Sunday, October 15, 2006

Window To Orange County

It's been over 30 years since the fall of Saigon, and with the fall came a flood of Vietnamese refugees to a land that had never really seen them before. For some strange reason or another, refugees that were originally disersed throughout the nation managed to reconvene in large numbers in a just a few key regions. As fate would have it, Orange County quickly became, almost from the start, a sizeable population center, and now boasts (if you can call it that) one of the largest concentrations(and still rapidly growing) of vietnamese outside of Vietnam, if not the largest.

It has not always been an easy adjustment for the original citizens, and it damn sure wasn't easy for the Vietnamese, either. For the most part, both sides have adjusted and live in relative harmony. For their part, the Vietnamese have made themselves a permanent part of the county culturescape, reshaping it as it shapes them,and adapting as americans in their new home.

The traumas and memories of what brought them here are never forgotten. While some americans desire to forget the whole ordeal, for the newly amercanized vietnamese, it is part of their collective memory. They will not forget, and hold in their hearts a reverence for those who fought, and died, for the cause.

Often I get the impression, from americans in general, that those who were lost are remembered in sorrow, as human collateral in a policy of folly. This may be true to a point. But what is forgotten in this mindset are the heroic ideals of bravery,courage and sacrifice. The american veteran of the war in Vietnam is not held in as high regard, or given the same level of reverence, in our culture as those who fought in wars previous. We built them a monument that is little more than a tombstone on steroids. It speaks of loss instead of heroics. A monument to defeat, as opposed to defiance.

The new americans of Orange County have remedied that, and with funds raised soley within the vietnamese community have built the only monument that honors both american and south vietnamese soldiers who fought in that struggle.

The designers weren't politically correct,either. Showcasing an american soldier alongside a south vietnamese soldier, standing together,proudly defiant, and fully armed. Before them flickers an eternal flame, and a pot of burning incense, while flanked by the flags of both nations.It is a source of pride, and a rallying point for the community. A place where the older generation brings their american grandkids to teach them the values, and gratitude, they otherwise might not be learning in school.

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