“Ăn Quả Nhớ Kẻ Trồng Cây", a Vietnamese proverb that means when eating a fruit remember who planted the tree. Not only do we remember our benefactor but we have to re-pay that generosity by planting new trees for others. With the current Syrian refugee crisis, it hits home to many Vietnamese Americans who’d been there before. A quick Google search shows heart wrenching images of Syrian civilians’ plight for freedom mirroring the Vietnamese boat people after the Vietnam War. It’s important for Vietnamese Americans to voice their concern over this emergency even though we are only a minority. Our actions do make a difference. We were on the same boats as the Syrians now, only we were a little luckier. What we do as American minority now is crucial to our future in this country. We can no longer stay silence and passive in politic. We have an obligation to at least do something. We must plant the seed for this tree that will grow.
Vietnamese are touched by the tragedy.
In some part of the world, Vietnamese are stepping up to help out. Follow the links to read some heartwarming stories.
- A group of Vietnamese in Ireland donate and gather to help welcome Syrian refugees.
- Vietnamese Canadians sponsor Syrian families fleeing from the war.
- Emmy Award Winning US Vietnamese filmmaker launches social media campaign to raise awareness on the issue.
- Offshore Rescue of Syrian boat people.
- Read more on Vietnamese involvement in reaching out to people affected by the crisis.
What can we do as Vietnamese Americans?
There are many ways that you can support.
- Elect officials who have open door policy toward immigrants.
- Sign Petition - Move congress to act favorably for the refugees
- White House Campaign For Aiding Syrian Refugees.
- Pray - Your prayers help. Here are some points to pray
- Awareness - The more you are informed, the more that you don’t get brainwashed by the media and angry propaganda. Don’t let them exploit your mistrust in our government.
- Donate - Contribute to the cost of supporting them. See the list of organizations including UNHCR, and others who directly support Syrian refugees in the region and in Europe.
- Social Media - Join social media campaigns to spread the words.
My commentary on Syria's Refugee Crisis and the on-going conflict.
The United States has been extremely generous in taking in refugees over the years. From the Vietnamese to the Jews to the people fleeing from Kosovo conflict, but our government is in a deadlock over what to do with the current Syrian refugee crisis. At the eve of our presidential election, none of the front running candidates have any real plan to support the increasing number of displaced Syrian civilians. The recent situation worsens as Russia and Iran are launching their own bombing campaigns in Syria. Turkey, which houses the highest number of refugee in camps, has closed the border due to violent clashes with Syrian Kurds. Now, the innocents are trapped in the cross fire.
In the mean time, there seem to be two temporary solutions for Syrian Refugee crisis. Both are very unpopular. One is to help resettle the refugees into friendly countries. That means America have to also take in the refugees ourselves. Our problem in this country is Islamaphobia which is bolstered by right wing media propaganda and paranoid rhetoric. Americans are brainwashed to fearing the Muslim as much as they were programmed to fear flying after 9/11. No one believes there is a way of screening the refugees. Click here for US’s rigorous refugee screen procedure. We are crippled by fear. Another option is the international community can block off a safe zone, inside of Syria. This option is supported by Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Even though Turkey takes in the most refugees, they, along with Saudi Arabia, are hiding behind their humanitarian iefforts to help radical groups, such as ISIL, Al Nusra, and the unreliable rebels. The refugees might be in more danger if they are concentrated in one place with Turkish military supporting rebel fighters fighting both Assad, and the Syrian Kurds. Plus, it would be a hot bed for ISIL recruitment. Casualty will rise exponentially. This safe zone idea would be a disaster unless some conditions are met. What we seem to don’t understand or ignorant about is the fact that many of these Syrian refugees are fed up with Syria in general. They want to immigrate regardless if the war continues or not. They want to pursue a better future in a Westernized country. Even if Syria is at peace, they still want to leave because there’s no future in Syria. There is nothing wrong with that. Morally, we should at least give them a chance.
We have to look at the root of this issue which is the civil war in Syria, a mess that the US is responsible for. The Iraqi invasion destabilizes the entire region. We’ve stirred the hornet’s nest. The Arab Spring does not work. It gives rise to capitalistic caliphs that create their own private army out of mercenaries who fight for whoever pays the most. The US has not learn its lesson from Vietnam, by training the rebels and forming a coalition with Saudi Arabia, we are dangerously engaging in proxy war fought between the Gulf States and Assad with Iran and Russia behind him. Everybody lose in a proxy war. Look at Vietnam. The rebels we are training are ISIL wannabe. These guys are easily hijacked by extremism or profit. Remember the Viet Minh, we trained them and we had to fight them. Remember, Al Qaeda, we helped create them too. Oh…did I mention that the Saudis are the biggest backer of Al Qaeda in Syrian called Al Nusra? These rebels have shifty allegiance. We can’t trust any of these groups. They will defect the first chance they get.
We have no real objective in Syria. We have to pull our heads out of our asses and admit we can’t rid the Assad regime through proxy wars. It’s painful to suck this up but we have to. Only do we commit to this realization we can focus on the real objective – consolidate, contain, and reduce Muslim radicalization. You can't do that through regime change. We have to understand a dictator is not the same as a caliph. To start, we have to uncomfortably pressure our ally Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States into making sure their support doesn’t end up in the hands of ISIL and other extremist groups. Right now they are indirectly funding all kinds of radicalized groups through Turkey. Their support no doubt also trickles into the pockets of ISIL. The United States has to look closely at the Gulf State and Turkey’s actions. Second, we need to reinvigorate our talks with Russia and Assad to cooperate with the Kurds to eliminate ISIL. Third, we nudge Russia and the Gulf States to agree on a plan for political transition in Syria which includes an election. Hopefully the cease fire broker by US and Russia will withstand and in that mean time these progresses can be achieved. Only if these conditions are met does a safe zone inside of Syria be possible. When a safe zone is established, we can use it as a buffering zone to screen Syrians and grant them asylum in America or in other European countries so they can begin new lives.
When the smoke clears, we have to realize that by nature, sectarian hatred is the root cause. It creates sectarian groups who are eager to form their own belief through extreme violence. These groups’ motives are so dynamic and often fluctuate. The Saudis and the Turkish should understand the sooner the better. They are secretly supporting groups like the rebels and ISIL. What they don’t know is ISIL might not even be the same type of Sunni Muslims as they are. We have some serious smack down to do with the Saudis, Quataris, and other Gulf States. The international community has to put pressure on them to stop their support in order to narrow down the conflict and making sure their support is concentrated toward humanitarian. It’s such a disgrace to humanity that so far they have taken in zero refugees for fearing of cultural upheavals.
Dealing with the consequences and America's Responsibility For Policing The World
How can we not do more to take in refugees? Are we coward that turn our backs on the innocent due to our fear of terrorism? We're the leader of the free world. We need to set a sample for others to follow. With great power comes great responsibility to face the consequences. In a way, we are responsible for these refugees. Turning our backs away from them an only gain hatred and mistrust from the Arab world.
Why should we take in Syrian refugees?
- Compassion & Logic- Are we so scare that we loose both of our hearts and our minds? These are regular people who want a better future for their children. They are running from the atrocity of the Syrian civil war. These are people who have dreams, hope, and dignity. I might sound naive but think about it. The US is the world leading power and if we become apathetic and let our fear overpowers our humanity, then this is the end of the world. Other nations will look at us as sample and follow in our footstep. Not only are we going to becoming more suspicious at each other on this issue, but on other issue as well. This can have a rippling negative effect that undermines world peace and jeopardize our relationship with other countries. American’s fear of terrorists among these refugees is the same as fear of flying after 9/11. We are brainwashed to fearing the wrong thing. Read more here. Furthermore, it wouldn’t make sense for terrorists to embed themselves into refugee. It would be a lot easier for them get a tourist visa.
- Cultural Reconciliation - This is an opportunity for us to mend our relationship with the Arab world. Ever since the crusades that ended late 1400, there is still lingering hostility and mistrust between the West and the Arab world. If we reject the Syrian refugees and other refugees in the region, we are setting a bad example. Where are these people gonna go except to join extremists groups and become our enemy.
- American Core Value- From Plymouth Rock to The Statue of Liberty to the boat people to the Rwandan genocide escapees, we are a country made with hard working people seeking for better life and a second chance. Like I’ve said before, the Syrians know that there is no future for them in Syria even after the war. They deserve a second chance for a new life in Westernized countries. We have to be consistent to our values. We are a nation willing to go to great extreme to help others. We have to uphold our core values: the right to pursuit happiness, liberty, and freedom from persecution.
- Economy - Look at the Vietnamese refugees and the Jewish refugees. These people have contributed tremendously to the economy. They’re hard working people and determine to repay the kindness that the country has given to them. For the lack of a better word, this is a great investment for your country’s future. These people might even bring new ideas, talents, skills, and innovation into the country. Had we closed the border to Jewish immigrants, then we wouldn’t have Einstein. Without Abdul Fattah Jandali, there wouldn’t be Steve Jobs. And there are countless Vietnamese immigrant success stories out there to validate our open door policies in the past have been a success.
Vietnamese Cinema Blog Highlights
To end this article on a lighter note, I’d like to highlight two very extraordinary Vietnamese individuals and how they’ve dealt with their pasts as refugees.
I saw Long Nguyen from the great movie Seven Psychopaths. He’s a phenomenal actor. If Oliver Stones was to make a biopic of Ho Chi Minh, ironically Long Nguyen would be the perfect actor to play Uncle Ho. Check out a clip from the Seven Psychopaths.
Another person is Vaan Nguyen. An amazing young poet from Israel. What? A Vietnamese Israeli, never heard of that before. Watch her speaks Hebrew.
Her family was among a small group of Vietnamese who was granted asylum by then Israel Prime minister Menachem Begin. See her unique experience as an Israel Vietnamese in the documentary The Journey of Vaan Nguyen.
Check out more on her here. She’ll be very pissed if she finds out we mentioned her here in this context. She’s been in Israel most of life trying to blend in.