‘No-Communist Zone’ Has No Place in America
While our country is fighting, figuratively and literally, to defend this nation’s good name in Iraq, the elected city officials of Garden Grove and Westminster spent precious time declaring that their cities are against “high-profile drive-bys or stopovers by members and officials of the Vietnamese communist government.” Garden Grove deemed itself a “no-communist zone.”
How would these officials explain to their counterparts from Vietnam how we operate here in the United States? Instead of upholding American values and conveying to newcomers that in the U.S. we cannot do away with the rights of some to favor the rights of others in this way, these Orange County officials bowed to Little Saigon’s hard-core communist haters, whose numbers are few but who clamor the loudest. Aren’t the restrictions of Vietnam’s communist government on its citizens one of the complaints we often hear about?
The United States and the current Vietnamese government have full diplomatic relations, trade treaties and a warming military bond. People from both countries are free to visit and conduct business in each other’s country. And they have.
The current developments in U.S.-Vietnam relations show a newfound friendliness between former enemies. This is progress that we in the U.S. should encourage, not stifle. It is unrealistic as well as anti-democratic to keep any visiting Vietnamese out of Little Saigon.
The war in Vietnam ended almost three decades ago. People of Vietnamese ancestry make up about 5% of Orange County’s population, according to the 2000 census. Shopkeepers in Little Saigon peddle items directly from Vietnam. There are hundreds of thousands of them who go back to visit every year, and many more indirectly contribute billions of hard U.S. currency to Vietnam’s economy through remittances to their families.
But every now and then, the anti-communists here advocate the “three nos” rhetoric: Don’t go home, don’t send money home, and don’t buy Vietnam products. There has never been a serious exchange of thoughts between expatriates as to how to best deal with present-day Vietnam. Politically reticent Vietnamese Americans tend to concentrate on putting food on the table and providing an education for the kids. They are willing to tolerate the small vocal bunch. They have been through war and through communist gulags.
In voting yes on the so-called “no-communist zone” resolution, the city councils in Garden Grove and Westminster have inadvertently made this silent majority in Little Saigon more silent. The measure will give the new citizens the impression that the “government” is condoning the acts of hardened anti-communists, whose tactics might be considered a violation of civil liberties in the American mainstream.
The United States would be better served if those who vow to uphold the Constitution find ways to channel American values to the newcomers. Let them soak it all in. Let them lose some sleep over America too. Tell them that there is not a thing they can change about the past. But the future is for them to form, and the future is now.
Thuy Reed, who left Vietnam in 1975, is founder and director of New Viet Women, a support group for Vietnamese women. E-mail: newvietwomen@yahoo .com