Monday, January 05, 2009

Flashback: Reunification Palace

You may have seen a famous photo of North Vietnamese/Viet Cong tanks storming the palace in Saigon and “taking” the city. This occurred after the US had “pulled out.” The former presidential palace is now called the reunification palace and is a museum to the survival and fighting spirit of the people who sought to be one unified country.

This was our first tour in Vietnam and there were several poignant moments. After the first segment of the tour (during which our guide explained that one of the last presidents to live here died because he was killed by the US CIA), he asked everyone to say where they were from. The majority of the group was from Singapore, and then we said “USA.” It felt strange to feel strange saying that. Our guide was nothing but kind and courteous to us, downright friendly. But, his story continued full of “patriotism” I guess you’d say. He proudly told us that his father fought for freedom against the American imperialists and has a bullet in his leg to this day.

Vietnam is a communist country (and you’ll notice we didn’t post anything not fully pro-Vietnam on our blog until AFTER we’d left the country), so inevitably there is a degree of information control. There is a chance that our guide actually didn’t think some of the things he told us…but, I found it an interesting mirror about how easy it is to see your “side” of the story as the whole story. I said to Ron as we were leaving, “Isn’t it funny how everyone thinks their own crap doesn’t stink?”

During our time in Vietnam we learned much about the “American War” and I’d say the more I learned, the more confused I was. It was certainly a very complicated and painful chapter in both the history of the US and Vietnam.

I’ve been reading an excellent book called “In Retrospect” written by Robert McNamara. He was Secretary of Defense during the majority of the Vietnam war and this book is essentially his explanation and apology to the post-Vietnam generation for what happened. I highly recommend it.

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