Old ways die hard, especially when they once represented life and death.
It was a long walk to the mausoleum, but we went through a district of embassies and officials, so the sidewalks were passable and traffic was more orderly (although that’s not saying much).
Ho Chi Minh is revered in Vietnam in almost the same way that the old kings were worshiped. I find this profoundly ironic. His body was preserved after his death in 1969—against his own wishes—and now lies in state in a mausoleum, where hundreds of pilgrims come daily to pay their respects.
Under more recent policies of a “socialist-oriented free market economy,” the country is growing and prospering with help from China, Japan, France, and NGOs, and in spite of widespread corruption and the legacies of the war—such as early government policies of collectivization, the purging of American collaborators, land mines, and agent orange, to name a few. The people seem to attribute their victory and success to Ho Chi Minh, and the government is actively promoting a personality cult around “Uncle Ho,” so his life and works have been mythologized and his name is becoming sacrosanct. Note to all would-be revolutionary heroes: if you want to be remembered in a positive light for the rest of time, it’s best to die just on the brink of, or immediately after, your big victory.
Walk around Hanoi, and you will see free enterprise going gangbusters. It hardly looks like the socialist utopia envisioned by Uncle Ho; nor does it bear any resemblance to the gulag of American nightmares (although it certainly was headed in that direction in the first decade after the war). In other words, they tried it for a few years, decided it didn’t work very well, and changed it to something else that looks a lot like a semi-representative political system and free-market economy, run by an Asian bureaucracy. If anything, the war delayed the better outcome. What would have happened if the US had just left Vietnam alone? Except for the official propaganda in the museums and history books, the American War is something the people have tried to put behind them.This entry was posted in Honeymoon 2013