Notes From Mike Hastie

This is a picture of a little girl that I took at a orphanage just
outside of Hanoi. She caught my eye, because she had a face and a soul
that seemed to have wisdom. She would look into my eyes, and my camera
lens as if to say, I have a story that needs to be told. When I was at
the orphanage, I was at times overwhelmed at the health problems so many
children had. I saw great suffering among so may children just starting
out in life. As I have done so many times before, you realize the
urgency of documenting what you see. It becomes a mission to bear
witness, and that focus became the focus of my camera. Sometimes you
have to block out the intensity, only to feel the pain later. This
little girl was probably a victim of generational Agent Orange exposure.
Her body was covered with rashes, and scabs, especially on both legs,
that were wrapped with cling bandages. I could see the blood that had
seeped through both dressings. No doubt, this child has had to overcome
a lot of pain, and no doubt there is still much pain and suffering ahead
in her young life. She will constantly have to deal with the potential
of infection. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for her to sleep. So,
with all of this said, this is the legacy of Agent Orange, and a world
class war crime that keeps on giving unfathomable pain and suffering. A
big part of me just wants to keep hating my government, and we all know
the avalanche that leads to. You hate and you hate and you hate. I live
in a country that doesn’t care about this child. But, at the same time,
I know if some Americans knew the truth, they would do something. I
think that is what I hang on to. I have sent out many pictures in the
past 24 hours. I took them, but they do not belong to me, they belong to
everyone who has looked at them. I like to think the pictures belong to
this child, one amongst millions of other Vietnamese who have the same
story. So, with that said, feel free to use these images as you see fit.
It is community property now, and that was the way I felt when I was
activating the shutter button on my camera. War is a disease, and war
crimes are brought to life when they are seen through the lens of a
camera. You tell the truth, because you can’t live with yourself if you
don’t. That is called a moral conscience, and why so many people don’t
see this, is the most complex question in our lives.
Mike Hastie
Army Medic Vietnam
May 13, 2016DSC_1223

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