MyAmericanFuture

MyAmericanFuture
MyAmericanFuture

Saturday, May 26, 2018

May 26-27, 2018: PBS Documentary on the Chinese Exclusion Act


This coming Tuesday, May 29th, at 8pm PBS’s American Experience series will air The Chinese Exclusion Act, a new documentary from award-winning filmmakers Ric Burns and Li-Shin Yu. I had the chance to see an advance screener of the film, and can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a vital work that has so much to tell and teach us about both its specific histories and overarching and ongoing national issues and narratives.
I highlighted some of those histories and issues for my most recent Saturday Evening Post piece. They’re likely familiar to readers of this blog, but they, like the film, demand our further attention and engagement.
Hope you get a chance to watch, and please share your thoughts here if you do!
Next series starts Monday,
Ben
PS. What do you think?

Friday, May 25, 2018

May 25, 2018: Nursing Histories: Medal of Honor Medics



[On May 21st, 1881, Clara Barton founded the American National Red Cross. So this week I’ll AmericanStudy a handful of histories and contexts related to nursing and medical aid, starting with my colleague and friend Irene’s Guest Post on Barton herself! Add your responses and thoughts for a healthy crowd-sourced weekend post, please!]
Thanks to this website’s exhaustive list, here are three of the fifteen medics who received the Medal of Honor for their service during the Vietnam War.
1)      Donald W. Evans Jr.: One of the eight medics who received the Medal of Honor posthumously, the 24 year-old Californian Evans did so for going far above and beyond to provide medical attention to the soldiers of a different platoon from his own (which was not yet part of the battle). Wounded multiple times, he continued to move soldiers out of harm’s way and to safer positions; while treating one more such soldier he was killed by enemy fire. Just as I wrote about WW1 nurses in yesterday’s post, there’s no way to see what Evans did as anything other than military service, and indeed the most ideal version of that service, one entirely dedicated to his comrades (even those outside of the platoon for which he was responsible).
2)      Alfred Rascon: 21 year-old Mexican American immigrant Rascon’s story of courage and resilience under fire (and while being wounded so many times that his survival in and of itself is a miracle) is so incredible that I can’t possibly sum it up in a few sentences, and would ask you to check out the whole thing at that hyperlink. At an age when most of us are barely formed as adults, Rascon performed one of the most impressive acts of selfless heroism about which I’ve ever read, truly embodying the spirit and ethos of combat medics.
3)      Clarence Eugene Sasser: An African American from Houston, Sasser was only 20 years old when he performed similar acts of extreme heroism to Rascon’s, also while taking multiple wounds that left him “in agonizing pain and faint from loss of blood.” Per that hyperlinked account, after reaching that point he attended the wounds of a large group of soldiers for another five hours until they could be evacuated to safety. More than anything, I believe these medics’ stories, like those of all the nurses and aid workers I’ve highlighted this week, reflect the strength of the human spirit and how it can often be witnessed most fully in service to others.
Crowd-sourced post this weekend,
Ben
PS. So one more time: what do you think? Other nursing or medical histories you’d highlight?

Thursday, May 24, 2018

May 24, 2018: Nursing Histories: WWI Nurses



[On May 21st, 1881, Clara Barton founded the American National Red Cross. So this week I’ll AmericanStudy a handful of histories and contexts related to nursing and medical aid, starting with my colleague and friend Irene’s Guest Post on Barton herself! Add your responses and thoughts for a healthy crowd-sourced weekend post, please!]
On pushing beyond our understandable but simplistic images of wartime service.
First, I’d ask you to check out this wonderful PBS American Experience article by Professor Marian Moser Jones on the more than 22,000 professionally trained female nurses who served with the US Army during World War I (more than 10,000 of them near the Western Front and perilously close to combat). Then c’mon back here and we’ll talk some more!
Welcome back! Clearly those amazing stories (and the tens of thousands more not featured in that article) are well worth remembering and retelling for their own sake, but I would also highlight an important broader effect of doing so. When we think about military service in a conflict like the Great War—and I’m as guilty of this as anyone, to be clear—I believe we almost always think about members of the armed forces, those directly involved in combat operations. Certainly I don’t want to downplay what those men (and it was all men in the US armed forces in the Great War) experienced; but as Jones’s article details clearly, nurses at the Western Front went through many of the same experiences as men in the armed forces, including incoming bombs, shrapnel damage and other serious wounds, infections and contagious disease, and more. To put it simply, war’s threats and effects do not discriminate, nor they are aware of the specific role (much less the gender) of those affected.
Thinking about these WW1 nurses as fully part of wartime service isn’t just (or even primarily) about gender equality or women’s rights. Instead, doing so helps us more accurately assess and engage with particular historical and social questions: what these women faced and experienced; what those experiences meant and contributed to the war effort; what effects they had on their careers, lives, and identities moving forward. Of course nursing isn’t the same as fighting in combat, but the same could be said of many of the roles undertaken by particular soldiers: radio operators, for example. The truth is that military service entails many different elements, with direct participation in combat operations one central thread but far from the only one. And it seems clear to me from the stories and histories detailed in Jones’s article that these WW1 nurses took part in military service in any and every way we could understand that concept, and deserve to be remembered as part of that broader American community and history.
Last nursing post tomorrow,
Ben
PS. What do you think? Other nursing or medical histories you’d highlight?