Though we’ve known for four years that the 2020 US election cycle would be even more fraught than the strange and painful fall of the 2016 elections, most of us still find ourselves a little disoriented these days. For some, the urgency to remove Trump from office has immobilized us. For others, it’s fortified us into action to get out the vote and to sway those who are undecided, apathetic, and reluctant.
In the final five weeks before the election of a lifetime, we asked writers to consider the undecided voter and contribute compelling arguments and ideas for making the world right. Some contributors sent us work that takes on issues with precision and gravity. Others sent us different work, perhaps an even more visceral snapshot of this alarming moment — a one-act play, an open letter, a story of exile. New writing will be published weekdays; we believe its wisdom and strength will help us all navigate the uncertainty ahead.
Last December I was visiting my father. In his apartment, amid many other books in Vietnamese, was one titled Vietnamese Americans For Trump. My father, I know, was a supporter of John McCain — but he is not a supporter of Trump. When I asked about the book, keeping my skepticism light, one of my father’s friends, who was present at my visit, remarked, “Yeah, I hate him too. But I still voted for him.” This was said with a knowing laugh. How many Vietnamese Americans are casting their vote in this temperament, I wonder?
This friend of my father’s is someone committed to keeping the history and — unbidden — memories of South Vietnam alive. Like my father, he is involved in grassroots endeavors of memory-keeping for our erased “nation.” These men, to their core, are “patriotic” to a country that no longer exists. Or, more accurately, to the righting of historical records that remain unwritten. Some may recognize I’m referencing a familiar sorrow. The wound runs deep. To be of a home and then driven out of it. To serve and fight, then not be counted. The Vietnamese American soul knows well the paradox of why and how we are even here at all. It can be puzzling to see Vietnamese Americans, especially of the elder generation, fall for propagandistic strategies and authoritarian buffoonery as leadership. Yet in some ways, it also makes sense.
According to a recent poll, a majority of Vietnamese Americans support Trump — 48 percent vs the 36 percent in favor of Biden. The reasons for this are many but can be tied back to certain recurring themes: China, communism, and who failed whom in 1975. As it is remembered, the Democrats were in charge when the U.S. government abandoned the South Vietnamese to North Vietnam at the end of the war.
But I write this not as a primer to explain why so many Vietnamese Americans support Trump nor to state the obvious: that those who do should reconsider their position. I write this for those who know this situation well and may feel its challenges. Who know how hard it is to reach across the gaps, the silences, and the culture/s of concessions and omissions. Who struggle, across language and many other tensions, to reconcile divisions, fears, and misconceptions. I write this also for those who want inspiration and motivation to keep fighting and vying for rationality, reason, and reality in the face of aggrandizing and manipulative untruths.
Below are resources to help promote voting in Vietnamese Americans communities and combat misinformation amid Vietnamese American voters.
From VietFactCheck.org (these articles are available in English and Vietnamese-language versions):
- Did Joe Biden and Democrats oppose Vietnamese refugees in the 1980s?
- Has Trump been tougher on China than Obama?
- Is Trump really a good businessman?
- Is Trump really anti-socialist and anti-communist?
For those looking for bilingual materials on how to encourage voting in their communities, visit PIVOT’s Launch into Action Tool Kit.
Finally, for undeniable inspiration to promote the Vietnamese American vote, see Thao Nguyen perform this Paris By Night-styled GO VOTE ballad.
If you enjoyed this essay, please share it with an undecided voter in your life, and please consider contributing to PIVOT.
Dao Strom is the author of Instrument, a poetry collection with music album, Traveler’s Ode, out this fall on Fonograf Editions and Antiquated Future Records. She is the co-founder of She Who Has No Master(s), a collective of Vietnamese diasporic women writers, and was recently editor-in-chief of diaCRITICS.