JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 269
The following text was automatically extracted from the image on this page using optical character recognition software:
Nancy K Miller
is determined in her discourse about herself to put suffering behind her.
As one of the American surgeons explains to his famous patient when he
examines her for the benefit of the camera, the pain comes from "nerve
endings trapped into a scar." It's as though despite the fact that Kim "has
adapted to her injury," the experience lives on embedded in her flesh
twenty-five years later. In an article in the New York Times about her
appearance at the wall, Kim describes the nature of the suffering: "When
the weather changes, the pain comes-like I am cut, cut.... I try to keep
down my pain, thinking to control my pain" (Sciolino 20). In this
important sense, we have to rein in our comparison. Kim's aching body
is not like the earth Maya Lin cut into; not a rock that can be polished. On
the other hand, perhaps we can usefully say that the memory of the war
lives on in the nerve endings of the national body; in America to talk of
Vietnam is immediately to conjure pain and suffering. In both cases,
however, the language of human suffering and political history relies on
the metaphors ofwounds and healing, scars and memory that characterize
the discourse of trauma in contemporary American culture. We must
move on it is said over and over again in public spaces; it's a time for
healing. It isn't difficult to see the appeal of the language of injury, which
is also to say oftrauma, indeed the need for the wounds ofthe body to heal.
The question arises, however, as to the spread of the rhetoric through
those metaphors to political crises-like the war in Vietnam or Sept. 11-
which require political analysis rather than the readymade comfort of
cliche. When "applied to the nation, "the healing process," Marita
Sturken observes, "connotes not remembrance but forgetting, an erasure
of problematic events in order to smooth the transition of difficult
narratives into the present" (74).3 Kim recognizes the horrors ofthe war:
"Behind that picture of me, thousands and thousands of people, they
suffered more than me. They died. They lost part of their bodies. Their
whole lives were destroyed, and nobody took that picture." But despite
the fact that she calls the war "a stupid war," the rhetoric of future peace
leads her to turn away from her own pain and toward forgiveness: "We
cannot change history," Kim Phuc says to the audience gathered at the
wall, imagining what she would tell the pilot who dropped the napalm
bombs, if she were to meet him face to face, "but we should try and do
good things for the present and for the future to promote peace"
I've been suggesting that this is an American story. I should add here
that crucial to that nationalization of suffering are its Christian underpin-
nings. Kim's conversion (from CaoDai) to Christianity-her sense that
Here’s what’s next.
This issue can be searched. Note: Results may vary based on the legibility of text within the document.
Tools / Downloads
Get a copy of this page or view the extracted text.
Citing and Sharing
Basic information for referencing this web page. We also provide extended guidance on usage rights, references, copying or embedding.
Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition (U.S.). JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004, periodical, 2004; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28644/m1/15/: accessed November 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .