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Lesson Number Two

History is not over

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Alright, so yesterday's visits to the National Museum of History and the Museum of Ethnology showed possibility though very little promise, today's visit was very different. It showed both promise and peril. Today Tra, her sister Huoung and I went to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum. It is not open on Friday or Monday, and it is only open until 11am the other days, so one has to get there early and be prepared for anything. Before going directly to the Mausoleum we went for a typical Hanoian breakfast--broth, pork, vegetables. It was enough to keep one going for the entire day. We got to the Mausoleum just as it opened so the line was not very long and after dropping off our bags we joined the que. A mausoleum is a rather strange place, but the one thing I noticed were how tiny and almost dainty, President Ho's hands were. Mausoleum from front #2

Mausoleum from front #2

While we were talking afterward along the road that Vietnamese troops would march in front of during the May Day celebrations a group of veterans arrived at the mausoleum. Tra assured me that most veterans do not harbor hard feelings about Americans, but one discovered some of them certainly have some mixed feelings about an American being there.
After the mausoleum we visited the grounds surrounding the Presidential Palace, Ho's outside home, and then the Ho Chi Museum. It was while in the Ho Chi Minh Museum that history became entwined with the present. While we were in a section entitled "Ordinary People Doing Noble Things," a veteran, whether one from the visit to the mausoleum or not I do not know, seemed rather upset that I was trying to understand the exhibit. He was not hostile, but his facial expression was one of anger and outrage. I cannot say that I was surprised. Having listened to World War Ii veterans, some of them have still not forgiven the Japanese for events during the War, and when I encountered that World War II had been over fifty years. America's involvement in Vietnam is just under forty years. And that is something important to remember. That veteran had likely survived some harrowing experiences--whether fire-fights, bombings, or something else. Wayne Booth, one of the author's from our capstone course talks about how one cannot forget what one has seen. Perhaps that was what was happening here. Anyway, this veteran did remind one that historical events--such as a veteran's experience in war--is not really history until the last of those veterans/participants has died.
What I really enjoyed at the Museum were two things. The first was an exhibit, somewhat incomplete, on Guernica 1937. The idea, I think was to show how the bombing of Guernica in 1937 was teh foundation for the American bombing raids over North Vietnam during that aspect of Vietnam's fight for independence. I had not connected the two events--Guernica and Vietnam--so that was a nice thing to contemplate. The other was a photograph I took of Huoung in front of Ho Chi Minh's picture. Huoung in front of Ho Chi Minh

Huoung in front of Ho Chi Minh

What I had not thought about until I took the photo was that Vietnam, as an independent nation, is only 39 years old (assuming 1975 with unification marks its beginning). When the United States was 39 years old we still had leaders--John Adams and Thomas Jefferson--alive who had signed the Declaration of Independence. Vietnam is still a young nation, though old culture. They have not yet had the luxury of time to begin separating fact from fiction when it comes to the founders of their nation.
What the picture of Huoung and the brief encounter with the veteran reminded me is that history is never really over.

Posted by MJMullin 00:31 Archived in Vietnam Tagged chi ho minh mausoleum

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