Lifestyle & Belief

Vietnam's Tet memories

Tet is the lunar new year in Vietnam though it also brings up different memories. Tet in 1968 means little to most people here. The majority were born in the 80s and 90s, so to most of them Tet means the future and tomorrow. Tet in 1968 belongs in a museum. This visitor from Seattle is one of the few who have come to see this memorial to the Tet offensive in Vietnam in 1968. that's when North Vietnam sent 80,000 troops to wage war in 100 cities throughout the south. Foreigners like this man know the story of Tet 1968, a military disaster for the north. There's no talk in Vietnam of the colossal failure even for those who saw what happened. This man was a Communist political officer in 1968 who took part in the battles. He tells me the Tet offensive was part of the will and dreams of an entire people. He says he believes it was still a just war, but in hindsight the offensive was a missed calculation. That's not an opinion you hear much and the museum doesn't offer that either and it's different from what I remember. In 1968 I was 10 and my father took us to a central city to visit our grandparents. A truce had been declared and southern soldiers were home for the new year. Then Communist troops swept in and attacked the city. The fighting went on for three weeks before the Communists retreated. They took my father with them. He survived, only to spend 12 years in remote prisons. Others weren't so lucky and the Communist killed an estimated 3 million people in the city. You won't see that in any books or museums here. This man is among one of the few I've met who question what happened in 68. he says he doesn't know about southern civilians buried alive and he insists the southern civilians committed crimes against the nation. It's hard listening to him but it makes no sense to argue. Since 1968 my family hasn't celebrated Tet. Now there's a new Vietnam. But KFC is popular here. This Tet simply marks the first anniversary of Vietnam joining the World Trade Organization and the law these days is global integration. This is a city and society looking upwards and outwards to a new future. There's just a few people at the museum.