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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

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APRIL 2015

69

the 70th anniversary of Vietnam’s independence and the 40th

anniversary of reunification with the South. In other places,

we saw the leftover billboards from the commemorative events

of 2014. Private advertising along the sides of the roads or in

towns, however, was non-existent. Entrepreneurs seemed able

to publicize their activities in the press, with handouts or on

TV, but not with billboards.

While monuments commemorated northern victories, they

were all victories against the Americans. We saw no references

to the role of southerners in the struggle, except occasionally as

The skyline of Ho Chi Minh City as it appears from the circle in front of the Ben Thanh Market. The tall building in the background at

center left is the Bitexco Financial Tower, the tallest building in the city, a 68-story structure inspired by the lotus flower. The red sign

on the building across the circle says in rough translation: "President Ho Chi Minh lives forever great because of our industriousness."

puppets of the Americans. The southern dead did not seem to

be memorialized with any of their own monuments or cem-

eteries. Those southerners who fled after 1975 did so for eco-

nomic reasons. Hanoi had fought and repelled the Americans.

What does one make of the new Vietnam? A very wise Viet-

namese explained that his generation had all gone through “re-

education” if they had not been believers. The next generation

picked up the message about the Vietnamese victory over the

Americans in school. Some believed it; others were skeptical.

He said the really interesting groups are the people under

the age of about 35. They are cynical about what they learned

in school from professors who couldn't answer questions

about history and gave rote answers to their inquiries. They

are, however, sufficiently connected to the outside world with

cell phones and social media that this matters little. They don't

care about history and politics. They want to be connected with

their peers in the rest of the world, making money.

This is the new Vietnam.

n

While monuments

commemorated northern

victories, they were all victories

against the Americans.