Amy Burchard

[1]  It is interesting to think about Pran’s words, “Here, only the silent survive,” in another context.  How does this relate to Wendy’s point about secrecy and cover-ups?  Maybe in some ways, this secrecy, or silence, is a means for survival.  We know that government agencies exist that are designed to deal with top secret information, and we accept that that is necessary; all Americans do not need this information and should not have access to it.  If this information was common knowledge, our survival as a prosperous nation would be negatively impacted, since we would become vulnerable.

[2]  So let’s apply this to the government’s sharing of “bad” or “secret” history.  Suppose they do.  They tell everyone all the mistakes they have made and continue to make.  I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel vulnerable.  Who knows, if they shared everything, how much information there could be?  While I can’t condone the actions of the American government in the covering-up of the bombings in Cambodia, I’m sure there are some things we don’t need, or really want, to know.


Stephanie McElroy

[1]  There may never be good connotations with running away from something, but is it really accurate to classify the three reasons as fear, embarrassment, and guilt?  I do not refute the fact that people run out of fear.  It is reasonable that one would run to escape something that he or she is afraid of.   I believe, however, that embarrassment and guilt fall under the category of fear.

[2]  The examples that Wendy provides claiming that people also run out of embarrassment and guilt in actuality stem from the initial reason: fear.  In her example, “I can’t believe I called my Professor a fill-in-blank”—why would someone run away?  Is the level of embarrassment really the issue?  Someone might run because he or she fears the consequences -- for example, getting in trouble with the dean or receiving a poor grade.  Likewise, in the guilt example, why would someone run after stealing something from a store?  If the person felt so guilty about it at that instant, then his or her superego would have overridden the impulse to steal.  Perhaps the person would feel guilty about the crime at a later point, but he or she would run away at that instant because of the fear of getting caught by the store manager.

[3]  In the case of The Killing Fields, the Americans were afraid of the expanding Cambodian communist group, the Khmer Rouge, which was closing in on Phnom Penh.  It is true that the Americans retreated from a situation that they helped to create, and they may have felt guilt and embarrassment later on, but I do not believe it is accurate to pinpoint those feelings as the reasons why the Americans ran away at that instant.

[4]  Wendy argues that certain techniques in the movie “reveal” the embarrassment and guilt of the American people, which expose American faults.   She points out the American flag is clumsily taken down “in defeat and desertion” and the dark clouds roll in—“the wake of America’s dirty involvement.”  I believe that these two “dark moments” can also be interpreted as the evils of communism conquering the American “free” way of life.  In fact, the situation only worsens after the Americans flee from the country and the Khmer Rouge begins its torturous reign.

[5]  I believe that instead of categorizing the primary reasons why people run away, Wendy deduced the reasons why she believed the Americans fled from Cambodia and arranged the argument around that rationale.


John Culhane

[1]  Another indictment of the American value structure in this scene can be found in the separation of Dith Pran from his family.  By the year 1975, when the events of The Killing Fields take place, the idyllic “American Family” of the 50’s was rapidly disintegrating around the fact that both men and women alike were making large sacrifices in the familial spheres of life in order to pursue career and material achievement.  The scene portrays the far-reaching effects of this trend on the Pran family after Dith remains in Cambodia when given the chance to safely evacuate with his wife and children, whether he was influenced to stay or not.

[2]  What Wendy describes as representing the intrusion of American materialism and individualism on the relatively simple and collective culture of Cambodia, as well as the Eastern world in general, in this scene can be further extrapolated to include the breakdown of the traditional or natural family structure.  As Wendy uses this scene to illustrate the film’s stance on America’s dark side (the abandonment of Cambodia, poisoning the environments of other people’s land, etc.), I feel it is important to add to that list the way this scene indicts America as being responsible for family decay both at home and abroad.


Lindsay Totams

    While Wendy mentions a categorical difference between the physical aspects of the Americans and the Cambodians, it is important to look a bit more closely at the different depictions within the group of Americans in this scene.  There is a blatant difference in the way the “good” Americans are portrayed versus the way the “bad” Americans are portrayed, specifically their style of clothing and their hair.  This is seen the most clearly with Al Rockoff and Sydney Schanberg, two “good” Americans.  Rockoff’s outfit in this scene is a cutoff vest and shorts, while his hair is shaggy and long.  He looks as if he put no more than two seconds thought into choosing his attire.  Schanberg’s appearance is not as “thrown together” as Rockoff’s, but he certainly is not dressed to impress.  His outfit is nothing special, and his overgrown facial hair could indicate that he does not place a high value on grooming himself everyday.  Their disheveled looks seem to suggest that their concerns lie elsewhere, most likely with the Cambodians’ crisis.  Clothing and appearance is of the very least importance to them at this moment.  On the other hand, one sees the immaculate dress of the American military. All of the officers are clad in crisp, clean uniforms with neatly groomed hairstyles.  Appearance matters to them, be it their clothing, their facial expressions, or even their military operations. These “bad” Americans are more concerned with putting up a façade, while hiding their cruel intentions inside.


Catherine Breckenridge

    Though I sympathize with Wendy’s thoughtful portrayal of Rockoff and Bob as passionate and gentle American reporters, I disagree that they are the "few honorable Americans amongst a dishonorable majority.”   In 1975 anti-Vietnam/military sentiment was at its peak in the United States.  The American soldiers, Marines in this case, who were sent to Cambodia were there as a result of the draft or their deeply-rooted patriotism.  In many ways these soldiers were living on "honor" alone.  They realized too by this time that although America’s initial reason for entering Cambodia was a sincere one, the damage they had caused was now irreversible.  They entered Cambodia on a mission, and it was their "honor" that kept them alive and sane.  They assisted in the evacuation of native Cambodians to the United States for hopes of a better life.  They attacked what they believed was an "enemy" of these innocent people, believing they were assisting in a larger mission to keep free, democratic societies alive, not to impart "evil" on every person and country to which they came in contact.  I think that "American Pride" is shown through the portrayal of these soldiers who stood by their country when things began to get a little tougher than expected.  It is easy to view the devastation in Cambodia as the result of "evil," power-hungry Americans while looking in from the outside view of a photographer.  If Rockoff or Bob had been in search of true honor, they may have found it in their fellow American soldiers.