- Đây là một bài tôi viết trên blog 360 độ cách đây một thời gian về người gốc Việt đầu tiên trúng cử vào Quốc hội Mỹ. Hôm nay vô tình thấy bài này trên BBC tiếng Việt, nên post lại đây để đối chiếu về dự đoán trong bài trước của tôi.
- First Vietnamese American in US Congress
That is the piece of news on the NY Times that I spotted a couple of days ago. In a predominantly black and Democratic district in Louisiana, a certain Mr. Anh Cao, first generation migrant from Vietnam, defeated the long-term black Democrat incumbent, only a few weeks after the first black presidential candidate from a major party defeated the incumbent party's candidate. It is true that the Democrat incumbent, Rep. William J. Jefferson comes into the election with an infamous burden of FBI files full of corruption charges. It is also true that since the election was delayed due to hurricane Gustav, black turnout diminished significantly, compared to what would have been the case on Nov. 4. But it does not take out a bit of prestige from the unlikely victory of the first Vietnamese American Congressman.
What is more interesting to me is not really the hype of the unprecedented event (everything has a beginning, you may say), but the nature of the man that would soon stand for a whole immigrant community. I would scribe down a few points about him, through stereotypical glasses of that community.
First, he is highly religious, stereotypical of most Vietnamese Americans living in Vietnamese American communities I know. Second, like many first-generation immigrants, he suffered fatefully harsh childhood and adolescence, and decidedly worked hard as a response to the ordeal. Third, he is Republican. The last fact gathers a lot of stereotypical characters of the Vietnamese American communities. Exiled for different reasons, they regroup with a strong belief in God and superhuman forces that have saved them through the numerous obstacles they had to face. They have little belief in government, of any kind, and choose to work as hard as they can, wishing the society to leave everything into the invisible hand of the market. And they hold a diehard view on how to win wars and respect the military. These traits fit well into the staunch ideological lines of the Republican Party. While Obama might have been a bit more appealing to Vietnamese American than other Democratic candidates used to be, this socially coherent group of immigrants should not be expected to change their mind any time soon. (In the presidential election, Orange County still remains the only red county on the Californian coastline.)
Freedom and Heritage people, as my friend Filipe jokingly refers to the exiled community of Vietnamese Americans (after I explained why and how they wanted to stay loyal to their historical yellow and red stripes banner), face several paths. The two most common paths are bifurcated from what they have always been following: work hard, believe in God and fate, but do not believe in government and politics. The more able, or better educated, or simply luckier (choose your politically correct version), get even better opportunities through hard study and hard work, and nominally integrate into the American society thanks to a combination of a good job that commands social respect, a good saving, and a relatively quiet approach to social life. They sit back and enjoy the freedom their society gives them, but do not think of joining it. The rest, more numerous and more diverse, self-concentrate in strongly segregated communities, and rely on the maintenance of such communities, out of which they would scarcely survive.
There are now newer paths. Many Vietnamese Americans choose to go to Vietnam, establish a link between the two countries, or even settle down in Vietnam (a recent example springs to mind). Many others, mostly second-and-more generation Americans, live a full American dream, like Americans do. The full American dream oftentimes sends the Freedom and Heritage political view to oblivion; but a few like Mr. Anh Cao will not forget it. First, Mr. Anh Cao had first hand experience of the War and its consequences, and he made no attempt hiding his view that there is no unwinnable war. Second, he will soon become the emblem of a community hitherto relatively uninvolved in American politics, and the mobilization of that community means more votes. For a politician as he is, such opportunities will not be bypassed.
Following the symbolic win of Mr. Anh Cao, many Vietnamese Americans will again take up his path, and reheat the Freedom and Heritage cause. He will be their symbolic, if not effective leader. Vietnamese Americans will invest more time and effort in the real American politics, not their own fictive nostalgic comedies. They will soon make their names heard, if not their voices.
These are my predictions. And I am not sure what that will mean to the other Vietnamese, those who live in Vietnam.
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