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Communist Icons and Free Speech

February 21, 1999

* Dan Tsang's Opinion section article, "Little Saigon Slowly Kicking the Redbaiting Habit" (Jan. 31), makes some disturbing conclusions about the recent incident regarding the display of Ho Chi Minh's portrait and the Communist flag at an electronics store in Westminster's Little Saigon, the heart of the Vietnamese American community.

Tsang has regretfully contributed to the negative stereotype of the Vietnamese as "redbaiters" who worship the "religion of anti-communism."

Moreover, he criticizes Rep. Loretta Sanchez for waving the flag of the "defunct and discredited former South Vietnam."

To her credit, Sanchez has made the effort to empathize with the thousands of Vietnamese refugees who were tortured, imprisoned and persecuted after the war, people who lost close relatives and friends escaping by boat, and who today still suffer the deep emotional scars of the war.

The flag incident has been covered in the mainstream national media as one involving freedom of speech. A deeper issue is how we have come to terms with the war and how we view Vietnamese.

In the American psyche, the Vietnam War conjures up many negative images and subconscious guilt. Not only did we lose, but many believe we were wrong from the beginning. And because we were wrong, the Communists must have been right.

This is a dangerous and illogical path for Americans to follow. According to groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the Communist regime in Vietnam has proved to be as morally corrupt and oppressive as in China. Yet in our effort to reconcile our guilt we are nearing full trade relations with Vietnam.

MICHAEL MATSUDA

Garden Grove

* Certain members of the Vietnamese community need to accept reality and move on.

South Vietnam [ceased to exist] 25 years ago, a South Vietnam that was, by any objective measure, certainly no democracy.

Many protesters were small children or not even born then. Here's an update: There's no South Vietnam and no Saigon, Ho Chi Minh is long dead and the war is over. The United States did everything, short of dropping an atomic bomb on Hanoi, to help the South Vietnamese.

We sacrificed 54,000 of our sons and daughters, consumed the wealth of our nation for a decade and estranged whole families and communities from one another.

The social ramifications of those tumultuous days still run through American society. And yet, the Nguyen Van Thieu regime, through social corruption and complete military mismanagement, lost the war. All America sacrificed--gone--in less than two years!

I saw an interview with Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, the architect of the North's war effort against the South at that time. Apparently, the North was as surprised as the United States by the sudden collapse of the South. To paraphrase Shakespeare, "The fault, dear Vietnamese, lies not in your stars, but in yourselves."

And now they wish to carry on the war here? Forget it; we've had enough!

Now the Vietnamese live in a true democracy. [They should] learn what a gift that is, learn that with great political rights also come great social responsibilities. We have majority rule; but, as important, we also have minority rights. Everyone has the right to speak, peacefully assemble and display political signs and opinions, however unpopular. Protecting these rights is the linchpin of a pluralistic democracy.

THOMAS WALTON

Laguna Niguel

* In the 1970s, the Communists were able to infiltrate the United States. We Americans lost the Vietnam War not at the battlefields but right at home.

More than 20 years later, the Communist government of Vietnam applies the same tactics, takes advantage of our constitution, our legal system in trying to destroy Little Saigon, capital of the free Vietnamese.

After the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, the people of Vietnam, especially those from the North, opened their eyes and realized that for three decades, with more than 1 million dead, from both North and South, that criminal Ho Chi Minh and his gang exhausted the national resources, not for the welfare of the Vietnamese people but to buy weapons from the Soviets to kill, to satisfy their bloody ambitions.

Truong Van Tran is not a Communist sympathizer; he is a tool of the Communist government.

JAMES NGO

Fountain Valley

* The strength of our democracy and every blessing of freedom we enjoy as Americans are based on our ability to express and advocate ideas and opinions, popular or otherwise.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Tam Nomoto Schumann deserves praise for her legal decision to support the 1st Amendment right of Vietnamese American store owner Truong Van Tran to display the flag of Communist Vietnam and the picture of Ho Chi Minh in his store.

The values and principles of democracy are reinforced and strengthened when unpopular ideas can be expressed with the protection of the 1st Amendment.

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