Vietnam: Would We Have Done the Same Thing If We Had Seen the Future?
So here we are riding in a bus from Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon and it is very obvious that God is trying to tell me something. In front of us is a row of three Japanese women, the former enemy of my father’s generation, beside us are 3 young Russian women, the former enemy of our childhood, and we are in the middle of the country where the enemy of our youth lives. When the guide begins to speak to tell some of the history of the country, it surprises us how open and frank he is about what a failure communism was in the country. It is not what you might hear in the North. As he mentions the war, my eyes begin to get teary so I turn toward the window and realize that there is a part of me that is still involved in the war.
When we were in the North three years ago, I didn’t want to visit in war museums or sites because I just wanted to see and be with the Vietnamese people. But being here in the South and feeling emotional about the war makes me realize that there is still an internal personal struggle. Well we spend the day along the Mekong River doing all kinds of interesting things, and when we arrive back in Ho Chi Minh I decide to sign up for a trip the next day to Cu Chi Tunnels.
My guide on the second day was a refugee from the war. His family had worked for Americans so in 1975 he became a refugee to Malaysia while his parents went to Indonesia. He is now back in the Vietnam telling us two distinct messages that were both true. One is how the Viet Cong were just so clever in how they used the tunnels to fight off the American soldiers and the other was how terrible it was under communist rule. It is a strange paradox that what the people in the villages were fighting for just didn’t work because the government closed down the country, wouldn’t let people open their own businesses nor own land, and it became one of the poorest countries in the world. When they changed in 1987 and began to open up their markets to more individual initiative, then things started to get much better.
I find that my feelings have been all over the map. First of all I am so still feeling angry at the American government for prolonging an unnecessary war, but then I still feel upset because American didn’t win the war. After going to the tunnels and crawling through those really small passageways, seeing how people lived for years, I can’t help but have a lot of admiration for the way they fought and persevered, but when I hear about what happened to so many people after the war, it just seemed so pointless for their struggle.
So here we are 35 years after the end of the Vietnam War. Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. There are lots of construction projects and new businesses all around. The standard of living for everyone has risen significantly. So the question that comes into my mind, as I make friendships with Russians, Japanese and Vietnamese, is would we have fought the war had we been able to see in the future and see what is happening now. Were all these ruinous wars necessary? Why can I sit with people from cultures all over the world in perfect friendship as if we are all citizens of the same country?
It seems to me that the mistakes of our forefathers need not be repeated by the generations yet to come. We can put an end to the madness by looking ahead to the kind of future that we want to have and then engage in those processes that construct the future in a positive way. It just seems to me that maybe the first process that we need is to replace aggressive power seeking with gentleness. I am not sure that too many business leaders have given very much consideration to it, but there is no doubt in my mind that in the future people will have this quality in abundance and the world will be better for it.