The Killing Fields of Cambodia - Are they Worth Remembering?

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The Killing Fields of Cambodia - Are they Worth Remembering?

“I know of no parallel to the conditions which have been experienced in Cambodia over the past decade to any other experience I have had. In the case of post-war Europe, there is the vast tragedy of the concentration camps . . . but thank God, the world had an immediate reaction and to this moment, there has been a sensitivity to events which happened forty years ago. But, in the case of Cambodia, for some extraordinary reason, I am left with the strong impression that the world wants to forget the tragedy in Cambodia – they want to forget it!”
SIR ROBERT JACKSON, deputy Secretary-General, United Nations
January 1983 (qtd. in Schanberg 1984)

“The apparent ease
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It can bind people, people who may have otherwise never connected, in firm and enduring ways. People who, for example, all attended the same rock concert, have a binding, collective memory of that concert. They all remember what the performer wore, which opening band played, and, of course, the songs played in the encore performance. Mothers, fathers, children, students, businessmen, guards, deadheads, drug dealers, escaped convicts, basically everyone who attended this concert, all share a memory. In other words, fundamentally different people can be joined and united under one collective memory. As I said, collective memory can be a powerful tool.

[2] History, and, in particular, American history, can function as a collective memory. Through history textbooks and similar teachings, Americans can share a “memory” of our nation’s history. This memory can serve one important purpose – it can instill pride and nationalism into the people of this country. Unfortunately, things may be “omitted” from the record of American history if they are considered to thwart this nationalistic objective. In this analysis of The Killing Fields, I plan to argue that the “secret history” of Cambodia is stricken from the American record for precisely the reason mentioned above – its negative portrayal of America is believed to interfere with a “needed” nationalism. I plan to show that the controlling of this history is

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