Mothers, Mothers-in-Law, Nuns . . .

by Jay Nordlinger

In a column yesterday, I had some notes on the Vietnam War, and I did an item here in the Corner, too. I also published a letter — about the war and its aftermath. I have received many similar letters. I’d like to publish just one more, if you don’t mind. It says a great deal.

Dear Mr. Nordlinger,

. . . I’m the 39-year-old daughter of a Vietnamese woman, and the only experience I’ve had with Communism is the aftermath. I remember, hazily, my mother not knowing whether her family was alive, and scrambling to send them money once she found them. When I was in fourth grade, the first of my family came over, as boat people. The cousins were my age. My auntie, their mother, thought that the risk of death was preferable to staying in Vietnam.

When I got to be a teenager, I understood a bit more the looks on their faces. I see these looks on Chinese immigrants riding the New York City subway — expressions of defeat and the loss of soul. My auntie once told me that Communism steals your ability to enjoy something as simple as a flower, or to trust a friend.

Now I have married a lefty, who is from a very Left family (NYC artists who found a good deal of success). His mother, whom I like an awful lot, admires Communism! When I tell her my family’s experiences, her response is to say that she is not speaking of Stalinist Communism, and then she changes the subject. Never does she engage me in conversation, or even bother to ask about my family’s experiences, or what they’re doing now.

I have discovered, especially living in NYC for over 16 years, that the only people who like Communism are those who have never had to live under it. And once they fall under its rotten spell, it is very hard to discuss reality with them. A nun at my church once said to me about Cubans, “I don’t know why they escape. They have free health care.”

Very, very familiar. I heard it all in Ann Arbor, way back. Then I unlearned it.

Let me repeat: No one wants to talk about Vietnam. The aftermath, I mean. The war, people are happy to discuss. What followed — verboten. I don’t blame them, in a way. But, in a way, I do.

Man, these Vietnam items of mine are just full of cheer, aren’t they? I’m done, for now. And there’s funner stuff in Impromptus, I promise!