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Sunday, 8 July 2012

A question of patriotism. Saigon: Memories of Vietnam 1965 1975

A question of patriotism. Saigon.

The communists always gave the impression of being very motivated. They were doubtless indoctrinated but their leaders had appropriated the word patriotism when fighting against the French and kept it when fighting the Americans and the government of South Vietnam.

The South had nothing to offer except a capitalist way of life that the poorer classes never saw.

Also in the course of a century a country is lucky to find two great leaders, one political and the other military. In the case of Vietnam they both belonged to the North or communists. Ho Chi Minh and General Giap, the hero of Dien Bien Phu.

The South tried. In the morning the schools held assemblies and raised the flag. There were some very motivated people. There were others whom I felt were deluding themselves by saying the north would get tired of the war and stop their aggressivness through lack of resources and manpower.

When they held elections in the South nobody in my street received voting cards. Obviously they had been appropriated by one of the candidates. There was nothing democratic about elections. Elections were to show that one was fit to govern because one controlled the system enough to crook the results and announce oneself the winner.

Like everyone else we had the national flag. Yellow with three red stripes. One day I saw the maid washing the floor with an old flag. I was the only person who thought it not acceptable even a form of sacrilege. Patriotism takes many forms. Old flags may be burnt but to become dusters or dishcloths!

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