The violent mob that laid siege to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 carried symbols expressing the aim of their insurrectionist marketing campaign to derail Joe Biden’s electoral certification.
Alongside American flags, anti-Semitic banners and Accomplice battle flags flew the yellow-and-red striped flag of the previous South Vietnam. This confounded many onlookers. One reddit person puzzled why the largely white “anarchist mob” had “coopted” South Vietnamese iconography.
In reality, the rioters flying the South Vietnamese flag had been extra probably Vietnamese American supporters of Donald Trump.
Election surveys discover that Vietnamese Individuals had been the solely Asian American group by which a majority voted for Trump final yr. They’re drawn to Trump’s hard-line stance in opposition to China, anti-communist rhetoric and self-avowed dedication to defending America in opposition to all enemies, overseas and home, in accordance with journalists and researchers.
The South Vietnamese flag remembers Vietnam’s personal “failed” democracy – and the folks’s battle to save lots of their nation.
A nationalist flag
After Vietnam gained independence from French colonial rule in 1954, the nation cut up into two, sparking a civil warfare. The U.S. helped set up and again South Vietnam, a pro-Western democratic republic that fought communist North Vietnam. American floor troops formally joined the warfare to defend the south in 1965.
In 1975, opposition forces overtook the South Vietnamese capital, Saigon. Crashing by the gates of the primary palace, they seized the constructing and raised the flag of the revolutionary northern authorities.
The autumn of Saigon was the turning level of the Vietnam Struggle, which triggered over 1 million North Vietnamese deaths, army and civilian, and a quarter-million South Vietnamese casualties. The warfare killed almost 50,000 American troops and displaced about half 1,000,000 folks.
Many Vietnamese refugees sought asylum in america. Right this moment, they invoke the continuing cultural worth of this “fallen” regime by flying the South Vietnam flag at Lunar New Yr parades and musical concert events.
The flag displays neighborhood solidarity, but it surely additionally has a extra fraught symbolic that means.
As I wrote in my 2018 guide “Returns of Struggle: South Vietnam and the Worth of Refugee Reminiscence,” some Vietnamese Individuals view their fallen homeland as an extension of the American push for freedom and democracy worldwide. I’ve interviewed Vietnamese American troopers who worry American freedom is failing and fervently consider in america’ exercise in locations like Iraq and Afghanistan.
For them, flying the South Vietnam flag is a present of nationalism – a militarized patriotism that’s concurrently South Vietnamese and American.
Altering political loyalties
I’ve additionally noticed how Trump employs outdated anti-communist techniques that enchantment to some conservatives on this neighborhood.
Final yr, he tweeted for his followers to “liberate” the nation by drive from COVID-19 lockdowns. Hours earlier than the Capitol rebellion, he urged supporters to “struggle like hell” to defend his administration.
A handful of Vietnamese Individuals heeded that decision, collaborating in native “cease the steal” rallies in California. Individuals on the Capitol’s armed takeover have solely begun to be recognized, however media shops captured what look like Vietnamese Individuals holding up the South Vietnamese flag.
These protesters probably believed america wanted to be saved from socialists – which is what Republicans falsely paint Biden to be – as their white counterparts claimed to consider. Completely different from their white counterparts, they had been impressed to subvert democracy by the reminiscence and politics of the autumn of Saigon.
Vietnamese fealty to the Republican Celebration could also be waning. Social scientists discover youthful Vietnamese Individuals lean extra progressive. Born after 1975, they by no means fought communism nor fled it as refugees. Like their dad and mom, although, these Vietnamese Individuals dwell in a rustic at warfare with itself.