Email conversation with Wendy Kuhn

What have you been doing since graduation?

I graduated from Lehigh in 2000 with a Bachelors Degree in English and Psychology. My main campus involvement at school was through my sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta. If anyone was in my sorority, they probably wouldn't have known me too well because I was a senior at the time and living off-campus on East 5th St. My house did hold a pasta dinner party for the pledges though.

After graduating, I went to Hofstra University on Long Island to work on my Masters Degree in School Counseling. My home town is on the east end of Long Island in the Hamptons and I communted to school from there. Last May, I graduated with my Masters Degree and started looking for a job, which proved to be a bit difficult. I eventually got a job working for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island as a Case Manager. I really enjoy what I am doing, but I hope to eventually work in a school as a Guidance Counselor. As for life outside of work, I spend a lot of free time in Manhattan or (in the summer) at the beach with my friends.

Well, that's about it. It's not too exciting, but it works for me :)

Why did you pick Killing Fields to work on, and how do you feel about the issues now?
This one required some thought. I remember picking that film because you had it on a list of possibilities. I have always liked war movies and The Killing Fields was a movie I had been meaning to see. Plus, I knew very little about Cambodia and I had a friend growing up who lived there as a child, so I wanted to learn more. That was about it.

As for my feelings, I remember that this movie put a really bad taste in my mouth regarding America as a superpower. I didn't like that we went into this little country, shook things up, and then essentially took no responsibility for the chaos we had caused. I mean, I'm sure we gave them some aid, but, as far as I'm concerned, it was too little too late. I hadn't really thought about how it relates to today's issues until I received this email. Now that I think of it, I feel very similarly about the impending war with Iraq. I think there are going to be consequences that we could never predict and we won't have the resources to deal with them effectively. If we win, how are we going to help that country get on its feet, and why is that our responsibility? Still, I'm not the one who has to make these difficult decisions and, while I don't like it, I guess I consider war to be a necessary evil. I just wish more forward thinking was involved.

Phew. Way to make me feel like I am still in school Prof Gallagher!

Would you comment on the work that the "second generation" group added to yours this semester?
I read everyone's comments and I thought they were all pretty interesting.  It's a new experience for me to have other students comment on and critique my work.  Still, I find it so interesting to hear everyone else's take on The Killing Fields and on my essays.  It kind of puts your writing in a whole new light.  Anyway, I really liked what everyone had to say, so if you were hoping for a feisty defense, sorry!

I thought Steph McElroy had a good comment about the "running" part of my scene essay.  I hadn't thought about her point before, but I now agree that running out of guilt and embarrassment does boil down to fear - a fear of the consequences of your actions.  I especially liked your take on the theft example and how you mentioned one's "superego" - Psyc major? :)

I also thought that Lindsey made a good comment about Schanberg and Rockoff contrasting from the other Americans in regard to the style of their clothes.  I remember focusing on the light colors they were wearing, but their scruffy look also made them more positive people to me.  John's comment about the disintegration of family being another negative effect of America's involvement in Cambodia was another point I hadn't noticed.  Not only in Pran leaving his family, but in the way children were separated from their families in the camps and taught to break from the institution of the family by the Khmer Rouge.  While this wasn't directly America's fault, we certainly had an indirect role there as well.

In regard to Catherine's comment, I agree that American soldiers were also a part of the "honorable Americans" abroad.  The word "few" may have been inappropriate, but I meant it specifically for that scence.  In that essay, I was essentially trying to portray the men in the fancy suits and fancy cars that represented our American government as the true dishonorable Americans in that scene.  If you recall, I also felt Bob, who was a government worker there, was a sympathetic character who truly felt sorry for what he and his country had gotten themselves into.

The funny thing is that now I feel very differently about a lot of the things I wrote in the scene analysis and issue essay.  In the scene analysis, I presented things as very black and white (good and evil) because that is what I saw in the scene and what I felt at the time about our involvement in Cambodia.  I still feel that we should have thought more about the potential repercussions of our actions at the time, so I guess my opinion hasn't changed much there.

I guess I feel most differently about how much our government should let us know.  When I wrote the issue essay, my opinion was that the cover-up was the real problem in Cambodia (which I still believe), but my attitude to the government was "tell us more, we can take it and deserve to know."  Someone made a comment that they feel less secure with that attitude and I now agree.  Since 9/11, my whole worldview (and everyone else's, I'm sure) has shifted.  I wrote that essay in Fall of 1999 and in a few short years, my words and opinions feel distant to me.  Now, I want to know less.  Telling me that the terror alert is now "orange" doesn't make me feel secure and I don't feel any better being in the know.  I kind of want to put blind faith in the government and believe that they are aware of all potential threats and protecting me.  That's a pretty scary outcome, but it helps me to cope and live with as little fear as possible.  Times are pretty different.

Well, that's all I have to say.  It was really nice to be a part of this.  I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone's [original] work!