Despite our mostly theoretical, retrospective, and cultural conversations hereabouts, the actual political situation is getting rather tense: the Border Disaster, the Big Amnesty Threat, the IRS-scandal, ISIS, the Gaza war, and my own peculiar fear that Obama perhaps pushing Republicans into the corner of having to resort to impeachment will coincide with autopilot Obama/EU policy perhaps pushing Putin into the corner of deciding to damn-it-all and just unleash the dogs of war. A perfect storm a’comin?
So it felt rather relaxingly apolitical to take a stroll with the brilliant “war-zone correspondent/travel writer” Michael Totten through contemporary Vietnam. Putting aside the frightening traffic, awful climate, and one other wee lil’ problem, life there is improving by leaps and bounds. So much so that Totten concludes his piece by asking himself this:
Could I live in Cairo? No. Baghdad? Hell no. Havana? No chance. Not while it’s under the boot heel of the Castros. Rabat? Perhaps. Beirut? I have already lived in Beirut and theoretically could do so again. But what about Hanoi?
That causes him to remember the other problem I alluded to:
Vietnam is a pleasant destination for tourists, for sure, but it’s also a one-party nominally communist state. I have viscerally detested communism since the first moment I learned about it as a child. No political system in the history of the human race has killed such a vast number of people. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union were the greatest geopolitical events of my lifetime. Every cell in my body rebelled at the existential heaviness of the state in Cuba on my last long trip abroad and after a week I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
I had to look it squarely in the eye in Vietnam without flinching.
Could I live there, despite it?
Yes. I believe so.
As long as I stayed out of politics.