Americans don’t really know anything about other countries. We’re very, very ignorant. We were totally ignorant about Vietnam. We had actually fired most of the experts at the State Department who knew something about that region as part of the McCarthy purges in the ’40s and early ’50s. We know nothing about the countries we invade.
What do we know about the Vietnamese people? Larry Heinemann, who wrote Paco’s Story, which won the National Book Award, a Vietnam veteran, tells a great story that I love. And he says that he was interviewing somebody from the—a professor at the University of Hanoi. And he says that he asked him, what did you do during the war? And he said, first I went to Beijing and I learned English. Then I went to the University of Moscow and I read American literature. Then I went back to Hanoi, and they sent me out to the Ho Chi Minh trail, where I educated the troops there on the Ho Chi Minh trail about American literature. And they were reading Hemingway, Whitman, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Jack London. You know, they carried these books in their backpack. They were studying American literature, the Vietnamese troops. And then he turns to Larry Heinemann and he says, and what Vietnamese author did you American troops read? And Heinemann says, I laughed so hard that the beer started to squirt out my nose.
You know, Americans are ignorant. You know. And that to me captures it. That story captures a lot. And so we go into these situations blind. We think that somehow maybe we can impose order. And at times we do. But we impose order at the—you know, what we sacrifice there is social justice in those countries.
A dramatic Shakespearean response to every situation
When something bad happens:
True is it that we have seen better days.
When something REALLY bad happens:
O woe! O woeful, woeful, woeful day! Most lamentable day. Most woeful day That ever, ever I did yet behold! O day, O day, O day! O hateful day! Never was seen so black a day as this.O woeful day! O woeful day!
When people say that something is wrong because the Bible says so:
The Devil can cite scripture for his purpose.
When my girlfriend abandons me for food:
FRAILTY, THY NAME IS WOMAN!
When someone doesn't thank me for holding the door open for them:
BLOW, BLOW, BLOW, THOU WINTER WIND! THOU ART NOT SO UNKIND AS MAN'S INGRATITUDE!
When I burn something while cooking:
MY CAKE IS DOUGH!
When human stupidity frustrates me:
LORD, WHAT FOOLS THESE MORTALS BE!
When someone says I'm going to hell for my sins:
NYMPH, IN THY ORISONS BE ALL MY SINS REMEMBER'D.
When I'm broke:
My pride fell with my fortunes
When someone turns the light on after a period of darkness and blinding light ensues:
OH, SHE DOTH TEACH THE TORCHES TO BURN BRIGHT!
When someone disagrees with me:
THERE ARE MORE THINGS IN HEAVEN AND EARTH, HORATIO, THAN ARE DREAMT OF IN YOUR PHILOSOPHY.
When I argue with my girlfriend:
The course of true love never did run smooth.
When I'm embarrassed:
MUST I HOLD A CANDLE TO MY SHAMES?!
Someone says "Good Night":
Good Night, Good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.