Why do Vietnamese Americans continue to use the Vietnamese Heritage and Freedom Flag?

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Why do Vietnamese Americans continue to use the Vietnamese Heritage and Freedom Flag?

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A2A Why not?

United States is a liberal country, you can wave any kind of flag you want unless those flag(s) breach American laws. As far as I know, no flag is forbidden in US, except the Fascist symbol, am I wrong? Not only US, you can wave the “ Yellow Flag ” (national flag of former Republic of Vietnam) in many liberal countries like:

Canada

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Australia

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Germany

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However, as my idea, the name “Heritage and Freedom Flag” should not be used because the Republic of Vietnam does not exist anymore as it had completed its historical role. I myself has no opposition with the Yellow Flag, but if I could vote a flag for our nation, I would neither choose Yellow Flag nor Red Flag.

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As a Texan and Southerner, I do have sympathy for the South Vietnamese flying their old flag. In fact, in the American South that flying the Confederate flag is still done to an extent.

But to most Southerners, the flag Confederate flag, and for the South Vietnamese their flag are symbols of the loss of relatives or ancestors and a/or way of life that no longer exists.

We honor our our ancestors. But, we are still patriotic Americans. I, for example have served in both the US Navy and the US Army, active duty and reserve, including in combat, serving long enough to retire from the US Army as a retired reserve SSG (E-6).

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Why should they? They are not citizens of Vietnam. They are NOT Vietnamese.

By becoming citizens of other countries, they abandoned their Vietnamese identity. Thus, they have neither duty nor right to talk, or even think, about Vietnam. They are, for all purposes, foreigners.

It makes no sense to ask foreigners to accept the flag of Vietnam, since they have no connection to it at all.

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There are some reasons:

Some uses their former SVN flag as their way to antagonize the nowaday Vietnam government.

Many simply doesn’t dare to challenge that, so they keep following more extremists way to avoid trouble, especially in the same community.

As they learn from some lessons in the past, for example, a man named Tran Truong who flied the red flag in his store with picture of President Ho Chi Minh, that move caused a giant protest in front of his store in USA in 1990s, actually ruined his business thereafter.

Recently, there are more challenges like that happened and the reaction of the Vietnamese oversea communities become weaker as more and more Vietnamese oversea people come back Vietnam and they found that the presence of old communism generation is fading in Vietnam and the effort to antagonize the nowaday Vietnam government by flag battle become a little meaningless.

I believe that in 5–10 years, the red flag would be accepted public in all Vietnamese oversea community.

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The Mrs. World 2019 ( a Vietnamese oversea lady who born in USA ) raised the red flag in the competition for the country she represented for. Her act translated differently. Many people feel that is normal as there is no SVN existed now but only current SRV. The flag only represents for the country and her people not any party. Some considered that’s the betrayal act of a Vietnamese oversea celebrity.

I myself respect their right to live with the SVN flag, but just hope that their response to the red flag is less aggressive. Anyway, the red flag represents for over 90 million people in Vietnam. We fly it with the same honor as any Vietnamese oversea people flies the US or SVN flag.

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Simple answer is that Vietnamese Americans want to dissociate themselves with the actual Vietnamese communist regime. Lots of them have had family members fighting in the Vietnam war. Most of them came from high ranking members in the South Vietnamese government and therefore any actions that can be referred to surrendering to the actual regime would be considered an act of betrayal to the ones who sacrificed for that war. On the other hand this flag still creates jobs and income, so why not.

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Overseas Vietnamese sees the south Vietnamese flag as the true representation of the Vietnamese people and its country, (The three strips in the middle of the flag actually represents the north, central, and south Vietnam) instead of the current flag (I don’t see it representing anything culturally Vietnamese other than the communist ideology), since they don’t associate themselves with communism they would fly the south Vietnamese flag(Note that the south Vietnamese flag is known as the Vietnamese heritage flag, since the country does not exist anymore).

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For the same reason that I like flying the Republic of China flag, and southerners like flying the Confederate flag. It's a really painful thing to be on the losing side of a civil war, and being able to fly the old flag is a minor thing that you can do to prove that you weren't completely beaten.

It's a funny thing to be in the southern United States and be a member of the "civil war losers" club.

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To answer this question, one should ask oneself what is the reason for the Vietnamese overseas to leave their ancestors homeland in the first place? Is it because of economic reason? If that is the case, then they would be labeled as immigrants. Or is it because of political reason? If that is the case, then they would be labeled as refugees. From history perspective , the Vietnamese overseas left Vietnam as refugees. Therefore, they left Vietnam to go to their host countries to avoid political or religious prosecution. So to ask the Vietnamese overseas to accept the current Vietnam flag is like to ask them to betray the very real reason why they left Vietnam in the first place and also to ask them to betray their host countries which took them in as refugees to protect them from harm ways. The reason the Vietnamese overseas still keep using the former South Vietnam flag is because they want to make a statement that they are truly refugees and not economic immigrants. Currently half of Vietnam population are under 30 years old, born after the war ended 43 years ago, so understandably they view the current Vietnam flag as the true flag that represents Vietnam. But to the Vietnamese overseas, that flag is the real reason why they left Vietnam in the first place.

Now let’s reverse the history and let the South Vietnam win instead; therefore, the people that ruled North Vietnam will take refuge in Russia or China. After a while, would they and their descendants in turn accept the South Vietnam flag as a flag that would represent them while they are exiled in their host countries? So hopefully the person that had asked this question would be more understanding and be more empathy to the Vietnamese overseas as they live their lives in exile in their adopted countries.

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Most Vietnamese-Americans today are, or are descended from, refugees from South Vietnam around the time of its defeat to North Vietnam in 1975. They consider the current government of Vietnam (the Socialist Republic of Vietnam) and its flag to be illegitimate, and the old South Vietnam flag to represent the “real” country of Vietnam.

In official capacities, such as those of the U.S. government, the government and flag of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam are recognized.

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Colonialism → Independence movement → War of two governments → Reunification

At the turn of the 20th century, the area that constituted current-day Vietnam was part of the Indochinese Union (IU) ???????? and my grandparents (as well as many of the grandparents of my current generation I’m sure) were born during this time as French subjects. At the onset of WWII, nationalist movements throughout Southeast Asia were springing up. Among them were the Viet Minh, who used the red flag ???????? as a rallying flag for independence starting in 1940. Imperial Japan ousted the French government authorities and occupied the IU during WWII. Following the surrender of Japan and WWII, Ho Chi Minh declared an independent Vietnam on September 2, 1945, and formed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV). It was at war with France who tried to reassert their control of Indochinese Union after WWII. In 1949, the State of Vietnam was formed by France as they transitioned from the old colonial system and formed the French Union, of which the State of Vietnam was a part of. Bear in mind, like the DRV which claim all of Vietnam under its jurisdiction, so did the State of Vietnam. The State of Vietnam would use the yellow flag with three stripes ???? . In 1954, the French would be defeated by DRV, and at the Geneva Conference that year, an agreement was made that Vietnam would be divided at the 17th parallel, with the DRV occupying the north half of Vietnam, and the State of Vietnam in the southern half, with elections to take place for a president that would preside over both halves. That election never took place, and thus began a war between DRV and the State of Vietnam vying for control over the fate of the whole Vietnam. The State of Vietnam would become the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) in 1955 as it left the French Union. From 1955 to 1975, Americans became involved to work with RVN to contain DRV. Although Americans call this the Vietnam War, and North Vietnamese would call this the American War, remember there was still a conflict between DRV and RVN. Americans withdrew from Vietnam in 1973, and eventually the RVN was defeated in 1975, and Vietnam being reunified a year later.

Exodus of South Vietnamese post-Reunification

Reference: What happened to South Vietnam after the war?

So you have a whole generation who grew up from 1955 to 1975 under the RVN which used the yellow flag. Then after Vietnam was reunified, these people, especially former RVN soldiers, were brought in for evaluation and sent to reeducation camps . I’ve done an interview of my father who was a telecommunications officer of the ARVN. Following the end of the war, he had to remain in hiding and kept a low profile in Ho Chi Minh City (no longer called Saigon), because his ARVN comrades were being reported by their neighbors and then escorted to reeducation camps. He ended up in a reeducation camp for 5 years. During this time, his family was starving. Although he claims it was due to discrimination from their ties to my father being a former ARVN soldier, I think everyone was struggling considering that the U.S. imposed an embargo on Vietnam (one that wouldn’t be lifted until 1994). Despite the end of the war, Vietnam would find itself in still more conflicts, such as the Cambodian-Vietnamese War (1978–1989) and the Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979, leading to a China-led embargo on Vietnam. Neighbors were keeping an eye on each other, breeding a sense of cautious distrust. And regardless of whether discrimination was intentional, an estimated 1.6 million Vietnamese were resettled between 1975 and 1997, either as boat people or through orderly departure programs, and another estimated 200–400 thousand boat people died at sea.

Look, I’m not judging; I can imagine being in the shoes of a Communist Party administrator presiding over HCM City and having the responsibility of restoring order following one war, and simultaneously wanting to suppress any possible insurrection by former RVN military while you’re in the middle of yet another war. You simply cannot afford internal revolt. Yes, I’ve heard stories of those former RVN military who tried to incite revolt or maintain resistance against the Communist Party. Regardless, the harsh tactics of the Vietnamese government failed to win the hearts and minds of these former RVN soldiers and their families. And they were also impacted economically as the country struggled to rebuild and stabilize its economy. So they fled the country. And then they resettled in countries where they had the freedom to express their hate for the victorious Communist Party of Vietnam, whom they blame for the death of their comrades/family during the war, the suffering within reeducation camps, the economic discrimination in post-Reunification Vietnam, and the suffering and death of boat people. And they used the flags as a way to embody their pain and anger. The yellow flag would be a rallying point of a shared trauma. The red flag became the target of their extreme hate of the Communist victors.

Anti-communism in the diaspora communities

Reference: Why do most Vietnamese Americans hate the current Vietnamese government?

So in these new countries, and I’ll use the United States since I’m most familiar with this country, the Vietnamese refugees would try to rebuild their livelihoods. And even though the war was over, they had the freedom to congregate, and use the yellow flag as remembrance for everything they had lost. No, they weren’t mourning over the government. If anything, even they also lamented how the leaders behaved. No, the loss they felt is having to leave all of their possessions behind. They left all of their extended relatives behind. They lost family and friends to death. And they could not go back to their homeland. And so the activity of denouncing communists would become tradition. Part of these traditions would be groups that would engage in active takedowns of red flags in the United States (I call these people yellow guards). It certainly was still happening in the mid-2000s when I was a college student. And unsurprisingly, you also had multiple fundamentally anti-communist organizations forming overseas as well, such as Third Republic of Vietnam , Government of Free Vietnam , and the Vietnamese Constitutional Monarchist League to name a few. I believe the current Vietnamese government designates all of them as terrorist groups (though Vietnam’s definition of terrorism differs from the U.S. in that it includes activities that undermine the solidarity of the nation).

One of the largest examples of this anti-communism was the Hi-Tek incident where in 1999, a video store owner put up the red flag and a portrait of Ho Chi Minh, drawing thousands to demonstrate outside the store with the yellow flag in arms. Why? I think people came for various reasons. Some were certainly yellow guards who wanted to take down the red flag. But I think most people wanted to express the pain caused by their lives under the red flag. This pain has been unacknowledged by the current Vietnamese government.

Look, I understand that Vietnam during this time was economically starving under a U.S.-led embargo, and trying to build a self-sufficient and independent country after several wars and colonialism. In my personal opinion, I felt like Vietnam was punished and set up to fail, and when the government made mistakes while having little international support, those who lived outside of Vietnam used those mistakes as reasons that the government is incompetent, cruel, and illegitimate, and that the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) should just be dissolved. That’s not to say the CPV is completely faultless; corruption, incompetence, and violence do happen. But I go beyond where most people stop: I seek to understand why. What was the environment like that made these people act the way they did? I think hatred has a way of narrowing one’s view of the bigger picture of what’s truly happening. I don’t accept simple rhetoric of “evil” or “brainwashed”.

I think over time, the anti-communist rallies needed reasons to delegitimize the Vietnamese government. And so they used the matter of freedom of speech in Vietnam. According to Reporters Without Borders, Vietnam is almost dead last when it comes to freedom of the press. Although the usage of the yellow flag inside Vietnam per se not illegal, it can be tied to conspiracy against the state (see Is it a crime to display the South Vietnam flag in Vietnam? ). So then a feedback loop occurs: the Vietnamese government enhances the importance of the yellow flag by making its usage a crime, and then the yellow flag supporters will then want to use it even more BECAUSE the Vietnamese government cracks down on its usage, further evidence of its lack of respect for freedom of speech and its illegitimacy, which then makes the Vietnamese government want to further tighten its control over the media to make sure insurrections don’t happen… and on and on we go.

And over the decades, Vietnamese American organizations would try to get the yellow flag publicly recognized in cities, counties, and other public institutions, as the official flag representing the Vietnamese American community. It is given the name Vietnamese Heritage and Freedom Flag. The movement for official recognition is still ongoing, as are red-flag takedowns.

The Silent Spaces

During this time, you had multiple waves of migrations. Some were family members sponsored by the refugees that were already here. Some came later not so much for political persecution, but economic reasons. And then following the lifting of the U.S.-led embargo in 1994, a growing number of international students. You had a mix of those who have lived under the RVN, with those who were born after the war.

Anti-communism has a way of dominating headlines because its nature is to be vocal and visible. What about the people who were born after the war, lived in Vietnam for, say, 15 years, and then got sponsored to live here in the United States. Technically, they grew up under the red flag, and then arrived to the U.S. and saw t

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