Tag Archives: History

Yesterday, I discussed the political situation in Cambodia that allowed for the Khmer Rouge to rise to power. Today, I want to talk about what happened once they were in control of the country. All the same caveats that I mentioned yesterday still hold true. Mainly: I’m not a historian, so while I’ve done my best to be accurate (and cite my sources), I may have made some mistakes. If you find one, please let me know in the comments, and include a source. Also, as you probably know, I’m an American. I’ve tried not to editorialize too much, but everything that I write will have that bias.

Statue at the Royal Palace, Phnom Penh.

 

Lesson 1: The Khmer Rouge (continued)

After years of Civil War and fighting (exacerbated by U.S. involvement), Cambodia was pretty damn unstable. The country had been ravaged – by bombs, by poverty, by hunger and war – under the old regime of the Khmer Republic. So when the Khmer Rouge (the KR) finally took Phnom Penh, on April 17, 1975, people cheered.

This was different. This had to be salvation.

This detail breaks my heart perhaps more than any other – because people were so damn hopeful for what the Khmer Rouge could do, for what they might bring to the country. They were cheering their would-be murderers.

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Lesson 1: The Khmer Rouge.

It seems pointless to tell you about Cambodia without first going into the country’s history, particularly in the last forty years or so. Some will chastise me, and will be quick to say that the country is more than the Khmer Rouge, more than this dark history. That’s true: I can’t and won’t dispute that. But this particular backstory is the reason why the country is what it is today. It is virtually impossible to speak of Cambodia and not touch on the issue. My stories won’t make sense.

Nicci and I realized this. That’s why, on our very first morning in Cambodia, we went to the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, and later to the Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum. They was no way around it, and it framed the way we traveled, and how we saw the country, and I think that was the responsible way to go.

Some of the young victims of the Khmer Rouge.

 

It’s so important, I’ve made the “Khmer Rouge” Cambodia Lesson #1.

Note that I’ve added nothing else. Not “The Khmer Rouge was horrible” or “The Khmer Rouge left a legacy of death and terror” or anything to that effect. This is because of Cambodia Lesson 2.

Lesson 2: Don’t pretend for a second that you understand what the fuck happened here.

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Note: I realize that the title of this entry is grammatically … problematic. But I’m crazy tired and really, really jet-lagged. 

Last week, when working on this post, I wasn’t all that surprised to find that most eponymous airports are named after aviation pioneers and politicians (the vast majority of whom were men). But I soon discovered a handful of airports that were named for a rather unexpected bunch. Celebrities, musicians, and the occasional hero of Sherwood Forest. And they were all just too great to keep to myself.

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The motivation for this post begins nearly a decade ago, which is kind of amazing, if you think about it, because Rand and I were very much a couple, even then.

Back when we were these people.

 

Can you imagine being with someone for more than a whole decade? It’s pure madness, and not at all the point of this post.

Anywho, it was ten years ago or so, and Rand and I were in a teeny tiny one-bedroom in North Seattle trying this newfangled service called Netflix. I was going through a phase where, for reasons that still sort of make sense to me now, I refused to watch any movie that didn’t star Cary Grant.

I’m sure you’ll agree: that was a reasonable and somewhat noble demand on my part.

So Rand went through Netflix’s entire library and queued up practically all of Cary Grant’s canon. It was wonderful, particularly when the 20-something iteration of the man I later married would drop a quote into casual conversation.

“Hasn’t it occurred to you that I’m having a tough time keeping my hands off you?”

Cue lots and lots of swooning. (more…)

Doorway at Robben Island, where numerous political prisoners were held during apartheid.

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After we returned to Cape Town, Rand and I took a township tour. I think, without hyperbole, it may have been one of the most significant experiences of my life. I very much want to tell you about it, but it’s impossible to talk about the townships without first talking about apartheid in South Africa first, and its miserable legacy.

And that is going to take this entire post, at the very least. The recap of the township tour will have to wait until next week.

As with my coverage of Irish history, I’d like to note a couple of things: I know relatively nothing about South Africa’s past. I’ve done a bit of research, and I’ve put it down here as best as I could. I have no doubts that I’ve gotten plenty of stuff wrong, accidentally omitted a great deal, and may have missed the point entirely a few times. This was obviously not my intention. If you find a glaring error in the post, I will kindly ask that you make your corrections in the comments section below, along with a source pointing to the correct information.

With all of those caveats in place, I’d like to tell you about apartheid. At least, as best as I understand it.

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If you are just popping into my blog, welcome! I am currently in the midst of trying to recap Irish history from, oh, about the 1600s until modern day. It is making my head spin (seriously. I feel like the kid from The Exorcist, but with worse hair). I understand if you’d like to come back next week, when I talk Milwaukee beers and the Green Bay Packers. If you are inclined to stay (thanks, by the way) I suggest you read my posts about Irish history and how the country came to be and how the Troubles first began.

Political murals in Belfast.

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Can I tell you something about myself? I need to admit it, because I think it’s significant, especially as it pertains to the topic of Irish history.

When I was a teenager, in the mid to late 90s, I was petrified of the IRA.

Looking back, this fear seems kind of irrational. After all – Ireland was a long way off from Seattle. (Incidentally, I also had a huge fear of cholera. Just in general.)

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Stained glass window at Stormont.

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After my tome about Irish history, I’ve managed to avoid serious discussion or mention of Irish politics for two whole weeks (I consider this an achievement of sorts. Instead, I talked about Halloween costumes and candy). But the hour has arrived. It is time to talk about the Troubles.

Please note that all caveats expressed last time hold true for this post. Parts of it will be biased, and parts of it will be inaccurate. I am not a historian. I didn’t even do that well in history class in school. I’m struggling to understand most of this myself.

And with that disclaimer, here we go, once again …

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Sculpture at Castle Leslie, near the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

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If my recent posts have seemed more pithy than usual, it is because I am skirting around an issue that I’m not sure I have the blogging chops to tackle, and talking about banal things like cryptic showers and trendy restaurants is far easier.

Hell, writing about how I turned my bathroom into a vomitorium (in one easy step!) is easier than tackling this.

But I really can’t keep avoiding it, since I can’t fully tell you about our visit to Ireland without addressing its history.

That’s right: today’s post will be an incredibly long, dull, and somewhat inaccurate history lesson. I’ll be discussing the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and I might touch on the issue of The Troubles, if my brain isn’t too scrambled.

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