More on Rudy Thomas and the Power of Oral History

At a panel presentation held at the Brooklyn Historical Society in 2008 called The Impact of Listening and Being Heard, Rudy Thomas said the following:

My grandmother raised me from 2 months old. She brought me here at age 16, I never lived with my mother, and I visited, but never stayed with her.

I had the opportunity to see [her] after 30 years and I wanted to talk to her about my life, One of the first things she said to me was, “Oh you’re a killer, I hear you killed people, you did this and you did that.” And I shut down instantly. As of a matter of fact I didn’t speak to her after that.

And coming from my mother telling me I was a killer and all this stuff, I said, ‘Damn, if she felt that way I can’t imagine what the other people who didn’t even know me would feel.’

Then I had the opportunity when I spoke with Phil to talk about my experience, and I said you know what, a lot of people have the wrong impression about Viet Nam veterans, maybe if I say something about what I did and how I felt in my experiences it will shed a little light, a different light and help.*

Oral history does hold power. And Rudy Thomas will be missed for his honesty and his courage to speak.

*Lightly edited by me, PFN

 

Rudy Thomas, photo by pfn April 2011

Rudy Thomas, photo by pfn April 2011

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