Loving our country always, not only during wartime

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Are Vietnamese people as patriotic as they were when they had to rise up against the world’s largest military juggernauts?

My pride sank when foreign friends asked the question recently and I suddenly found it hard to say “yes.”

On the night of New Year’s Eve I invited some foreign friends to wander Ho Chi Minh City. We walked and talked and enjoyed ourselves until a motorbike flung a half-full bag of coffee into the street before us. My friends were annoyed while I had to force an ashamed laugh.

We quickly forgot the incident as the streets were indeed beautiful and people were out and about town in their nicest clothes. But the more we walked, the more annoying it became as we encountered traffic jams and crowds of people jostling each other for space near Nguyen Hue Boulevard, where the official “countdown” was to take place. No one made any room for anyone else.

A Japanese friend, who has lived in Vietnam for 10 years and speaks Vietnamese fluently, asked me “It seems Vietnamese people don’t love their country, right?”

The comment made me furious.

“If Vietnamese people don’t love their country, who would? How could we survive for thousands of years beside such a giant neighbor if we didn’t love our country?” I said. “We have beaten back some of the strongest foreign invaders in human history, we have made an oath to die for our country’s survival, we would sacrifice anything for the freedom of our country.”

My friend realized he had hurt me but he continued:

“So, Vietnamese people loved their country during the war years, but now they no longer do? If they still do, why do they keep littering, spitting, fighting over trivial stuff and trying to take the biggest piece of pie for themselves?”

I was very annoyed but unable to counter his arguments. The night became awkward and ended sooner than expected.

Later that night from home I chatted online with other friends in the group. They had the same feelings and all agreed that the Japanese guy had made a good point.

In the old days, Vietnamese people always loved their homeland wherever they went and whatever they did.

The children of princes of the Ly Dynasty (1009-1225) went to Korea centuries ago, but their decedents, who have headed such giant companies as Booyoung Construction and Golden Bridge Finance Group, have all returned to Vietnam to proclaim great love for their fatherland. They still teach their children that they are Vietnamese.

But how about Vietnamese people at home? Are they only patriotic when they are invaded? And in peace, do they only love themselves or certain small group that share their interests?

If someone wants a “home, sweet home,” they will try to make it cleaner and prettier.

We should stop littering, spitting, bragging, swearing anywhere, getting drunk anytime, fighting, wasting resources, smuggling, producing low-quality products and stop all the corruption. Otherwise, we will only further support the claim that Vietnamese no longer love their country.

Some people say they love the nation but what they do says the opposite. It’s time we realized our love for our country through action. We’re only as strong as our weakest links, so we’ve all got to learn how to love our homeland, starting with the most simple and easy acts of kindness.

By Nguyen Van My

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