Blue Collar and Buddha definitely shocked me because of the vitriol and hatred towards refugees and immigrants, but it was also shocking to me how uneducated people were (and still are) on specific subjects like the Vietnam War, capitalism, globalization, and the economy in general.
Watching the white residents of Rockford complain about the so-called lack of jobs while also complaining about the fact that Laotians were living on welfare and social assistance from the government gave me whiplash since it was all so hypocritical. This happened again when the white residents, especially the Vietnam vets, were complaining about how supposedly standoffish the refugees were, and how they “can’t talk English.” It was painful to watch these uneducated, monolingual, lazy, and ignorant white residents of Rockford complain about things they had lots of control over such as their job security and education levels; problems that the refugees weren’t causing at all. In fact, it was even more painful to watch these white residents complain about things their own government was causing, such as the war and the abhorrent treatment of Vietnam vets. For some reason, their hate was not directed towards the government for the way it treats its vets, but rather it was directed towards Laotian refugees who literally had nothing to do with their position in society and were suffering for the same reasons as everyone else in Rockford.
Although the Laotians were clearly more hardworking and enthusiastic about life in general compared to the white residents of Rockford, I wish people then, and now, would see that they are more similar to the refugees “taking their jobs” than the politicians who control their benefits. It made me pretty upset to watch these white residents complain about “handouts” and “welfare,” without realizing that social programs are in fact a good and necessary thing for a society to have in order to function properly. The bigger picture here is that both the white residents and the refugees were simply pawns used by the federal government in order to maintain American political and economic dominance over its own citizens and the rest of the world, especially the developing world and/or countries susceptible to communism per the Domino Theory.
Obviously the racism evident in the documentary is terrible, and definitely still exists, but I really think its important for people to know *why* exactly they’re being sent to war, or why vets get the treatment they do when they return, or why we even have refugees in the first place (hint: it’s usually our fault). Finally, and on a somewhat unrelated note, I loved all the scenes that showed Laotian culture mixing with the 80s glam of the time (especially the makeup and the food)!
I also noticed that the Americans’ anger was misguided, and I am very glad you pointed this out. When the local and federal government did not provide them the necessary welfare to tide the town over during a period of stagflation and depression-level unemployment, they directed their discontent and anxieties on the refugees who were also in many cases in need of welfare. A more effective strategy would have been for them to rally and lobby their government officials to provide more robust welfare programs and other social services. I believe they did not do this, however, because they held contradictory opinions of welfare and its role in society. On the one hand, they supported the idea of American veterans having access to welfare, but later stigmatized it as a handout when it was directed to black people, refugees, and other minorities. In the end, their racism clouded their ability to fully comprehend their economic situation and execute effective solutions.
Yes–the 1980s throw backs are fun and takes some of the edge off of the heavier aspects of the documentary.