Return to Vietnam?

It’s time to resurrect some thoughts I expressed when I first started this blog several years ago. Not too surprisingly, my thinking has changed over time, so I’ve revised some of my earlier thoughts. First off, about going back to Vietnam:

So many people ask me if I’ve returned to Vietnam since the war ended. The answer is no. I have no desire whatever to go back. Vietnam is the place of my nightmares. I don’t want to relive them. I was there on and off for thirteen years. I witnessed and participated in brutal acts of combat, then survived the fall of Saigon, escaping under fire. That left me spiritually scarred.

A good many men I knew there have revisited the places where they fought, and a few have even gone to Hanoi. They talk about what a beautiful country Vietnam is and how happy and welcoming the people are.

I agree that there are beautiful places in Vietnam. The natural splendor of Cam Ranh Bay, for example, and the beauty of many places in the highlands are like shining stars in my memory. But there are also some ugly ones that the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (the new name of the country, replacing the old name, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam) does not allow tourists to see.

I am inclined to remind the visitors that the population is under the strict control of the government. It is, after all, a police state. The people are required to look content and friendly to support the tourism industry. They have no personal freedom at all. Were tourists allowed to go to off-limits locations, for example the slums and the highlands, they would encounter a very different reality.

But I don’t speak my mind. Let those who return reach their own conclusions. Let my nightmares remain private. I vent them in my writing.

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