Readers Respond to the November 2023 Issue

Your feedback on Vietnam veterans, the value of stagecraft and one very adventurous anthropologist

A Return to Vietnam

The aptly named “Healing in Hanoi” (November 2023) is a well-balanced examination of the thoughts and feelings people on both sides have about the Vietnam War. I have traveled many times to Vietnam as a media adviser to the national television network VTV. I will admit that I was nervous on my first visit because I was not sure what I would find. What I found was a people who were friendly and welcoming. I am proud to say that I now have several hundred Vietnamese friends. —Michael Castengera | Athens, Georgia

In 1966 I enlisted in the U.S. military to help our country achieve its goals against North Vietnam. Looking back, I made a terrible mistake. North and South Vietnam did not deserve the death and destruction that we created. I lost several friends from high school and college, and I ask myself, “Why?” Those friends are a part of the 57,000 who gave their lives for a cause that was not needed. If I had to do it over again, I would do everything in my power to avoid serving, even if it meant leaving the country. Reading “Healing in Hanoi” was a moving, emotional experience for me. I was living vicariously in my fellow servicemen’s capture, torture and survival. At the same time, I do not blame the Hanoi citizens for reacting the way they did against the prisoners. I asked myself how I would react if the roles were reversed with a bombing of my neighborhood. I am impressed with the current welcoming attitude of the Vietnamese people and the acceptance of American military visitors. It should show the rest of the world, especially the Middle East, that there is still hope for peace. —Jack Afflebach | Lakewood Ranch, Florida

Setting the Standard

Zelia Nuttall (“Trailblazer,” November 2023) traveled a path few women dared to at the time. She learned so much by observing what was around her and advanced far above even her own expectations. —Willis Van Norman | St. Charles, Minnesota

Even though I have studied anthropology, I had never heard of Zelia Nuttall. I am fascinated to read about the person who decoded the Aztec calendar. I am impressed with her other accomplishments and am pleased to see her get this overdue recognition as a woman of science. —Henry Simpson | Layton, Utah

Many people cannot comprehend how difficult mentally, physically and emotionally Nuttall’s life choices were in that time period. —Patricia Washington Kline | Milford, Virginia

An Ideal Production

Thanks for shining the spotlight on stage and screen audiences and makers at such a time of tumult (“It Can’t Happen Here,” November 2023). I wonder if the theater can ever regain the ground lost to online, privatized dramatic interpretations of social experience. —G P Witteveen | Grand Rapids, Michigan

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This article is a selection from the December 2023 issue of Smithsonian magazine

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