I’ve been watching the news from Afghanistan the past few days and digesting my own reaction and the reaction of people around me, veterans and others alike. The mix of reaction is interesting, and illuminates how historical events often reverberate differently based on point of view.
Feelings are running high, and it is impossible to view the heartbreaking scenes of the last 72 hours (and counting) without being moved. It is also interesting how many people look for something familiar to anchor their views and/or provide perspective (like the numerous comparisons with Saigon 1975). Others move immediately to analysis and discussion of implications—not that they don’t care, but this seems to be the best way to channel their feelings.
As for me, I have written and spoken on the fall of major cities before. I detached a bit from the initial burst of emotions and engaged my historian brain for context and perspective—Saigon & Da Nang 1975, Madrid 1939, and Singapore 1942, among others‚—to help frame what it happening and its possible implications.
There is a lesson in historical interpretation here. No matter how recent or far away the event is, there will be multiple valid perspectives and reactions. This is a function of individual standpoint, background, personality, and thought process. We should bear that in mind as we consider this event and other events we interpret throughout history.