Vietnam War

December 5, 2019


Vietnam was annexed by China in 111 BC and doing what any other country does when they take over a country, China assimilated Vietnam into their culture. Vietnam’s development and way of life were heavily influenced by China’s culture. Chinese culture brought new arts, governments, and schools of thought. The religion Buddhism and the schools of thought Taoism and especially Confucianism influenced the Vietnamese. Confucian ideals emphasized the family as the base for society. Filial piety was a concept about having respect for one’s parents, elders, and ancestors, and it was also reciprocated for children. These familial relationships dictated proper behavior in society. Vietnamese people obeyed filial piety because respecting those around you like your own family results in peace and harmony. This need to fulfill filial piety made people value loyalty to one’s family.

Vietnamese people valued loyalty to one’s family above all else, the roots of the culture. When you did anything, you had to keep in mind how it affected the family. When you accomplished something it was thanks to the family and its ancestors, and it meant honor for the family. ( Any wrongdoing one committed put shame on the family, especially the parents and ancestors. They received more blame because they were supposed to teach/guide the children into being good people. There was also an obligation to define filial piety. A child had to be grateful to his/her parents, for they gave him/her life, education, and upbringing. A father had to protect and provide for the family financially, and the mother had to care for the family in terms of raising the children and household duties. ( A virtuous child fulfilled his/her obligations to the family, especially the parents. I was always told by my mother, “Tội lớn nhất trên đời là không có hiếu với cha mẹ,” which translates to, “the greatest sin in the world is not fulfilling your filial piety obligations to your parent.” However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the way to a better afterlife was fulfilling these obligations.
The Vietnam war (1954-1975), a conflict between northern communist Vietnam (known as Viet Cong) and southern Vietnam, was fought in resistance to the north’s attempts of converting the south into communists. The war was brutal and left the people fighting it in shambles. Constantly running away and trying to protect their family, Vietnam was overrun with chaos. It was not until afterward, that the people could catch a break, and even then, the North instilled fear into the minds of the subjugated south. They pushed for obedience through censorship and re-education camps. Many got thrown into these re-education camps. My mother’s experience as a child describes how brutal life was during the war and even afterward. (personal interview) The fear people felt during the war could not be helped, but the fear they felt after the war inflicted upon by the north could be. They just had to obey the new reformed government and there would be nothing left to fear. Northern Vietnam created re-education camps that took former southern military officers, government workers, and its supporters (approximately one to two and a half million). ( Some military and government leaders high in ranking put in these camps stayed for possibly seventeen years, the average being three to ten. My uncle, on the other hand, was a normal soldier and was only incarcerated for three days. (personal interview). The purpose of this program was to repress and get revenge on the south and eliminate any ideals they previously had in order to instill communist values. It was where individuals could be rehabilitated into society through education and socially constructive labor. These camps, essentially prison camps, were where men got rehabilitated for society. They learned about their new government whether liked it or not. The forced physical labor was a major part of these camps, including work in the mines, which killed and injured many, but the main cause of death was starvation and disease. These prisoners endured abuse and torture on top of it all. Your husband, father, or brother could have been taken away for a few days, months, or even ten to fifteen years to these camps depending on their ranking. ( This left many women alone, and it was how the north showed its control over the south. Their message to the people, we have your men: husbands, brothers, sons, and you can do nothing about it because we are in control. The government pushed for obedience, and they not only did that through re-education camps but through censorship too. The government owned all press, and internet censorship reached new heights as of recently. The government claims to prevent “fake news”, banned any website critical of the government. ( This ensured that any information being spread was approved, and suppressed any ideas that support the government. People could not spread their views and thoughts, and so without any other knowledge about other’s views, people had no choice but to follow what the government instructed them to do. Eventually, with the re-education camps and censorship, the people became obedient to their government because they had no other choice. There was no other option but the one forced, which was loyalty and obedience to the government
Although loyalty, especially to one's family, was a cardinal value of Vietnam, one of the effects the Vietnam War had was changing it to become the authority, emphasizing obedience to one's government. This change in values occurred as a result of the North’s oppression. The oppression forced loyalty to the government, so it was not a choice but a requirement. After the twenty-year Vietnam War, the values have shifted because of the emphasis on communism, oppressive regime, and overall change in the atmosphere of the country. To this day, the people of Vietnam still struggle with the oppressive regime, examples of censorship are still seen to this day, and attention needs to be brought to this. 

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