2010-09-05

Vietnam National Day Military Concert

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by Neil Godfrey

It’s not ballet, not rap, not aerobics, not quite marching, maybe a little of each, but it is certainly martial stirring stuff for the audience of Vietnamese military. It took place in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City so public was also able to share the experience. Unfortunately I could not capture all of the matching film footage behind the singers/”dancers”(?) showing dramatic snippets of army training action, Ho Chi Minh, and other captivating visuals of Vietnam’s historical and moments of special public display moments.

The show concludes with the “Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh” song.

Excuse the wobbly bit about a minute into the video when I was attempting to find a better filming position.

Several Vietnamese I met were keen to know what I thought of their country. I had to reply that, like Cambodia which I have also seen a little of, it is clear they had been cruelly ruined and are still struggling to recover from thirty five years of war for liberation against one occupying power after another. They have a right to feel proud. Met some wonderful people there. After having been robbed in the street on my first night there, it took me a little effort to open up to the friendship and smiles of most of the locals I met. One hawker who makes his living walking the streets with a bamboo pole over his shoulder to carry his wares (cocoanuts) even came up to me to give me a free one as a gesture of good-will. A visitor needs a gesture like that after a very unlucky start.

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  • mcduff
    2010-09-05 18:44:46 UTC - 18:44 | Permalink

    40 plus years ago, as a youth I signed a public letter protesting my government killing people in Vietnam.
    I was one of about 10,000 [from memory] to do so and the letter was published in the national media under the names of several luminaries, Tom Uren MP being one I remember, Jack Mundy another.
    I got included in the fine print …”and 10,000 [whatever] other signatories” at the bottom of the page.

    Earlier this year we, spouse and I and our 2 grandkids, spent a month in Vietnam and happened to be at the Vietnamese Women’s Museum in Hanoi on International Women’s Day of all days.
    Pretty powerful and moving place, see it if you can [and the National Military Museum nearby also, not to mention the water puppets as a can’t miss].
    And there, framed on the wall was a copy of that letter from my past.

    Gave me a funny feeling, took me back, way back to those days.
    I called to Ms. mcduff to have a look and one of the official women overheard and, and this felt really strange, thanked me.

    • 2010-09-06 00:22:43 UTC - 00:22 | Permalink

      That’s wonderful. It must have been a very moving experience.

      You probably also saw the War Relics Museum in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) — I found it a most moving (and nauseating – some sections are not for the faint-hearted) experience — and it was encouraging to see how the international support for the Vietnamese people during that war was registered and appreciated by the Vietnamese themselves. It sometimes seems like a waste of time protesting against what is happening “here and now” — as millions did again on the eve of the invasion of Iraq — but the Museum gives reassurance it is not wasted effort. I was surprised to see how many non-Vietnamese (especially American) individuals are named, honoured and sympathized with, including displays of their photographs there, too. (Though beside the My Lai massacre section is a place for Senator John Kerry and the “little” barbarisms his unit committed.)

      A group of us in a Queensland country town prepared a photograph of ourselves with a banner supporting the Iraqi people a few years ago for one of the ‘human shields’ to deliver to a community she had worked with in Iraq. We were later informed of the details of her visit and told of the Iraqi community’s responses to it, and it was apparent that it had at least been of some appreciated encouragement to those Iraqis.

      It is so easy to feel our actions are so insignificant, but your experience, and those of others who visit places like this, — it’s good to know it really does mean something. It’s not wasted.

      And yep, I saw the water puppet show in HCMC, in a theatre with chairs and decor that took me back to my boyhood. Unforgettable 🙂

  • mcduff
    2010-09-06 19:36:33 UTC - 19:36 | Permalink

    I tend to avoid overt militarism where possible and in fact I was somewhat reluctant to visit Vietnam at all because of my personal association with it and war as I was afraid my youth would distort my elderly impressions.
    But now I’m glad we went, we had a great time, nice people and the grandkids learned a lot on their first trip outside the own narrow culture, first time overseas, nearly the first out of their home state.

    One minor disappointment [for which neither the country nor the people are to blame] was the lack of birds.
    I’m a fairly keen birder, bit of a twitcher even, and we went out of our way, 3 national parks, to see the ‘wilderness’ and maybe find some birds.
    And I didn’t, relative to what could have been expected.
    And I think I know why, apart from the obvious problem of getting to the right places at the right times.
    During the war the Americans, with Aussie support of course, sprayed about 80 million litres of toxic defoliants on nearly half of all of the south’s land area at least once with dramatic impact on the forests and the mangroves in particular [and humans of course]. I strongly suspect the lack of bird life is an environmental indicator that the effect of those poisons, dioxin has a half life of about 10 years, is still impacting on the environment despite the efforts of the Vietnamese to repair the damage.

    The things people do to people … and the land.
    *Sigh*.

    • 2010-09-06 20:17:07 UTC - 20:17 | Permalink

      The moment you mentioned “the lack of birds” I immediately thought of the chemical spraying and destructions of incredible areas of necessary habitats. I would be surprised if there were any reason other than the one you suspect.

      Regrettably at the time of the war (I heard it more aptly called the “Anti-Vietnam War” in one film at the War Relics Museum) I was wrapped up in religion. My head only dimly comprehended the wrong of the war, and if I were to be called up to fight I naively assumed I would simply be a conscientious objector on religious grounds. It’s only in more “recent” years that I have come more fully to understand what it was all about. The fates of the Palestinians, Iraqis and Afghans and Chagossian Islanders (Diego Garcians) and God knows who else have profited nothing from the experience.

  • mikelioso
    2010-09-06 23:51:47 UTC - 23:51 | Permalink

    You were robbed on this trip? Very sorry to here that, it must have been a terribly frightening experience.

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