Sunday, July 04, 2010

Anti-American Art: Napalm Psychedelia

Here's a Cuban stamp from 1972, part of a series issued to mark the "Third Symposium Against Yankee Genocide in Vietnam and its Extension into Laos and Cambodia." Its hip, Peter-Max-like kaleidoscopic eye-candy illustration becomes completely less sweet when you see that it's a burned out Vietnamese house surrounded by cancerous bomb craters and defoliated trees: it's brilliantly subversive Cuban graphic design.

Cuba rightly saw a natural affinity with Vietnam's struggle to defend itself against the U.S. attack. From Che Guevara's famous speech: "How close we could look into a bright future should two, three or many Vietnams flourish throughout the world with their share of deaths and their immense tragedies, their everyday heroism and their repeated blows against imperialism, impelled to disperse its forces under the sudden attack and the increasing hatred of all peoples of the world! And if we were all capable of uniting to make our blows stronger and infallible and so increase the effectiveness of all kinds of support given to the struggling people — how great and close would that future be!"

The U.S. sprayed millions and millions of gallons of defoliants like Agent Orange over Vietnam during the war to destroy the natural landscape and deprive the Vietnamese of "food and cover." The result was hundreds of thousands of deaths and ongoing health problems including serious birth defects for the Vietnamese themselves and even health problems among the American GIs exposed to these chemical defoliants. Generations of innocents paid a dear price for the American determination to "win" at any cost. Fortunately, the U.S. was defeated in Vietnam.

Che concluded: "Our every action is a battle cry against imperialism, and a battle hymn for the people's unity against the great enemy of mankind: the United States of America. Wherever death may surprise us, let it be welcome, provided that this, our battle cry, may have reached some receptive ear and another hand may be extended to wield our weapons and other men be ready to intone the funeral dirge with the staccato singing of the machine-guns and new battle cries of war and victory."

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