Today, I explored the history of conflict between Vietnam and the U.S., and I gained insight into the Vietnamese perspective on a subject that I otherwise have always talked about from an American point of view. One site I visited today was the Cu Chi Tunnel System, a network of underground operations used by the Viet Cong that allowed for communication, transportation, and cover. The tunnels were quite small and tough for me to navigate quickly, although the Viet Cong were able to use them much more efficiently during the war. The tunnels were camouflaged and virtually undetectable to outsiders.
Obviously, the Vietnamese government has a different portrayal of the war than the American government. In Vietnam, the war is known as the “American War,” as it is seen that the U.S. invaded Vietnam and caused mass casualties throughout the country. The saying that “history is written by the victors” might be applied here, as the “winner” of the war, North Vietnam, has written the story of the war as one of South Vietnamese rebellion and harmful American intervention; however, the southern part of Vietnam is still much more liberal than the northern part, as seen from their breaking away from some of the stricter customs of the north (while staying within the bounds of legality). The overall interpretation of history comes down to a huge number of factors, including who is on the winning or losing side, beliefs and values of the people, and how the government wishes to shape the future.
Forty years ago, the U.S. military left Vietnam. Twenty years later, the two states normalized relations. Now, despite the government’s position on the war, the Vietnamese people tend to have a positive opinion of Americans (with a 94% favor rating). This has been apparent in the young Vietnamese students I have been interacting with over the past week, as they are happy to be with us and love showing us their country. This overall position of the country is important for its development, as it strengthens trade relations with the U.S. If the Vietnamese people were to remain apprehensive to the U.S. about the destruction it inflicted on the land and people, they might not have gone down the path of rapid development that they are on now.