toll from the four-year Cambodian genocide has been estimated at 2 million against a total national population of just 7 million.
Here is a little irony for Bill Murray to savor: the Khmer Rouge leaders were highly educated student activists who were absolutely convinced they knew what was best for society. They were positively brimming with youthful idealism! They told their critics: “To keep you is no benefit, to destroy you is no loss.”
So no, Mr. Murray, we didn’t all survive America’s withdrawal from Vietnam. Peace and love did not blossom across the region as a result. And while Vietnam is doubtless much improved today over the first decades after the Vietnam War, and is becoming a significant U.S. strategic ally against China’s regional ambitions, it remains a Communist tyranny with precious little political freedom or respect for basic human rights.
Freedom of speech, opinion, assembly, and religion are highly restricted in modern Vietnam. Dissidents are harassed by the police, detained, and assaulted. “Elections” are even more of a joke than the one Russia just held. Human-rights activists are detained to keep them from meeting with foreign leaders. Surveillance is pervasive. Members of disfavored religious groups have been forced to renounce their faith in public. Legal processes are dubious at best. Modest improvements are noted from time to time, but Vietnam has a long way to go before it fits any rational definition of a liberal democracy.
One of the biggest complaints lodged by Vietnamese human rights activists is that people like Bill Murray keep pretending the place is a reformist paradise where the commie stuff happened a million years ago. U.S. administrations under both Republican and Democratic presidents have muted their criticism of the appalling police state in Hanoi as they seek improved diplomatic and economic ties. Activists have expressed disappointment in the apathetic response from the United Nations as well.
“The thing that’s so powerful about students is that, when you haven’t had your idealism broken yet, you’re able to speak from a place that has no confusion, where there is a clear set of values,” Bill Murray said on Thursday.
The thing that is so dangerous about the Left’s cynical manipulation of youthful idealism is that complex truth is replaced with simplistic fairy tales, symbolic gestures, and emotional appeals. If your “clear set of values” is based on deceptively edited history, then it is time to get a new set of values.
Bill Murray could start by apologizing to all the families he wronged by airbrushing the horrors perpetrated against them, brushing up on the real history of Vietnam from 1975 to today, and understanding how that history makes the exact opposite point about gun control than the one he intended.