Sunday, May 1, 2011

Vietnam Today

The Viet Nam War ended on April 30, 1975.  There was no more gunfire, and all of remaining soldiers returned home. Though my family faced retribution if we returned, we prayed other families, not so outwardly involved in fighting against communism, would be safe. Viet Nam would be reunited. The North and the South would rebuild the country. We hoped and prayed from America that our cherished Viet Nam would finally have peace.
That's what we all thought when the ceasefire was called. When the North soldier's came into Sai Gon, our beloved capital of the South, they did not bring peace. Instead there were more tears shed.
Our soldiers did not get to come home to their families.  They were all sent away to what that the North called rehabilitation camps, but they were in fact prisons. Our soldiers were tortured physically and mentally and many died.  The few that survived the torrent of abuse were sent home many years later in such a sickened state they were unable to continue a normal life.
My family was one of the lucky ones that left Viet Nam on April 30, 1975.  That day brought many of us dreams, hope for a better future that would never come. That day in history brought Viet Nam into turmoil, agony, pain, and suffering. Even today, thirty-five years later, my people are still suffering.            
I grew up during the war, young, but old enough to see what my country went through and what had become of my Viet Nam.  I had good parents.  I learned from my mom to be independent, competent and yet retain a kind heart because during wartime. My father was seldom home.  She was responsible for both the mom and dad roles.  I learned from my dad to be strong, righteous, caring, respectful, and to love all people. 
Today, I try to teach my children about my Viet Nam and their grandparents.  My children were born in the United States and have not had a chance to visit their mother's land.  That's why I am trying to teach them the good and bad of the United States and Viet Nam.  I want the to keep the good things from Viet Nam's culture and value the good qualities from American culture, using both to grow.  I pray that my children will see the good in Viet Nam in their lifetime if it's at all possible. 
I love my Viet Nam with all my being, and I want my children to love it too. I hope one day they will visit a Viet Nam with true peace, freedom, and happiness. I love and appreciate America, a country that saved and sheltered my family and my people, a country that gave us freedom and opportunities to survive and achieve success.  America became my second country, a country I learned to love and cherish for as long as I live.
But still the North spreads propaganda throughout the land and persecutes the Viet Kieu, or Southerners who fought for freedom from the North.  Tourism websites offer trips to my country stating that Viet Nam is a great place to live and visit. But in contrast, horrors or violence still occur in my land. Southerners are still oppressed by the government. For example, a friend of mine returned home to visit Viet Nam for the Tet celebration in January 2011. As he ate lunch in an open-air café, a woman who had vended him food from her cart stepped out into the street. A car raced toward her. She couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. My friend watched frozen in shock as the vehicle hit the woman, knocking her down, spilling her blood, and leaving her struggling for breath on the ground, her legs and arms splayed unnaturally at odd angles. Communist officials came over to my friend as he bent over the woman.
“Leave her. Go off from here,” the police officer yelled.
The car, that had struck her, screeched to a halt. The driver jumped from the driver’s seat into the street. He began screaming.
As he stood over the dying woman he screamed, “You stupid cow! It was your fault!”
After he had driven off, the police spoke to my friend again, who still watched, shaking his head from side to side.
“That man is an official’s son. You can do nothing. Go from here and never speak of this again.”
The woman groaned and let out one last labored breath and died.
To justify acts like these, Northerners have always condemned Southerners for unsupported accusations.  According to Tal Tovoy's case study entitled "Peasants and Revolutionary Movements," Viet Cong propaganda has depicted the South Vietnamese government as a “political body opposed to Vietnamese unification." Tovoy states the initial struggle against the South Vietnamese instituted by the communist North was to rebel against large landholders and to offer a "provision of land to the peasantry."
But according to Ron Gluckman in 1990, an American reporter stationed in Sai Gon, "Legislation passed last year authorizes Viet Kieu to purchase property in Ho Chi Minh." Viet Kieu were not given freedom to live as other Viet Namese. If Viet Kieu were not allowed to purchase land, this is in direct contrast to the North’s pretense that they offered unity and offered all people equal opportunity.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, was exiled to France from Viet Nam in 1966 for his writing and demonstration against the North for South Viet Namese suffering violence at the hands of communists. Martin Luther King Jr. nominated Hanh for a Novel Peace Prize in 1967. Hanh could not return to Viet Nam for a visit until 2005.
Yet North propaganda states, “Solidarity for a better world.”  According to a 2010 Vietnam Bulletin report for the Vietnam Daily News, farmer peasants in the country do not even have refrigerators, while rich government officials in town live extravagantly.
Andrew Lam writes in Nation of Ly Van Nguyen, on trial in Vietnam in 2007 for spreading propaganda against the communist government, “During the trial on March 30, Father Ly Nguyen's mouth was physically muzzled after he recited four lines of his own poetry.” The father’s poetry was about freedom from oppression, freedom from violence, the freedom the North says they seek.
“All houses are happy,” communists post around Viet Namese cities and towns. “Tomorrow starts today.”  But in actuality there is no freedom and many families have loved ones in prison. “In mid1985, the Hanoi government conceded that it still held about 10,000 inmates in the reeducation camps, but the actual number was believed to be at least 40,000.” (
By writing my memoir, I hope to show mainly the wonderful family I had growing up in Viet Nam when it was still a free country. We weren’t so different from Americans. In addition, I wanted to reveal what the war was really like for a Viet Kieu like myself, whose family was passionately patriotic and fought for the South’s freedom alongside Americans. It is my hope and prayer that readers take away a greater understanding of what the country was and what it could become again. The more who become aware and bring the truth to light, the more likely the Viet Namese people will achieve freedom in the future.

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