Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Rise and Fall of Saigon

It has been 30 years since the fall of Saigon. The images of the last helicopter leaving the roof of the American Embassy in 1975 has always been in my mind, especially after watching the embassy torn down brick by brick during my visit in 1998.

In a wave of celebrations, Vietnam has decided to celebrate the liberation of its country (the day is known as Liberation Day in Vietnam). During this time, I have tried to think of what I would have done in the face of the Vietnam War, if I had been a young student at the time of the war just as I am at the time of the Iraqi War. Would I oppose it as much? Would I think of it as modern imperialism? Would I believe that the Americans (including myself) are just a colonial power in disguise? I really can't say.

However, what I have seen with my eyes is how the Vietnamese people are resilient. They have turned a country that was devastated by an infamous war into one filled with hope. The youth of the country have little connection to the war itself other than through stories from parents and grandparents, much like the youth of our country and their connection to World War I or II. However, the youth have a strong connection to those abroad - which I think will turn out to be the good for the country but bad for the government. The government cannot control everything as easily anymore and the people will no longer allow it.

So, what I see happening is the eventual awakening, of the people and of the government, in Vietnam. I think that it will take another few years and even decades, but there is a slow realization that the Vietnam cannot live in the shadows of the war any longer. The question is whether America can also stop living in the shadows of the war.

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