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Director: Bai An Tran, Ph.D.

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'Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon' Exhibit - Body without Soul

The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service organized an exhibit named "Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon."

20080926043418 exitcogai Started in 2004, the project's aim is to commemorate the 30 years of mass Vietnamese migration to the United States. As one of nearly two million Vietnamese refugees arriving in the United States, I visited the exhibit 33 years to the day that I escaped from Vietnam by boat. Many photos were meaningfully displayed, and the Vietnamese refugees appreciated and were very pleased with the great effort of the Smithsonian Institution in presenting the hardship of their journeys and the success of the Vietnamese Americans in this new land. However, there were some mistakes which should be corrected: The exhibit imprecisely stated the reason for the evacuation, insufficiently described their mass activities, and incorrectly praised some individuals.

    First, one caption stated: "As America withdrew its forces, North Vietnamese troops and Viet Cong guerillas advanced on the capital city of Saigon. The fall of South Vietnam's government on April 30, 1975, resulted in mass evacuations from the country."  This is not correct. Even though America had withdrawn its forces, North Vietnamese troops could not have occupied the South without the help of the United States. In fact, from April 20, 1975, the U.S. had already planned to evacuate all families of top officials of the South Vietnamese regime, and then, during those last days of the war, U.S. helicopters took several brave commanders away from the battle fields. As a direct result, all military forces of the South swiftly collapsed. Furthermore, the main reason of the mass evacuation was not the fall of the South Vietnam government, but the brutality of the Communist regime. Communism is something more horrible than death. Communism is something crueler than pirates. Communism is something more dangerous than Fascism. So, the most important message that the Viet refugees wanted to convey to the world was a rejection and an absolute refusal of Communism. The Vietnamese refugees were very joyful when the entire Communist regimes in Europe soundly collapsed in 1989, yet they are very saddened that Communism still exists in China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam, their homeland.

20080926043407 exitco    Secondly, the flag of the former Republic of Vietnam, which is the symbol of the Vietnamese Community, was not found in the exhibit. Many states and cities around the U.S. have honored and accepted this flag as the official symbol of the Vietnamese Americans. An exhibit depicting the Vietnamese refugees without their flag is insufficient. It is similar to a body without a soul. Nor did the exhibit display many mass gatherings for worthy issues, such as huge demonstrations against violations of human rights in Vietnam, against racial discrimination toward the Viet fishermen in Texas and Louisiana, against the assimilation policy of the local Catholic church in San Jose, and against displaying the Red Flag of the Communist regime of Vietnam in Garden Grove, California.
   

20080926043434 exitvuongFinally, the exhibition incorrectly praised some individuals who were not even members of the Vietnamese refugee community. For example, Mr. Vuong Duc Vu was a foreign student in the U.S. before 1975, not a refugee. Moreover, he has been acting for the Communist regime by welcoming government officials from Vietnam in the United States. He has even been praised by the Communist media. His political activities have seriously irritated the Vietnamese refugees. It is ridiculous to believe that anyone praised by the Communists would be praised by the Vietnamese refugees. Another individual is Mr. Thich Nhat Hanh who was referred to incorrectly as a "religious leader," a "Buddhist monk," and a "peace activist." In fact, none of these designations fits him. Hanh is certainly not a Vietnamese refugee in the USA because his permanent residence is in France. He became a monk a long time ago to hide his identity as a Communist spy. When his mission had been accomplished, he was secularized and got married. Now he calls himself a "yogi".

    In conclusion, it is an honor for the Vietnamese refugees to have their exodus brought to the attention of American society and to have their history documented by an organization so esteemed as the Smithsonian Institution. Despite some oversights which might hurt the feelings of the majority of the Viet refugees, the goal of the Smithsonian exhibit is admirable. Hopefully, these mistakes will be corrected in the near future. 

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