Vietnam – An American complex

In the past week I have seen many articles concerning the influence of politicians service (or non-service) in Vietnam.  Most recently, Richard Blumenthal claimed he served when actually he did not.  During the presidential election of 2004 there was a big issue about the “swift boat” soldiers and to be honest, I forget what the controversy was and really do not feel like looking it up.

Tropic Thunder

A new movie “Tropic Thunder” is now showing in theaters. I’ve only seen the previews but could not help but be completely saddened by it. The reason is because it looks like this movie is based upon the Vietnam war which was an atrocity yet is used for an offending nations entertainment. I was also completely exasperated to see on the news today that people are protesting but for a completely different reason which is the disabled or as the movie refers to as “retarded.”
This is a perfect case to understand how one’s viewpoint changes due to international experience and my experience in Vietnam. It also showcases the ignorance of film makers concerning international affairs.
Having lived in Vietnam, I saw the affects of the war that still continue today from Agent Orange and the image of severely deformed children from this poison is burned into my brain. Yet, American film makers have the gall to make a comedy about the war????
Imagine if you were Vietnamese, and saw the add for this movie. Of course America was “assisting” the repressive southern regime but by most viewpoints today America should have stayed out of Vietnam’s affairs. Further, as one reads Ho Chi Minh’s literature one would call into question the true motives for America’s actions.
To see on the news that the people with disabilities are offended isn’t the only problem here. It is extremely disheartening (Horrendous!) to see that there were not protests about making comedy out of such a tragic and sad affair. I’m completely baffled as to how the entire American public has not called attention to this grossly insensitive film. Has America forgotten the pain that both nations suffered during this conflict? How can people go to see this movie and laugh??!!!!!!!
Having lived in America (again) for the past two years I have again integrated into the society. But shit like this brings me back to the same level of anger as when America started the Iraq war and everyone followed it blindly (which now people are starting to realize as a mistake). Make a comedy about an awful war yet they decide to only protest about the disabled. It only shows how short collective memory can be and further how little the American public knows about international affairs. Why not start another war, kill a bunch of people and then make a comedy about it 40 years later???????
I’m pissed off about this. God love Vietnam and the Vietnamese people.


These last couple of weeks have been insaine. I’ve been all over S.E. Asia and thought it was time for a blog entry but unfortunately had a big night out last night and can barely think straight today. But I’m tired of watching movies yet too lazy to get out of the house.
I don’t even know where to start, so I guess I’ll just give the run down of my adventure in Cambodia. I went with my gf and buddy who came to visit me from France. The picture above was taken in the war museum and what an experience that was! The civil war just ended five years ago and they still have a lot of weapons around and let you pick them up in the museum. A visit to this place really puts things in perspective and makes you wonder how anyone could ever support a war. Our tour guide was a soldier in both the Khamer Rouge and then switched sides to the Vietnamese army or would have been executed when they invaded.
He had been shot by an AK-47 three times, his body was full of shrapnel metal and nails, he had a prosthetic leg and was 70% blind. His wife also stepped on a land mind and was killed two years ago. Some questions were asked that he could not answer because the current PM of Cambodia and some elements in Government were in the Khamer Rouge so he had to be extremely careful with his answers.
Most of the beggers in Cambodia have had limbs torn off by the thousands of landmines still strewn about the country and all I could think about was those religious zealot idiots in America who support the war in Iraq as they drive around in their SUV’s and believe God is on their side in promoting war. Damn.
On the positive side, Cambodians are wonderful and extremely resilient people. Our waitress in the restaurant was as cute as a box full of kittens who replied to our requests with “Thank you a moment please.” (Thank you and just a moment please). When she kept saying that it made us just want to give her a big hug.
Although there is a lot of misery in Cambodia, the people are warm and extremely friendly. It is also a very big tourist destination for Asians and the Ankor Wat temples are extrordinary. My gf dragged Ryan and I to about 6 thousand temples in the blazing sun but on the second day we took a break at the Sofitel pool and their wonderful swim up bar.
Cambodia is not the only place we hit, but in the past month I’ve been to Thailand, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue, Danang, and Hanoi. I’m pooped! For those Vets who wonder what Danang is like now, there is nothing left of the American war machine and nothing mentioned about any war sights listed in Let’s Go which means they have all been built over by economic progress.
Hanoi was also quite the experience. It’s much more solemn than Saigon and the people much more reserved. I spoke to a university student and said that I didn’t find Hanoi people very friendly but she said they were just more quiet than people in Saigon. We visited the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh and saw him in his glass sarcophagi surrounded by four white uniformed guards with bayonetts.
It was also extremely interesting hearing the North Vietnamese accent with their heavy use of the “z” sound. So many words are pronounced with the sound “zzzzz” that it makes me think that if bumble bees could talk they would speak with an accent from Hanoi. Zum zaa, zoi zzzunn! In the line to see Ho Chi Minh the guards pick out people who are not dressed respectfully enough and one stern faced 6 foot tall guard picked out a Vietnamese, said something strict and made the guy go to the clothing lending station to put on pants.
In other news, I checked to see how many hits my website was getting and it’s over 1000 a month!! It really makes me wonder who wants to read my ramblings and whatnot. Well, it’s about time for an afternoon nap so I’m gonna conclude this entry here.

Thoughts of the Day

America in the House!!! Last week one of the biggest socialites in HCMC
had his going away party and the theme was to dress like someone from
your country. Therefore, I decided to dress as someone from a “Red
State” and although my state of Ohio turned out red this time, I think
that was simply an irregularity as most people from Ohio are most
excellent. Perhaps my costume could have been construed as someone from
Michigan or perhaps Indiana.
I also ran into a few of my friends from the State Department who also
happen to be on my darts team and when I explained the costume they just
shook their heads in disappointment.. 🙂
But speaking of the red states, I was contemplating on how it could be
that Bush got elected for another term. I think one of the main reasons
is that Bush just connected better with the people than Kerry. He was
able to get them wound up just like an owner would get his dog excited
over fetching a ball. “Come on Boy! Get the weapons of mass
destruction, come on, come on, Lets Go! Let’s go attack an Arab country
that is very little threat to us!!! Yea Yea!! ” This is what people
in the blue states would call a “demagogue.” Now please don’t confuse
this with demi-god, you people in the red states, it’s not the same
But on a serious note, my buddy who just returned from the states says
that the lack of honest debate in the USA is quite scary. Everyone who
has lived abroad for any amount of time understands that leaders can
whip the people up using demagoguery while vilifying those of a
different opinion. The one thing that Bush is very good at is getting
things done, and not getting bogged down in that horrible thing called
debate and consensus. The democrats should also be castigated for not
being able to get their act together and actually do something.
Now don’t get me wrong, I still think America is one of the best
countries in the world, but has simply hit a rough patch. It is fun
from time to time when people get too negative about America to ask them
where all good things come from…. TVs’, computers, cars, robots to
Mars, the internet… where did all these things come from??? If it was
up to other countries, we would still be riding donkeys and whatnot..
But why oh why, is America so polarized when we have such excellent
universities and an educated population? Anyone who has taken a debate
class knows that there are positive and negative aspects to both sides
of a conflict. I think most of the world’s problems stem from a failure
to understand the other side. If you take the war in Vietnam for
example, the communist fighters really did believe in what they were
fighting for and if we look at their situation, they had been oppressed
by the Chinese for thousands of years, and then by the French. But if
we look at the other side in terms of the French, the French people
thought they were bringing good things to Vietnam and “modernizing them”
but it all came at a price. The Americans thought that Communism must
be stopped because it was “oppressive” when the other side thought that
Communism would be “liberating.” The truth is, the more one studies and
understands the other side, the harder it is to define one side as good
and right. If one reads Ho Chi Minh’s writing and read their
constitution it speaks of liberty and freedom. The western powers
wanted to keep Vietnam divided while Ho Chi Minh was trying to unify his
country to make it strong. Many people will be angry at this opinion as
I am just a foreigner in this country and they will say it’s none of my
business. But this brings up another issue which I will address shortly
as I don’t want to get off my main point.
We have made so much progress in the USA that it’s disheartening to see
the current administration define conflicts in terms of “Good and Evil.”
Although they did get it right in calling North Korea Evil which the
current leadership truly is. As you can tell by my writing, it’s very
easy to go back and forth on every issue and this is what learning and
experience does to you. But this will always be attacked from the
extremists on both sides as fence sitting as though it that is a
negative thing.
Now back to me being a “foreigner” in this country. I think in this age
of air travel, the enthusiasm to learn other languages and understand
other cultures people are integrating with each other much faster than
before. Just take the massive protests in the USA at the moment. These
people are just seeking the “American” dream like the Italians, Poles,
Chinese and Irish before them. The borders of countries change and new
lines are drawn such as when the USA took half of Mexico in the 1800’s.
But people migrate and seek out better circumstances. The detractors to
immigration point to the fact that they are “illegals” which they are.
The laws are there for a reason which may be the stability of jobs for
those who are already “Americans.” But laws will not stop people from
seeking out a better life such as Americans did when the forefathers
broke the laws of their King, and the black civil rights leaders broke
the unjust laws of the white rulers. So again it is quite easy to see
both sides of the issue. The Statue of Liberty stand for freedom and is
one of America’s greatest monuments. Other people too wish to come to
America and good for them. So while the laws are in place for a reason,
we must also understand why people want to come to America and be proud
of that. I think the government is doing a good job of understanding
both sides and trying to navigate this issue delicately.
Now let me digress to people calling me a foreigner in other countries.
Sometimes it irks me when people call me a “foreigner” while I’m in
their land. Anyone can come to the USA and become fully American. But
we cannot do this yet in the Asian countries and are always treated as
outsiders. One lovely older lady kept saying during her speech at some
business event that we must remember Vietnam is not our country and we
are “guests” here. For those “foreigners” who have lived here a long
time, will it ever be possible that our cultures integrate so much that
people from other nations will be accepted as the locals are? Many of
them speak Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese quite well. It may sound
ridiculous now, but cultures can come together quite well in America,,,
so will it ever be the same in other countries? Just a thought..

My fellow students

As I mentioned in the previous post, I’m studying Japanese here in Ho Chi Minh city. All the other students are Vietnamese and it’s really interesting to study along side them. The foreigners here in Saigon usually only interact with the Vietnamese at work, or with those who work in the bars, but rarely get to see the other side of them. By studying Japanese with them, I’m able to communicate in a language other than English and understand that they are going through the same hardships trying to learn another language. They really are a wonderful people and the way they pronounce Japanese words is really cute. Instead of a crisp “Irrashaimase” as the Japanese do, it comes out “Irrasaimase” They cannot pronounce the “shhhhhhhhh” as the sound we make in English when we want someone to be quiet. Instead it comes out as “Sai” or the sound we make when we say “Site” without the “te” at the end.
I spoke about irritations when one needs a break in the last post. One more irritation today would have been the looks I get going into a school that is all Vietnamese students. Instead of a “hello” and then wondering if I will respond like a monkey to a bananna, it would be a “konbanwa” and astonishment that a white man can speak a language usually reserved for Asians. Again, life usually isn’t like this, it’s just that I’m way overdue for a vacation.
Ok, one last irritation and then I’m done I promise. Sometimes foreigners get tired of the mistakes other cultures can make when trying to be polite. Really they mean well but it’s just a stupid irritation my stupid brain reacts to negatively. For example, I went into a major international company today and had to wait for the person I was supposed to meet. The receptionist said “I’m sorry, may I have your name?” “I’m sorry, can you please wait?” “I’m sorry, can you take a seat?” I didn’t want to sit down so just acknowledged what she said and remained standing. Then thirty seconds later she repeated “I’m sorry, can you take a seat?” At that point I just wanted to say “Stop being sorry, and no I don’t want to take a seat!” Sounds stupid huh. It is, and is just proof I need a vacation. The other one is the overuse of “Please” When they want you to do something they will gesture and say “Please, please.” After hearing “Please, please” over and over every single day, it can make you want to bang your head against the wall. Maybe it’s difficult to understand for people who have not experienced a long term overseas stay.
Oh my god!!! At the moment I’m writing this, I’m watching “Everyone loves Raymond” and his mother just went berzerk about Raymonds overuse of “at” as an end of a sentence. She just said “Is this the end of civilization!!!” and then went on to scold Raymond about his education. I guess anyone can get upset about these things and proves that there is a higher power up there who makes these coincidences happen. Weird huh.