Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Vietnamese Americans

As a Vietnamese American who fled post-war Vietnam (albeit, I was a mere 6 months old), I have very personal ties to issues surrounding the Vietnam War and Vietnamese people living in America. So, today, I was reading the New York Times online and came across an interesting story that relates to both of these issues.

Summarizing, the story is of the Oakland Musem in California going through a very deliberative process involving the Vietnamese American community to determine what should be displayed in an exhibit on the Vietnam War. I have very strong feelings about censorship and believe that because something is seen as "offensive," that does not automatically mean that it should not be displayed. The danger in that is the line between offensive and non-offensive is merely subjective and if it's drawn one way or another, it comes very close to censorship. Ultimately, in this situation, I think that community input is very valuable, but it is the museum's decision as to what to display and what not to display.

However, this also brings up a point about Vietnamese Americans and their political involvement. Sadly, Asian Americans are seen as rather apathetic politically and because they do not participate where it counts (i.e. voting), politicians tend not to pay much attention to issues facing Asian Americans. However, I find that Vietnamese Americans, though they fit the general mold, are very passionate when the issue involves the war. I think it's interesting because, like many other groups, they only become passionate when the issue is strictly personal. Sometimes I find it frustrating, especially when trying to talk to my parents about why they should care about gay marriage or abortion rights.

As a person of Vietnamese descent and someone who believes passionately in political involvement, I would like to see a situation where the Vietnamese community, and the Asian American community at large, is not personally involved and they take a stance. I would like to see a large contingent of Asian Americans at political rallies (of either party) and see them at the polls and see them as delegates at the conventions. Sadly, though Asian Americans make up a small percentage of the American population, we make up an even smaller percentage of voters and political activists.

What is the solution? Ah, who knows. I believe that only when the point is made that political involvement is not only an option in issues that are directly personally relevant, but also in issues that are indirectly relevant will Asian Americans really have an impact. Maybe it's my optimism and my idealism peeking through, but I do think that however small a minority (whether it be ethnic or by some other social construct), they can get their voices heard.

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