vietsoul21

Archive for the ‘LittleSaigon – Seattle’ Category

VietSoul:21’s Letter to the Seattle Times Editor

In Cộng Đồng, Lịch Sử, LittleSaigon - Seattle on 2015/11/19 at 19:31

Letter to The Seattle Times Editors in response to the essay Veterans Day notebook: PeaceTrees Vietnam and Dan Evans on ‘transforming sorrow into service’

Written by Neighborhood Artivists for Democracy & Social Justice – Northwest Region  (Facebook: Đinh-Lê-Lý-Trần Hồn-Việt)

We wrote the following letter to address the issues of Historical Context, Reconciliation and Power in response to the thoughts in the above essay posted on Seattle Times on the Veterans Day, 11/11/2015.

This is an uplifting reconciliation story that shows American individuals’ effort to alleviate old wounds and prevent further damages by one of the long residues of the Vietnam War, the unexploded ordnances. As such it heals the psychological rift and puts closure to a troublesome period in the lives of Vietnam veterans and their loved ones.

However, the comparison on the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation of the Americans and Vietnamese American community with their old foes is an inapt contrast. This association missed not only a broader and critical context but also the power struggle perspectives.

It’s problematic in such parallel comparison drawn from a supposed inference that Vietnamese community, especially the first generation, could not overcome their sufferings and hatred; and hence, renounce forgiving to be able to move toward a reconciliation process. This deduction implies that the mainstream Americans are capable of forgiveness and reconciliation while the Vietnamese American community didn’t get it (grasp the concept).

The fact that Americans and Vietnamese American community are under completely different background context and power relations was not considered in this article.

The war ended on April 30, 1975. Americans were no longer in direct conflict with their foes, and hence, their lives (with the exception of the Vietnam veterans’) were not affected by the post-war aftermath. Americans could choose to engage in reconciliation and forgiveness with their enemies because they are in a privileged position regarding compensation and remediation. Americans do have the choice to walk away if their efforts failed the planned expectations or not getting the reciprocated gestures.

On the other hand, Vietnamese of the old (Southern) Republic of Vietnam—who remained in Vietnam after the North communist takeover of the South—were considered as traitors and scums of the land. They were punished severely physically and psychologically by their old foes, the Vietnamese communists. Hundreds of thousands were imprisoned and died while in prison. Their land, houses, properties were confiscated. Their families were pushed out to rot with hunger in the “new economic zone”. Their children were denied of education and jobs. The South Vietnam culture was systematically erased by that totalitarian regime. These Vietnamese didn’t have a choice to walk away and live in peace even until today. In short, the Vietnamese people have not had a choice in reconciliation and forgiveness.

In such dictatorship state, the Communist party has retained its monopoly of power and imposed its voice through an all-encompassing propaganda machine, and hence, its citizens have none. Their basic rights have been forsaken.

The saying “… the word reconciliation comes from the word ‘reconcilen’ which means to make good again, or to repair” sounds truthful for some but not for the wretched with no power.

The Vietnamese Communist regime with lip service spouted to “make good again” but continued degrading the Southerners with name calling and enforcing discrimination and elimination toward them. So the only option left for the ones who longed for freedom and basic human rights was to flee, on foot or by sea, by millions. Many Vietnamese ex-refugees and ex-political prisoners in the Vietnamese American community at the present would have forgiven all the bad things done to them in the past if there is a true reconciliation from the one who abuse their power.

Vietnamese are forgiving people. We know forgiveness and reconciliation. But we do not forget lessons of history and social memory of anti-oppression. That is who we are then and now.

Historically speaking, we reconciled and forgave our archenemy many times over regardless of our sufferings over a thousand years under Chinese colonization. It’s written in the Bình Ngô đại cáo (literally means Great Proclamation upon the Pacification of the Wu) as “Utilize great righteousness to triumph over barbarity. Bring forth utmost human compassion to overcome violent aggression.” In 1788, Nguyễn Huệ (also known as Emperor Quang Trung)—who defeated the forces of the Qianlong Emperor of the Chinese Qing dynasty—did not keep any prisoners, but provide provisions and allow them to return home with honor. In other words, we had encouraged a peaceful relationship with the defeated.

The Vietnamese communist disregarded such reconciliation practice. Instead of using great righteousness toward its fellow citizens the Vietnamese Communist regime feted out the extreme measures and punishment with impunity. Instead of affecting utmost human compassion to its citizens the Vietnamese Communist regime imposed inhuman treatment with disregard to basic human rights. Consequently, the mass exodus of Vietnamese boat people from 1976 through 1989 with half a million perished at sea not only became a catastrophe  in our mind and heart but also shook the world’s conscience.

The Vietnamese Communist regime—the persecutor, the one who has absolute power—must but has not taken steps in the reconciliation and forgiveness.

Forgiveness and reconciliation is not only for what have happened but what is now and forward. The majority of Vietnamese Americans, not only the first generation, probably have forgiven for what had happened to them. However, we won’t reconcile with the dictatorship for what is now and forward. How could the Vietnamese American reconcile when the oppression and injustice have been continuing under the absolute power control of such police state?

Vietnamese community will forgive if the Vietnamese Communist regime ceases its practice of persecution and oppression on their own citizens.

Vietnamese community will reconcile when the Vietnamese Communist regime relinquish complete control of power allowing its citizens the freedom to choose how to live in a democracy.

There would not be then any reconciliation as long as the Vietnamese Communist regime maintains a totalitarian state.

In sum, the statement “In our Vietnamese community, forgiveness and reconciliation with old foes is a difficult concept for many to grasp” is unfair and seems prejudice due to lack of power perspective and historical context.

© 2015 Vietsoul:21

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Collective Amnesia and Rhetoric of Mobilized Participation (complete version)

In Cộng Đồng, Chính trị (Politics), LittleSaigon - Seattle, Việt Nam on 2010/10/03 at 17:04

A NOTE on the Essay:

This is the VietSoul:21′s original essay sent to the San Jose Mercury News in response to the Op-ed titled “It’s time to stop fighting the long-past Vietnam War” written by Sonny Le. For the 600-word short version, please click here.

The opinion editor Barbara Marshman then replied to VietSoul21,“Thanks for writing. Unfortunately, our word limit is 600, and this is over 1,600. If you would like to try writing a shorter piece that focuses on one or two clear opinions, I’d be happy to look at a draft. Since it would appear some time after the July 27 opinion, I would write it as a stand-alone opinion, perhaps alluding to the other piece somewhere but not framing it as a response.” (On Wed, Jul 28, 2010 at 5:11 PM, Marshman, Barbara wrote).

We sent a short op-ed to her (and the whole editorial staff) but they would not respond back despite our repeated requests.

It seems prescient that we’ve asserted:  “San Jose Mercury News should promote with genuineness more than a sole opinion of one media consultant. Advocating for in-depth and reflective alternative of op-ed essays are in fact essential for the role of democratic media. Moreover, a willingness to imprint the power of shouts and silences to rise above the discourse of refugee nationalism and anti-communism should be more than a token inclusion of the unheard dissent voices.

The voices of the “Other” were silenced and unheard.

The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory (Salvador Dalí, 1954)

In remembrance of those stories told “by the reed of being separated”, “pulled from a source”, and “longs to go back”… “This reed is a friend to all, who want the fabric torn and drawn away.”
(The illuminated Rumi, 1997)

Reading the opinion essay “It’s time to stop fighting the long-past Vietnam War[1] on July 27, 2010, we are relieved to see that the author was able to go beyond the naïve judgment of Ly Tong’s behavior as an “unacceptable” act of “so-called anti-American culture”—which was used strategically by Dũng Taylor, the show manager, and Đỗ Dzũng/Người Việt Daily News reporter to the BBC [2] to justify for greed and fear, and make excuse in favor of the discourse of a “whitening” refugee population.

Ly Tong’s individual act could be shamed and demonized as petty, evil, and uncivilized by many groups—the White and non-White Americans who believe in the US superiority of “democracy”, fans of the singer, profitable newspapers and entertainment industrial bodies, and overseas political opportunists as well as the corrupted Vietnamese Communist government. Yet, this “dark” move was carried out with a clear intent led to a successful result— singling out the intergenerational amnesia prevalent within and beyond the Vietnamese consciousness outside of Vietnam. The op-ed piece mentioned above was certainly written as one of such proof.

Not least to say, this judgment of “so-called anti-American culture” was strongly supported (the type of judgment implicated in the Americanized consent of a prevailing Whiteness[3] standard design) by most American-born Vietnamese youngsters who are either:

(1) assimilated to the updated racial ideologies—grounded yet in consumerism and individualism that led to passive politics masked as liberal cosmopolitan;

(2) internalized of racism alive well in the mind of the colonized in the West during the modern-day process of emptying the social and privatizing its vocabularies[4];

(3) ignorant of Vietnamese history and complex oversea community dynamics due to their socialized learning inherited from the monopolized anti-war and banking education approach[5] toward militarization and corporatization[6] of North America schools;

and/or

(4) becoming, more or less, the neocolonialists under the global politics in terms of privilege, power, and status—which are revealed through a willingness (for cooptation) to link with Vietnam by means of entertainment, business, education, cultural, and humanitarian network.

All of the above group thinking, regardless of admitted or not, has heightened the dichotomous split of success/failure of the VCP’s Politburo Executive Order 36[7]. These folks may not want to see that everyday living practice here and there is always about politics.

For the vocal group #4 mentioned above, they deeply feel as if they don’t belong regardless how hard they try in America. This surely applies to many beyond this certain group even though no one likes to admit. However, they do in particular desire relocating in Vietnam—where as long as they do not protest against oppression they could gain an advanced status and mobility because of their English language ability and Eurocentric-technocratic skills. Those specialty skills are abundant; yet, there are no job opportunities or just gained low-leveled positions in the “so-called diverse” societies like the U.S. or Europe.

Eventually, they aim to advance quickly in another “homeland”—where their vague or no childhood memory is re-membered, and skip the institutionalized racism experience in the West. Some even naively assume that if they close their eyes not seeing the vast suffering of veterans’ body limbs of North and South nor witnessing currently operating systemic violence, they would gain acceptance from the Vietnamese government. Then they could act and possess what they want for themselves, and become part of “a once more new liberated Vietnam”—the place where the American war experience could no longer be dialogued[8] because of its relations with the U.S.

Most importantly, we wish that the opinion essay was not a revealing rhetoric piece. Although race was brought into the picture of such enduring post-war conflict (which is not wrong), the author contradicted himself. He was either in illusion or daydreaming with an attempt to rouse and challenge the Vietnamese outside of Vietnam to speak up and protest against injustice caused by the US involvement with other countries—at present or earlier time.

The author appears overlooking the fact that the Vietnamese, like other marginalized communities, are small colonies dispersed throughout America. They mark in their own way an unofficial and untold history of more vulnerable exposure, hidden resistance, flexible strength, and decolonized agency without his involvement!!! Why did he not choose becoming an activist in the US working with the Vietnamese communities and other people of colors? Why chose to become a communication director for the East Meets West Foundation? Why so worrying that “The inhumanity and destruction of war should have been shoved down our throat. But if you do that, people won’t go to see it” at the Oakland Museum of California exhibition in late 2004?[9] To serve which spectators? Because of the artifacts and knowledge production collected through storytelling among the South Vietnamese would strike the American conscience a little?

One should walk the talk of the “real” with “political theatrics” rather than lamenting the “possibilities”. As the communication expert and media consultant, the author would be able to mobilize the OneVietnam Network[10] with more than 6,000 young fans to protest against any local injustice caused by the government officials toward the Vietnamese in New Orleans, Seattle, San Jose, Virginia, Iowa, etc. The author could follow his “calling” for pan-ethnic rallies against the US Congress regarding their utmost trading interests and a pretentious laissez-fair attitude toward human rights issues in Vietnam. He could also advocate for Vietnamese language preservation outside of Vietnam without a disturbing propaganda infiltrated by a cheap exported group of hired teachers from Vietnam to be currently placed in the U.S. higher education environment.

Unfortunately, together with other intelligentsias on both continents the author Le has lobbied these entrepreneurial young founders to assist the Asian Philanthropy network—an embedded web belonged to the “non-profit industrial complex”—a system of relationships between the state, both right- and left-leaning foundations, the owning classes, and conservative social service and social justice-based organizations. This complex system results in the surveillance, control, and everyday management of political movements. A movement-building outside the nonprofit model (that solely serves the desire of mainstream racial politics via funding monitoring and the politics of expertism) seems out of reach and beyond imagination for the author and other Vietnamese youngsters.

The author’s tone appears as if he is speaking from the progressive force for peace and only peace. He forgot his privilege of having choices to choose peace in this country or not—in fact any choices of these ironically cause destruction to the “Other[11]. The tone was also couched with a hidden embarrassment while being forced to face the messes of internal discord and division not only at the communal level. His tone was subsequently endorsed by several paternalistic comments in relations to forgetting and forgiving these few “bad apples” because “the future is key to this problem[12] for the post-memory generation’s sake!!!

The author, like many American-born Vietnamese and majority of the 1.5 generation, desires to be deafening to the inner rage and outer deviance rooted from the Vietnam/American War conflict. They long to cosmeticize the visible scar of the divided generational wounds to satisfy the neoconservative and neoliberal elites’ appetite. They could not arise beyond the charity mentality toward a liberated practice resisting violent force against human rights, here or else where. Their acts even perpetuate the dramatic shifts in power, technology, migration, trade and travel from North to South, from West to East, from the haves to the have-nots.

The author may think that he knows solutions for the dilemma caused by the colonialization of the Vietnamese diasporic psychic space. Does he understand that he is NOT the way out which the Vietnamese communities outside of Vietnam long to seek for?

The San Jose Mercury News should promote with genuineness more than a sole opinion of one media consultant. Advocating for in-depth and reflective alternatives of op-ed essays are in fact essential for the role of democratic media. Moreover, a willingness to imprint the power of shouts and silences to rise above the discourse of refugee nationalism and anti-communism should be more than a token inclusion of the unheard dissent voices.

For more than three decades, if these “deviants” shout out, they are pathologized as the “sick” and “crazy”, and told, “Go back to your country!” If they choose silence for various reasons, they are accused of being stupid (and convenient for structural manipulation and cultural erasure). If they are ambivalent but working hard, they are rewarded as the “good” minority to be modeled for other ethnic folks in pursuing “post-racial” American paradise. This catch 22 situation of course fits with the status quo and sustains structures of racial (and class) inequality.

These voices if expressed should not follow the sophisticated template invented by the contemporary “slave masters” (Frantz Fanon[13] and G.W.F. Hegel[14]). These alternative voices should not tailor to the blueprint mechanism functioning to serve the hidden yet domineering desire of Whiteness in the post-civil rights (or color-blind) era. Its everyday code, format, content, and pattern have suppressed the haunting national memories of the American war—a kind of memory lived only at the periphery of North American consciousness against the existing presence of the subjugated–the “FOB losers” seen as the fleeting phantoms.

Indeed, we need those grievant bodies of unchained shouts and mourning silences–rather than the imperial denial and silencing narrated from the official histories. Those bodies are to be acknowledged and performed for all, and definitely, not only in ordinary styles (i.e. elitist and poetic writing and printing) because “It’s time to stop fighting the long-past Vietnam War.”[15]

© 2010 VietSoul:21

NOTES:

[1] Le, Sonny (2010, July 26th). It’s time to stop fighting the long-past Vietnam War. San Jose Mercury News, Retrieved on July 26th, 2010 from http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_15590279?nclick_check=15590271

[2] Nguyễn, Hoàng. (2010, July 20th). Hành động ‘phi văn hóa Mỹ’? (An ‘Anti-American cultural’ act?). BBC Vietnamese, Retrieved on July 21st, 2010 from http://www.bbc.co.uk/vietnamese/vietnam/2010/2007/100720_dodzung_iv.shtml

[3] Cooks, L. (2003). Pedagogy, Performance, and Positionality: Teaching about Whiteness in Interracial Communication. Communication Education, 52(3), 245-257.

Cooks defines whiteness as “a set of rhetorical strategies employed to construct and maintain a dominant White culture and identities” (p. 246). In addition, McLaren defines in his article, Decentering Whiteness: In Search of a Revolutionary Multiculturalism whiteness as “a refusal to acknowledge how white people are implicated in certain social relations of privilege and relations of domination and subordination” (p. 9) [See McLaren, P. (1997). Decentering Whiteness: In Search of a Revolutionary Multiculturalism. Multicultural Education, 5(1), 4-11.]

[4] Robbins, C. G. (2004, September). Racism and the Authority of Neoliberalism: A Review of Three New Books on the Persistence of Racial Inequality in a Color-blind Era. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 2(2), http://www.jceps.com/?pageID=article&articleID=35.

[5] Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed (M. B. Ramos, Trans.). London, UK: Penguin. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pedagogy-Oppressed-Paulo-Freire/dp/0826412769

[6] Saltman, K. J., & Gabbard, D. (2003). Education as enforcement: The militarization and corporatization of schools. New York; London: RoutledgeFalmer.  http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415944892/

[7] Bruin, T. (2004, June 17th). Vietnam’s Manifesto on Overseas Vietnamese Rings Hollow. Partito Radicale Nonviolento transnazionale e transpartito (Nonviolent Radical Party transnational and transparty),  http://www.radicalparty.org/en/content/vietnams-manifesto-overseas-vietnamese-rings-hollow

[8] Hayton, B. (2010). Vietnam: Rising dragon. New Haven, CT; London, UK: Yale University Press. http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=97803001520

[9] Pogash, C. (2004, September 7th). NATIONAL DESK: In Imperfect Compromise, Exhibit Tells of Vietnam Era. New York Times, Retrieved on March 23rd, 2007, from http://www.pogash.com/vietnam.html

[10] Minh Anh. (2010). OneVietnam kết nối người Việt toàn cầu (OneVietnam links the Vietnamese on the globe). Voice of America (VOA News.com), Retrieved on July 3rd, 2010 from http://www2011.voanews.com/vietnamese/news/vietnam/onevietnam-2007-2003-2010-97732519.html

The OneVietnam Network was just launched about mid July 2010 from the Bay Area of North California region. It has been advised and supported by the East Meets West Foundation in pushing young Vietnamese overseas’ global connection and work of “non-political and non-past bitter grief,” according to Isabella Lai, one of its founders stated recently to the Voice of America reporter. Retrieved on July 3rd, 2010 from http://www1.voanews.com/vietnamese/news/vietnam/onevietnam-07-03-10-97732519.html%5D

[11] The “Other” is a philosophical term described in social science as “the processes by which societies and groups exclude ‘Others’ whom they want to subordinate or who do not fit into their society. The concept of ‘otherness’ is also integral to the comprehending of a person, as people construct roles for themselves in relation to an ‘other’ as part of a process of reaction that is not necessarily related to stigmatization or condemnation. Othering is imperative to national identities, where practices of admittance and segregation can form and sustain boundaries and national character. Othering helps distinguish between home and away, the uncertain or certain. It often involves the demonization and dehumanization of groups, which further justifies attempts to civilize and exploit these ‘inferior’ others.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Other

[12] “From Seattle”. (2010, July 26th). Future is our key to this problem (Reader’s Comment on the Opinon Piece, “It’s time to stop fighting the long-past Vietnam War”). San Jose Mercury News, Retrieved on July 26th, 2010 from http://forums.mercurynews.com/topic/opinion-its-time-to-stop-fighting-long-past-vietnam-war#comment-42981.

[Originally published with the nickname “From Seattle” written as the following paragraph: “I am 100% with you, Sonny Le, but I wouldn’t worry about that too much. The people like Ly Tong are just a few bad apples in our community. These bad apples wouldn’t look good in the basket for now, but when they are gone, which is not much longer, the sky will be much more blue. I had met with these people before, and trust me, I know, they are the most aggressive and unreasonable people on earth. But after all, they were once our parents, brothers, and sisters, and not much we can do about it. We can just leave them alone, that is in our culture. It doesn’t matter how crazy they are, we learned to respect the elderly and leave them alone, that what we do. The sad thing is that they’ve done so much damages to our community, but that’s OK too. We need to look at the brightside, there are many other good apples in the basket. The name like Ly Tong will be forgotten, but there are many names to be remembered like yourself, Sonny Le, Madison Nguyen, DVH, etc many many others, who had done so much for our community. For now, we just have to watch out and stay away the pepper spray for awhile, hopefully this problem will be vaporized in 5 or 10 years, but don’t let it bother us so much, just ignore them and leave them alone. Thanks Sonny Le!”]

[13] Fanon, F. (1967). Black skin, white masks. New York, NY: Grove Press

[14] Hegel, G. W. F., Miller, A. V., & Findlay, J. N. (1977). Phenomenology of spirit. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.

[15] See note [1].

Short version sent to San Jose Mercury News:

Collective Amnesia and Rhetoric of Mobilized Participation

Vietnamese version (also posted on talawas):

Chứng quên tập thể

Phản bội hay trung thành với lý tưởng?

Our other essays on talawas:

Bịt Miệng Nạn Nhân

Tôi là người Việt Nam

Chúng tôi (Tự trào – Trí Thức – Tâm Tài)

Những cái nhập nhằng không tênThe Unspoken Ambiguities

Thời cửu vạn, ôsinThe Age of Day Laborer and Housemaid

Lết tới “thiên đường”

Other essays on Da Màu Magazine:

Tháng Tư Câm

Hồn ma và xương khô

Collective Amnesia and Rhetoric of Mobilized Participation

In Cộng Đồng, Chính trị (Politics), LittleSaigon - Seattle, talawas, Việt Nam on 2010/08/13 at 12:43

A NOTE on the Essay:

This is a 600-word short version of VietSoul:21′s original (and longer) essay sent to the San Jose Mercury News in response to the Op-ed titled “It’s time to stop fighting the long-past Vietnam War” written by Sonny Le. For the complete version, please click here.

The opinion editor Barbara Marshman then replied to VietSoul21,“Thanks for writing. Unfortunately, our word limit is 600, and this is over 1,600. If you would like to try writing a shorter piece that focuses on one or two clear opinions, I’d be happy to look at a draft. Since it would appear some time after the July 27 opinion, I would write it as a stand-alone opinion, perhaps alluding to the other piece somewhere but not framing it as a response.” (On Wed, Jul 28, 2010 at 5:11 PM, Marshman, Barbara wrote).

We sent this op-ed to her (and the whole editorial staff) but they would not respond back despite our repeated requests.

It seems prescient that we’ve asserted:  “San Jose Mercury News should promote with genuineness more than a sole opinion of one media consultant. Advocating for in-depth and reflective alternative of op-ed essays are in fact essential for the role of democratic media. Moreover, a willingness to imprint the power of shouts and silences to rise above the discourse of refugee nationalism and anti-communism should be more than a token inclusion of the unheard dissent voices.

The voices of the “Other” were silenced and unheard.

Sự bền bĩ của ký ức (The persistence of Memory), Salvador Dalí (1931)

The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory (Salvador Dalí, 1954)

Vietsoul:21

The judgment of Ly Tong’s behavior as an “unacceptable” act of “so-called anti-American culture” was framed strategically by the show manager and Nguoi Viet Daily News reporter to the BBC in favor of the discourse of a “whitening” refugee population.

Ly Tong’s individual act could be shamed and demonized as petty, evil and uncivilized by many—the White and non-White who believe in the US superiority of “democracy”, the singer’s fans, the profitable media and entertainment industries, the political opportunists, the corrupted Vietnamese Communists. Yet, this stealth move was carried out with a clear intent led to a successful result —singling out the generational amnesia prevalent within and beyond the Vietnamese consciousness outside of Vietnam.

This judgment of “anti-American culture” was strongly supported (with an implicated Americanized consent of prevailing Whiteness[1] design) by most young or American-born Vietnamese who are either:

(1) assimilated to the updated racial ideologies—grounded yet in consumerism and individualism that led to passive politics masked as liberal cosmopolitan;

(2) internalized of racism alive well during the modern-day process of emptying the social and privatizing its vocabularies;[2]

(3) ignorant of the complex community dynamics and history due to their socialized learning inherited from the banking education approach[3] toward corporatization[4] schools;

and/or

(4) becoming, more or less, the neocolonialists under the global politics in terms of privilege, power, and status—revealed through a willingness to co-opt with Vietnam by means of entertainment, business/education, and humanitarian network.

Such group thinking has heightened the dichotomous split of success/failure of the VCP’s Politburo Resolution 36[5]. They may not want to see that everyday living is always about politics.

Most deeply feel as if they don’t belong here. Due to limited or low-leveled jobs here, those #4 do desire also relocating in Vietnam—where as long as they do not protest against oppression they could gain advanced status. Some even naively assume if they chose not seeing the vast suffering nor witnessing systemic violence, they would gain Vietnamese government’s acceptance. Then they could “succeed” in “a new liberated Vietnam”— where the American war experience could no longer be dialogued[6] because of its relations with the U.S.

They desire to be deafening to the inner rage and outer deviance rooted from the Vietnam/American War conflict. Their voices are couched with a hidden embarrassment when being forced to face the social messes of internal discord/division. They long to cosmeticize the visible scar of the divided generational wounds to satisfy the neoconservative/ neoliberal elites’ appetite. They could not arise beyond the charity mentality toward a liberated practice resisting violence against human rights, here or else where. Their acts perpetuate the dramatic shifts in power, technology, migration, trade and travel from West to East, from the haves to the have-nots. The author of the op-ed “It’s time to stop fighting the long-past Vietnam War” is an apt example.

If the “deviants” shout out, they are pathologized as the “sick and crazy”, and told, “Go back to your country!” If they choose silence for various reasons, they are accused of being stupid (convenient for structural manipulation and cultural erasure). If they are ambivalent but working hard, they are rewarded as the “good and modeled” minority pursuing “post-racial” American paradise. This catch-22 situation fits with the status quo and sustains structures of racial, class inequality.

We must include multiple lenses to rise above the discourse of refugee nationalism and anti-communism. Indeed, we need the grievant bodies of unchained shouts and mourning silences–rather than the imperial denial and silencing of official histories. Those bodies are to be performed for all–not only in ordinary styles (i.e. elitist/poetic writing/printing). It’s healing time for the haunting screams of the long-past Vietnam War.

© 2010 VietSoul:21

NOTES:

[1] Cooks, L. (2003). Pedagogy, Performance, and Positionality: Teaching about Whiteness in Interracial Communication. Communication Education, 52(3), 245-257.

Cooks defines whiteness as “a set of rhetorical strategies employed to construct and maintain a dominant White culture and identities” (p. 246). In addition, McLaren defines in his article, Decentering Whiteness: In Search of a Revolutionary Multiculturalism whiteness as “a refusal to acknowledge how white people are implicated in certain social relations of privilege and relations of domination and subordination” (p. 9) [See McLaren, P. (1997). Decentering Whiteness: In Search of a Revolutionary Multiculturalism. Multicultural Education, 5(1), 4-11.]

[2] Robbins, C. G. (2004, September). Racism and the Authority of Neoliberalism: A Review of Three New Books on the Persistence of Racial Inequality in a Color-blind Era. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 2(2), http://www.jceps.com/?pageID=article&articleID=35.

[3] Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed (M. B. Ramos, Trans.). London, UK: Penguin. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pedagogy-Oppressed-Paulo-Freire/dp/0826412769

[4] Saltman, K. J., & Gabbard, D. (2003). Education as enforcement: The militarization and corporatization of schools. New York; London: RoutledgeFalmer.  http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415944892/

[5] Bruin, T. (2004, June 17th). Vietnam’s Manifesto on Overseas Vietnamese Rings Hollow. Partito Radicale Nonviolento transnazionale e transpartito (Nonviolent Radical Party transnational and transparty),  http://www.radicalparty.org/en/content/vietnams-manifesto-overseas-vietnamese-rings-hollow

[6] Hayton, B. (2010). Vietnam: Rising dragon. New Haven, CT; London, UK: Yale University Press. http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=97803001520

 

Original English version:

Collective Amnesia and Rhetoric of Mobilized Participation (Complete version)

Vietnamese version (also posted on talawas):

Chứng quên tập thể

Our other essays on talawas:

Bịt Miệng Nạn Nhân

Tôi là người Việt Nam

Chúng tôi (Tự trào – Trí Thức – Tâm Tài)

Những cái nhập nhằng không tênThe Unspoken Ambiguities

Thời cửu vạn, ôsinThe Age of Day Laborer and Housemaid

Lết tới “thiên đường”

Tháng Tư Câm

Phản bội hay trung thành với lý tưởng?



The Unspoken Ambiguities

In Cộng Đồng, Chính trị (Politics), LittleSaigon - Seattle, talawas, Việt Nam on 2009/09/24 at 10:33

NOTES:

For many internal/external reasons, it took us almost five months to be able to translate our below Vietnamese essay posted on Talawas into English.

To connect with each other and grow in spite of pain and discomfort (which most of the time are the space where deeper learning takes place), this piece is for you and also for us. This essay was written as a heart and soul in the making after our incredibly challenging three-year activism with Little Saigon Seattle . Silence came first. Then words appeared. We were finally able to synthesize somewhat a portion of our unspeakable feelings into words. This essay was born after our many conversations and reflections with each other regarding the struggle that goes beyond the gentrification of Little Saigon Seattle. It was about our heart-wrenching observations of the overall ambiguous behaviors conducted by Vietnamese communities outside of Vietnam.

Vi Nhân

Posted in Talawas on May 10, 2009

We look on in horror as capitalism – now that his brother, socialism, has been declared dead – rages unimpeded, megalomaniacally replaying the errors of the supposedly extinct brother.

(Günter Grass – Nobel Prize in Literature 1999)

Capitalism-Socialism_Günter Grass

More than thirty years have passed since the national calamity on April 30th of 1975. The first group of escapees (1975) and subsequent boat people waves (1979-1980s) fleeing the Vietnamese communists have been in exile for more than one generation. The more recent waves that are under the humanitarian categories include the ex-political prisoners, Amerasians, and family reunification through the Orderly Departure Program started in the 1990s until now. Thirty years plus would be more than enough for the offspring of the first escapees and boat waves being born, grown up, and started their own career.

Most second-generation Vietnamese Americans have been integrated into American life. Whether they reach for a broader engagement such as joining the Vietnamese Student Associations and/or working in charity organization or not depending on two considerations: (1) Do they feel isolated due to lack of fluency with Vietnamese–their parent’s native-tongue, and lean instead toward the mainstream American culture with its obsessed individualism while being engrossed in a constant search of personal identity? or (2) Does their experience of growing up in a multicultural atmosphere or experience of emptiness, isolation and dissatisfaction lead them back to reopen the door to their roots?

In the higher education environment, the left-leaning academics grounded in racial lens has sprung up in institutions and pursued their pedagogical mission promoting twisted historical lessons of Vietnam War. In everyday life, Vietnamese youngsters have learned to act and behave according to the Western rhythm–full of biases toward traditional mainstream perspectives. Inevitably, their behaviors then clashes with Vietnamese culture and refugee/community ways of doing when these everyday practices transformed into a thinking habit. Consequently, there is an unconscious inferiority complex planted like a seed and gradually rooted in their mind. To the point that accepting assimilation and color- and white-blinded racism without awareness and conscious understanding, especially when this vast unconscious void has impacted them to neglect the Vietnamese American community and Vietnam; it is wrong.

Second generation Vietnamese Americans devote themselves in working for various mutual associations and non-profit social services due to their idealistic desire of making contribution to society, especially to the Vietnamese American community. Ironically, these non-profit groups work at a dragging and half-hearted pace while serving their own self-interest due to a need of funding for operation and perpetuation of their own entity; however, they often assume a “patronizing” disposition exhibiting an attitude of grandeur. They are entrenched and confined within, not going too far from their self-erected walls, and refuse to speak up against injustices. Whether they are aware or not, these agencies end up becoming a social control tool in a system that sustains structural inequality that is often implicated in public and welfare policies. All their activities are no more than putting a bandage on a deep wound. However, they do not (or not willing) seek for an understanding of why and who created these deep yet repeatedly inflamed wounds. This is the first ambiguity: the non-profit agency as a withstander of structural inequality.

Going a farther step would be evaluating the trend of charity work and fundraising in helping the poor in Vietnam carried out not only with the second generation Vietnamese American youngsters. There are so many Vietnamese proverbs and aphorism grounded in humanistic tradition such as “Máu chảy ruột mềm” (When the blood sheds, the heart aches), and “Lá lành đùm lá rách” (The green leaves shield the withered leaves) already embedded in the Vietnamese psyche. In addition, altruistic deed and voluntarily spiritual work are expected to be the merits for the next life’s blessing, or a promised heaven after death. Who would not want to gain honorable name as well as accumulate merits at the same time! Yet, more importantly, there are no fewer individuals launching these charity agencies in order to build up social standing with their moral certificates and wide network contacts for their own career/business profits. It is a shortcut way to achieve and enhance status for those who have money to afford the dream of becoming a “godfather.” Somehow there are more people with an obsession by the needs for both certificates: one of degree, the other of morality for social climbing. This is the second ambiguity: the charity association and the moral credit.

It is convenient to hide behind a charity shield or a culture armor to excuse oneself from “politics”, and ensure a warranty for famed position. Yet, such assumption does not mean the same in action. Indeed, charitable and cultural works always carried an embedded political meaning. We may not engage in political parties; yet, every of our act—more or less and even if we behave as “sitting under one’s own tree” (“bình chân như vại”)—does signify a political meaning in relations to citizenship and civil rights. They are rights and responsibilities of a citizen of a nation and member of a global society.

To love one’s country does not equate with loving the government or going for its national policies without question. Patriotism reveals in the act of dissent against policies of unjust, dictatorship, pro-hegemony and racism—applied within or beyond a national geographical boundary—when witnessing the innumerable human sufferings accumulated over time. Patriotism manifests in active engagement to facilitate and promote democracy, liberty, civil rights, human rights for everyone. Patriotism is not blindly following the manipulated feelings of self-righteous nationalism and parochial, partisan favors. This is the third ambiguity: “apolitical” and flag-waving patriotism.

Let’s read a newspaper piece of On-line Youths of Vietnam reporting the summer camp with Vietnamese Overseas Youths who were called as “camp attendants” and participated in a program entitled, “A Journey of Homeland Heritage”:

At the farewell timing, Executive Secretary of the Communist Youth League Thanh Phuong Lam asserted: “The business for overseas youth is one of the special interests of our League. The Central Committee will continue coordinating with other units, Vietnam TV in organizing programs for our overseas Vietnamese young friends …”. Sharing with our overseas friends who were present today, the Secretary of the Youth League of Ho Chi Minh City Cang Thanh Tat remarked:“Vietnam is a country full of love, simplicity, kind-hearted and eager to embrace your return to motherland.”

“Throughout this 15-day journey along the length of the country, you–the camp participants–were lionized in sightseeing national landscapes. Moreover, you expressed strong emotions once taking part in traditional activities such as the pilgrimage to the ancestral land of our founder King Hung, paying a visit to Truong Son Cemetery, having dialogue on “Immortal Flowers” about the lives of 10 young female soldiers who martyred at the firing line of the Junction Dong Loc. Yet, many of you were also very impressed about the courageous spirit and intelligent minds of the folks belonged to the iron land of Cu Chi when visiting Temple Ben Duoc, and crept into the underground tunnel Cu Chi…”

In just two paragraphs above, we could see that the communists have mixed brass with gold while proselytizing their political campaign, overseas Vietnamese campaign, and overseas Vietnamese youth campaign so that they can dupe people: Making communist particulars gilded with culture and national traditions. National heritage was co-opted to become the commercialized polishing product for “our party’s patriotic war”. The party heads direct their underlings to conduct relentless propagandas portraying a mystic motherland on the other side of the ocean under their decoy of “building the country” to lure and fool the naive overseas Vietnamese youngsters with the seductive images of poverty and hunger due to war consequences. The herald of “love one’s country and love your motherland” was fused with loving socialism, loving the government, and ruling policies of the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP). The ambiguity of patriotism by the swindler!

After 30 years, a generation of Vietnamese overseas has attained success in academy, commerce, and government. The Vietnamese psyche of “Five ranks of titles, literature title was supreme – Four social ladders, scholarly official at top” [1] has created an increased need to excel foremost, and gain “titles and laurels” for prestigious status. This need accompanies an unattenable obligation for a quit-pro-quo. The price for this quit-pro-quo is the “silence”. The complicit silence with injustice, close one’s eyes to the lies, turn one’s back from oppression. This exchange is not only through verbal pact but also from the hidden “rules of the game” . The rules of the game are well “understood” and deeply ingrained in the thinking so that no need for the players to be bribed, induced, or pressured. The “rules” are completedly self-conformed and -enforced. The players’ “political correctness” is always in escort with the in-power for protection and prop, for a steady “umbrella” in case of the weather “storms” and avoid the reach of legalities, or being pulled the rugs under. These are not the individuals or groups worrying about the “pot of rice” while making a living. Those are in fact the “politically correct” intelligentsia who looked down on bare back laborers and starving service workers as tools for them to maneuver, pass out hand-outs, and eventually become self-acclaimed as kind and generous.

“Open mouth, get the bridle” (Há miệng mắc quai) and “Clamp mouth, take the bribe” (Ngậm miệng ăn tiền), these are two proverbs but actually work as one. Open mouth to take things in; so if not clamping mouth shut then one could only mutter with some muddled words. We’ve often heard many “anecdotes of refugee stories” in our local gossips and sighed with disappointment. Such as stories of non-profits seeking and scrambling for funds, using public money for other purposes categorized as “so-called” administrative overhead. Reality wise, it’s not too disheartened to see such jostling behavior in a competitive individualistic society. But when this symptom occurs day in day out which makes folks exclaim that “That’s the way our community is!”, and the “politically correct” would chime in “Go with the flow!” Are all the well-to-do quite “politically correct” in following the model minority trend of hard-working, compliance, kowtowing, heads-down, and indifferent toward realities? That’s the fourth ambiguity: the “political correctness” of the intelligentsia and the silent majority.

In the recent years we have seen an undercurrent of migration flow from Vietnam to overseas, from the short-term foreign students to long-term work visas, and to smuggled workers in various trades. We’ve seen the transfer of business ownership from local residents to the Vietnamese who have no relation to refugee community. We’ve seen the leaders and gatekeepers of “township associations” who no longer have anything to do with refugees either. The most prominent in this flow is the Vietnamese foreign students at community colleges and universities. Many overseas professionals were hence promoted to serve, or to employ this population. There is no lack of people who see this group as a potential for profits from A to Z until the students get a piece of degree (or even longer if they somehow manage to stay in the West).

Besides becoming a cheap labor source in research project for the academia (to gather information, data from community places such as temples and churches), foreign students become a hot-selling merchandise. Because they have more brain power (English and knowledge) than the laborers and trafficked sex workers. This hot-selling merchandise is put up for sale, channeled into a labor network chain in restaurants and a source of demand for housing accommodations. The services offered could include illicit drugs, gambling, carousing, and other illegal activities for offsprings of ultra-rich Vietnamese communist party members. Partying doesn’t limit within the internal boundary of these Vietnamese foreign students. They gradually infiltrate into the VSAs (Vietnamese Student Associations) with a strategic “student campaign” for expanding the circle of influence and befriending with the second-generation Vietnamese American students.[2].

In the mean time, the U.S. market is no longer lucrative for investment. Ethnic brain power is either not highly sought after or paid with a bargain because racism is still rooted in American society. The oversea new capitalists and intellects then turn toward their homeland. They are eager to invest, “building” the country. They rationalize with the well pitched phrase “Our homeland has changed tremendously”. If there was change it is in fact only the façade of market economy, so that the party cabal could easily and freely use their power to exchange, sell off, bribe out to the opportunists of greed. The deformed façade of “socialism oriented market economy” propped up by the snake heads of the VCP to cover up the dictatorship embedded with exploitative, immoral, and ecological disastrous policies.

Yet it is most painful when seeing waves of Vietnamese overseas returning to Vietnam not only in determining to forget the bloody history under the hand of the VCP, but also turning a blind eye on blunt oppression and injustice. They throw themselves into individualized glamour fashioned as “Người Đương Thời” or “The Contemporary Figure” to be served due to their privilege and position. They act carelessly and consort local government chieftain while scrupulously living like the neo-colonialists. If “The Contemporary Figure” was pumped up to high heaven through various media means, but at the same time, was slighted and disgraced bluntly in front of the audience that “you’re such a worthless outcast”, it’s still a go to do. [3]

Greenback capital rushed in, Red capital smuggled out. Blood money, sweat money are all mixed up, so how one could know! Neo-colonialist exploitation and class exploitation by the ruling party members are greased through the open market economy system on the surface format. It’s an environment for man-exploit-man via the rubbish of one-party hegemony, jungle capitalism, and heartless know-how. Gradually, the personal relationship, trading partnership, and working in the NGO (Non-governmental Organization) network spring many obligations and binds that make individuals or groups (consciously or unconsciously) yield to implicate – under the banner of reconciliation – with the totalitarian policies that harm people and give away the country subordinating to other power.

Just recently, on October 14, 2008 the NGO PeaceTrees Vietnam had entertained Vietnam Ambassador Le Cong Phung at the Washington Athletic Club (or WAC) at Seattle. Four organizations sponsored this welcoming event are the DuBois Law Firm, Boeing, Russell Investments, and Washington Athelic Club. Being an NGO entity, PeaceTrees Vietnam is yet engaging in diplomatic activities not apolitical at all. A simple friendly greet-and-meet session or an opportunity to polish the front cover of the Vietnamese Communist government, for trading partners (legal advisors, airplane manufacturers, and capital investment firms) to be hooked up? Blood money could be laundered clean for further rotation in new cycles.

Two weeks later, Jerilyn Brusseau, PeaceTrees Vietnam co-founder and president, was invited to be the keynote speaker for the annual gala organized by the Vietnamese American Bar Association of Washington (VABAW) on October 28, 2008. [4] This is an ambiguity tangled with private/public, within/outside multilayer: development and rebuilding or exploitation of neo-colonialists from overseas and party ruling class?

The unsaid ambiguities with razor thin border between good and evil are easy for mistaken and dodging. Evil is always adorned itself with vibrant glitters and coated sugar; the red devil always cloaked under a shimmering coat. After contemplating on these unspoken hidden ambiguities which were named here, we could at least distinguish truth from falsehood in order not to be so trapped into co-optation with evil and to act with integrity and compassion.

NOTE:

[1] To be at the scholarly position in the old times was the most notorious in the five high-ranked royal court titles. Scholar was always the crème of the top in career ladder as well. From the two poems: “Scholar” (Kẻ sĩ) and “Paper Scholar” (Tiến Sĩ Giấy) of Nguyễn Công Trứ (1778-1858).

[2]The most recent event was the Tet Celebration 2009 of Tet in Seattle Organization (which Dr. Kiet Ly is the Chair of the Board of Directors) at Seattle Center. The Vietnamese foreign students from Seattle Central Community College and other community colleges did engage in the “Youth and Dream” Project organized by Judith Henchy, a librarian of Southeast Asian Center of the University of Washington, who coordinated with Seattle Public Library staff. The red flag of Communist Vietnam was dauntingly tagged on the map of Vietnam in the exhibit area due to “confusion”. Only until the Vietnamese American ex-political prisoners discovered and protested, this red flag was removed.

Other equally important incidents regarding the mingling of Vietnamese foreign students with the second generation Vietnamese Americans:

(1) The Vietnamese foreign students living in Seattle have gathered on the University of Washington campus on a regular basis to engage in “Kids Without Borders” Project (of The Greater Seattle Vietnam Association—a non-profit agency that serves as a medium for trading and charity works with Vietnam).

(2) The Vietnamese Student Association of University of Washington (VSAUW) mostly consisting of the second generation Vietnamese Americans also followed the “successful” path via the beauty contest named “Miss Vietnam Washington” of Tet In Seattle. The university students did a fundraising for a Vietnam Mobile Clinic, and have attempted to reach their targeted goal of $20,000. They would delegate their student members to go to Vietnam with the non-profit Wellness Global Foundation (www.wellnessglobalfoundation.org) founded by a “patriotic overseas Vietnamese lady” and a “honorable citizen” of Vietnam. She faces opposition in Belgium for years and serves as the channel between the charity works in the West and Vietnam. Two board members of this organization who are her relatives in Colorado, and a Vietnamese American Professor of Medicine and Acting Head of the Gastroenterology Division at the University of Washington (UW), Seattle, Washington. VSAUW already organized their fundraising for two times:

(2a) At Tea Palace Restaurant on February 28, 2009 for $10,000; and

(2b) At the inter-university beauty contest “Hoa Khoi Lien Truong” of 2009 on April 18th at Kane Hall of UW. [At the same time, there have been unknown reasons for email messages sent to UW students containing information about the dangerous alert of Little Saigon Seattle gentrification and land use inequity were filtered and blocked for almost a year. The UW students have been caught into these ambiguous activities.]

[3] Henry (Hoang) Nguyen—the youngest son of Bang Nguyen, a former vice minister assistant of the South Republic government before 1975, was asked by the talk show host named Loan Bich Ta to eat a banana upfront at the beginning of the interview for Program “Người Đương Thời” (The Contemporary Figures) on Vietnam channel VTV1 distributed on May 7th, 2006

(From: http://topviet.blogspot.com/2008/11/daugher-of-srv-prime-minister-nguyen.html or at YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OEfwNIC-6I&feature=related )

The banana is a symbol indicating the assimilated Asian Americans whose physical skin is still yellow but the mind and heart already pro-Anglo Saxon cullture and way of life. These Asians are or want to be assimilated, not willing to sustain their previous generation’s culture after their settlement in America.

However, the talk show “Người Đương Thời” (The Contemporary Figures) still proposed Henry Hoang Nguyen as “The Unknown from Harvard”, and “The Second-Generation Overseas Vietnamese Who Make Contribution and Enrich the Homeland.” While the majority of post-show comments regarding this hottest TV interview expressed a similar admiration for Henry Nguyen as their idol, one audience’s nickname “Con Quốc Quốc” wrote yet the following (Note: This nickname “Con Quốc Quốc” was a metaphor. The commenter used the name of a bird—the “crake”, a species of bird in the Rallidae family that sings heart-rending sounds–to express how this bird sound could make the exiles or long travelers homesick):

“The unknown from Harvard Henry Hoang Nguyen is possibly one of the most accurate answers for resolution #36 of Secretary of the Central Party regarding the overseas Vietnamese.”

(From: http://nguoiduongthoi.com.vn/Desktop.aspx/NhanVatNDT/Nhan_vat/An_so_den_tu_Harvard/)

[4] VABAW’s Fourth Annual Banquet (http://vabaw.com/annualbanquet.aspx) was held on October 28, 2008 at the Triple Door. The theme for the evening was “Ambassadors to Our Communities.”

Vietnamese Version: Những cái nhập nhằng không tên

Capitalism-Socialism_Günter Grass_E_1

Other related articles in Vietnamese (with English translation):

Part 1: American Ambassador Michalak’s visit at Seattle (Nhập nhằng sinh hoạt cộng đồng Việt TB WA)


Part 2: Whom from the Vietnamese Community Seattle Mayor Nickels interacted with?
[Phần 2: Thị trưởng Seattle tiếp xúc với những ai trong Cộng Đồng người Việt.]

Reference: Gentrification—a new form of racism (Joe Debro)


Newer article (2010):

Collective Amnesia and Rhetoric of Mobilized Participation (short version)

Collective Amnesia and Rhetoric of Mobilized Participation (complete version)

Recent articles (September 2009):

The Rebuttal: “Letter to the International Examiner Editor in Chief” (Thư phản biện gởi cho Chủ Bút International Examiner tiếng Anh)

A letter to the second-generation Vietnamese Americans (Thư ngỏ Anh ngữ cho giới trẻ): “Critical Reflection with Vietnamese Young Readers”

Other Vietnamese essays on Talawas:

Bịt miệng nạn nhân

Chúng tôi (Tự trào – Trí thức – Tâm Tài)

Tôi là người Việt Nam

Thời cửu vạn, ôsin

Lết tới “thiên đường”

Phản bội hay trung thành với lý tưởng?

Đọc tiếp »

Mac Crary – The Poetic Voice from Little Saigon

In LittleSaigon - Seattle, Văn Chương on 2009/09/19 at 14:57

It is our honor to share with you Mac Crary’s poetry here this week.  We are moved by his fresh voice and authentic connection with more than one Little Saigon in America. Mac’s memories of Vietnam/American War were painted vividly with powerful and at times mourning words, and so inviting to provoke ours that occurred simultaneously at the other side of the Pacific Ocean. In short, Mac’s recent letter to the International Examiner, as well as his two below poem do warm our humble spirit and activism mind. The heart-felt connection is in fact unexpected and priceless.

Shredded Margins

One would wish Little Saigon
to be a home and not a symbolic home
for the Vietnamese: a tree
sturdy and sure
rather than a totem pole.

And then came Branson
with the big idea
perfect square
big and hefty
spiffy clean with plastic plants
a landing strip
and a helicopter ramp for day care.
No, thank you, kind sir.

Boat people
the tenacity of trauma
bulging eyes, frightened bellies
desperate children
heartbroken parents
unable to protect them
from the atrocious heat of limbo
deranged, stripping naked
take it from me if that is what you want.

After years of tutoring
they scream at new confines
children dashing into treacherous streets
No!
We cannot live by luck
No!
Thieves, please do not prey on us!
No!
We refuse to hide our heads.
Refuse,
we will march to any cause we believe.

This home shall be rooted
strong and sure
this tree
become a forest.
This heart
become a rain
that feeds the corn.

Mac Crary

The Deaf River

The word Vietnam fell on my forehead like water torture.
It’s time I warned you.
There’s reason our hearts have safety valves.
In a scent of fell cloves
a burning urine stuck in my stomach
making me throw up yellow rain.
The things that have been left unsaid and undone
because of Vietnam.

Some men see women in categories
of Italian, Latin, Negritude and shade;
others see them as mothers, sisters, spouses and colleagues,
but the combat veteran is a place all her own.
Vietnam, I’m burning, shivvering.
Vietnam, I’m choking.

You will remember that
during the evacuation of Saigon
a woman committed suicide with her Amerasian children
leaving a note to her father that read:
I had thought better of you.
For some of us, I guess I mean me,
the tragedy of our times is too dear
the sorrow and loneliness within will never go away.
Even the thought of sharing the rights of agony
drives us to the brink of screaming.

For us the only answer
is plastic palms and sand bars
in a globe of crystal
a separate reality
surrounded by peace signs
that read: No Trespassing
and Keep the Hell Out.

Some of us keep an agonized
attack dog driven piteous from cruelty
with one eye pleading for a milkbone
while yapping and snarling
and certain to bite your goddam arm off.
I keep searching for hidden resources
against the voice saying burn, baby burn.
I’ve been squeezed out like caulk
to fill in gaps like dead letter ads.
I’ve seen the political years wasted by borish gnomes.
I feel like the rice paddy grandmother
become a raw spectral witch
her bonnet catching the sun rays of the ten thousand things
as they pushed her off the helicopter ramp
and she withered up in midair as she fell.
At the snap of a veteran’s fingers you will wake up
and accept your place in hell.

Be it ever so humble.

One Summer when I was poor
someone gave me a strawberry.
I honored it like a tragedy.
Wept as I ate.
It had been so long.
It was like coming out of a coma.
Seeing Dan Rather for the first time in ten years.

I went out to the Tao Dan Cafe
where they try to look
stoic but young
against forces of growing centuries too soon.
Coming from churches and casinos
to watch old ballroom videos from France,
with growing impatience for the American Dream.

A poet crosses off a word from paper.
The broken mirror cuts off your head
as a chair turns you its way.
A poet crosses off a word from paper
and they being to tremble;
a shout arises from the card game
like tears in the forest after the rain.

And the word is no.
We both said it.
We both said it at different times,
we said it about different things,
but it meant the same:
that it hurts too much.

Mac Crary (from “Hypotenuse: Poetry for the Commoner” )

Letter to the International Examiner re: “Little Saigon Asks the Mayor to Walk the Talk” (Thư Anh ngữ cho chủ bút International Examiner về bài “Little Saigon Yêu Cầu Lời Nói Thị Trưởng Đi Đôi Việc Làm)

Thư cho chủ bút International Examiner về bài “Little Saigon Yêu Cầu Lời Nói Thị Trưởng Đi Đôi Việc Làm (Vietnamese Version)

Critical Reflection with Vietnamese Young Readers

In Cộng Đồng, Chính trị (Politics), LittleSaigon - Seattle on 2009/09/12 at 20:45

Note: Why a letter to the International Examiner Editor?

A recent article (Little Saigon takes a walk with the Mayor), written by Quang Nguyen as an International Examiner contributor, appears to be a serious concern to those who have engaged in the transnational, ethnic and local politics. It was published on page 5 of Volume 36, number 15 (August 5-18, 2009).

http://www.iexaminer.org/archives/2009/3615/3615lsta.html (Note: This link to the particular page of the International Examiner became inactive even before our letter was published on September 2nd, 2009 )

To read our rebuttal to Quang Nguyen’s article, please go to:

Letter to the International Examiner Editor: “People in media can help facilitate democracy or participate in its betrayal.” — A response to Quang Nguyen’s August 18, 2009 article

Critical Reflection with Vietnamese Young Readers:

Dear young readers,

If you belong to the Vietnamese-American second generation, you may not feel any unease or discomfort after a quick reading of Quang Nguyen’s article, “Little Saigon Takes A Walk with the Mayor” . Please read it again. Really. We hope by inviting you to read the article again—at a deliberate pace with a more critical mind and heart.

We would like very much to have a dialogue with you all. Now, if you are not sure what we meant and curious about our perspective, please consider our below thoughts as preliminary and as a willingness to engage with all of you (including the author).

We certainly love to receive your feedback or question here or at our email address as the following: Vietsoul21@gmail.com. Thank you for your engagement in advance.

Here are out thoughts…

The article appears to be a serious concern to those who have attempted and/or engaged in the transnational, ethnic and local politics.

First of all, the author seems disregarding the anti-communism movement by judging it as a negative “discourse”. He even compartmentalized this phenomenon with a narrow-minded reasoning. He stated:

“There is a cultural aversion in the Vietnamese American community to get involved politically because it is often associated with rancor, antagonism, and bitterness due to the emotional nature of the anti-Communism discourse.”

Why only anti-communist discourse? If you look at the anti-war discourse in this country, especially when the middle class were drafted for Vietnam/American War, it was very emotional as well. Nobody was aware of Vietnam War protests when the poor and the ethnic were shipped out to the fighting first. Only later when the middle-class sons were drafted then there was fever-high protests and demonstrations. Anti-communism discourse could not be judged as negative due to the restructuring of neoconservative and enhancing of neoliberal discourse, especially for trading and exploiting people of free-market communist developing countries such as Vietnam.

In contrast, according to the author, the anti-communist engagement of the Vietnamese living outside of Vietnam such as in Seattle, USA—as a transnational movement—has become a hindrance for the Vietnamese American’s integration process into the city life, especially politics. His additional intolerant comment about the Vietnamese American socio-political engagement as “notoriously consensus-averse” reveals a biased investigation and escorts the internalized racist view.

Such overall apathetic outlook carrying disrespectful yet intentional self-serving actions has become demeaning and counterproductive not only toward the Vietnamese American small merchants but also the community at large. And it was not only about our recent history. The author carelessly compared Vietnamese as “tribesmen” in fighting “the mighty Han Dynasty of China”. He seems to be ingorant of the context in current geopolitics where China has exhibited hegemonic behaviours including claims of eighty percent of the East Sea and exerting military powers in the dispute of the Paracel Islands (Battle of the Paracel Islands) and the Spratly Islands. China history textbook even claims that Vietnam used to belong to China and ignores the fact that Vietnam as a independent country had rised up against their domination/occupation. (Nam Quốc Sơn Hà or “Mountains and rivers of Southern country”)

In spite of his numerous chances in taking advantage of these faceless names and numbers (in order to ensure his secret deal with the Mayor, DPD, developers, and the coopted groups such as Sage), the author has turned around to dismiss the community desire to promote their multiple complicated voice. Ingrained in left-wing elitist coaching and absorbed by material support from the rich (developers/landowners/real estate brokers), he became a loyal co-opt contesting the Vietnamese demand to be heard as lack of “a common vision and platform”.

The question for all who genuinely cares of and pursue social justice and democracy work would be the following:

“How could one individual and their associates’ conceited acts be privileged as the idealistic image for the “refugee discourse” paralleled with the “Asian model minority” trap[1]? Why aren’t there any progressive interventions from the media, land-use planning key players and associates, co-ethnic group representatives, nor the Vietnamese self-claimed group spokespersons?”

Reference:

[1]

Naomi Ishisaka, Hot Button: The Fall of Little Saigon – Big development is coming to Little Saigon. Will the community survive intact?, Seattle Magazine, March 2009.

Cherry Cayabyab, Community Voice: Alumni Spotlight – Quang Nguyen, ACL 2004”, Asian Pacific Community Leadership Foundation (ACLF) Newsletter, June 2009, vol. 7, issue 2, p. 4

 

Little Saigon đi dạo với Thị Trưởng (Nguyễn H. Quang)

In Cộng Đồng, LittleSaigon - Seattle on 2009/09/07 at 20:05

Ghi chú:   Bài viết của Quang Nguyễn (hay Nguyễn H. Quang) thuộc Phòng Thương Mại được đăng tải nguyên văn tiếng Anh và dịch ra ở phần dưới đây để quý vị tiện tham khảo. Bài này của Quang Nguyễn đã chính thức đăng trên báo International Examiner trên trang 5 của kỳ 36, số 15 (ngày 5-18/8/2009)

Liên kết: http://www.iexaminer.org/archives/2009/3615/3615lsta.html (Xin chú ý: Trang liên kết này đã ngưng hoạt động sau khi chúng tôi gởi bài phản biện đến chủ bút của tờ báo này.)

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