What is the scariest movie you have ever seen?
Did it have a character like Freddy Kruger who came unexpectedly to deliver torment in the night? Surprise butchery sneak attack from a shark?
How about When a Stranger Calls? The call is coming from inside the house! Evil is lurking in your air space and you have been tricked into miscalculating its proximity!
Maybe it was one of those movies that played on the hideousness of the natural world turning against you like enlarged worms, insects or shrews? Or a spin on that, the creatures stay the same size but just come racing in immeasurable unnatural quantities from orifices of the earth.
Perhaps a supernatural foe terrifies you like the Exorcist where a devilish entity comes and goes from thin air.. or out of mirrors and other spaces that clearly do not pass the bigger-than-a-breadbox test yet a disproportionate sized golem springs from it and gets you?
We can't forget those of you that may still get chills at the sound of a banjo. Being dehumanized, trapped and forced to heinously sample alternate sexuality send you under your covers? I bet that not one western probably makes the list. Yes, they are filled with killing, but there are rules. A quick shot delivers a good death. Dignity remains in tact. No, scary movies do not play by the rules. They always involve stomping over the boundaries of human decency and not gracing death until both victim and spectator have had their adrenal glands expended from mental torment. My first thought at the Cu Chi Tunnels was that this is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the scary movie experienced in 4D by thousands of servicemen.
The Cu Chi Tunnels were an underground city and stronghold of the Viet Cong in northern Saigon. Similar networks existed all over the warring zones but these were tactically key because of their close range to the South Vietnamese capital- the bulls eye to win the war. Booby traps, false paths and early warning systems were built in to the underground networks to ward off infiltrators on the offense. Small runs opened to large rooms used as kitchens, others led right to the river for washing and accessing water. The air holes were hidden in termite mounds. The inhabitants didn't just use their burrowing mojo for defensive survival. They also used it to set traps- Punji stake traps. Death on a stick. These traps are proudly on display and were set in ingenious locations such as rice paddies, river crossings and grassy fields. I won't detail all the different configurations of spikes and spring techniques- just know they are plenty and some designed to neuter. Death was not their claim to fame; maiming and infection were. The spikes were usually coated in feces.
Bouncing Betties are also on display at Cu Chi. These bombs were originally the brainchild of the Germans for WWII and are classically depicted in Vietnam movies- the most feared of all. They detonate once you take your foot off of them. There is an initial small explosion that sends the unit to around 4 feet then a secondary large explosion that maximizes killing radius because of its off-the-ground position. Bouncing Betties leave your upper body intact and capable of seeing your lower body missing and shredded. These are the bombs that delivered the vets you see that end at their midsection into those wheelchairs.
Are you scared?
My second thought at the Cu Chi Tunnels did not exactly follow my first…it sort of intertwined with it, like bi-colored veins twisting in granite. The thought was this- what an amazing ability to adapt and endure the Vietnamese have. They win the Charles Darwin award. They are the cockroaches of the homosapien world. The Brits need to hand over any rights to Keep Calm and Carry On and add a head facing down, eyes eclipsed by a conical hat. The Vietnamese are down to earth, practical, thrifty. They recycled every scrap the Americans left behind. Rubber from vehicles was made into sandals. Metal scraps reworked into crude bombs. Those of you that wash out plastic bags and forever look for places to hang them open to dry, or iron aluminum foil with your hand for reuse. You are likely descendants of Vietnam.
All the offensive plays made against their tunnel homes were met with crafty adaptation. Water pouring, grenades, poison gas- all experiential learning for them resulting in re-engineering the human marble runs to be impervious to such infiltrations. Not just spelunkers, they are MacGyvers. A community of army ants seamlessly working together with very rare bouts of ego and impulse distracting them from task. These were Viet Cong, but woven through them and in larger numbers also civilians fighting for and looking for survival.
Their faces seem to lack emotion by many cultural standards and that coupled with the way they expressionlessly get on with things may make them it a challenge for westerners to empathize. Anyone who has reached middle age and had their face fall or juiced with botox gets that facial expression does not necessarily reveal emotion. Sigh. But make no mistake, the people of Cu Chi and their mole people cohorts had SUCKY lives. There were poison centipedes and rats as well as infestation by malaria and worms. Their air holes and ways out were constantly under threat by the enemy. Bombs and poison spray from one source or another rained on them incessantly FOR 20 YEARS.
They were not lacking emotion. They are people.
I am now going to get provocative. Their use of under ground for defense and offense, their mountainous jungle Ho Chi Minh Trail logistical system leads me to think that the greatest ally of Communist Vietnamese during the Vietnam/American War was Mother Earth. It makes total sense for such an agrarian society to reach out to this old friend. They enlisted her, and she held them safe.
A lot to think about at the Cu Chi Tunnels 11°N, 106°″E.