In the aftermath of the American Civil War, it was called “waving the bloody shirt.”
The names and places have changed, but the methodology remains the same. Seek a political advantage by trying to associate your rival or enemy with an emotionally powerful negative.
In the presidential elections that followed the War Between the States, the Republican Party sought to maintain its grip on the White House by reminding voters that the South, which seceded from the Union, was primarily Democratic back then.
Even when the Democrats nominated a Civil War hero with impeccable Unionist credentials, such as with Winfield Hancock in 1880, the GOP was able to prevail by “waving the bloody shirt” and connecting their opponents with the carnage of the war. From the end of the war until 1912, the Democrats were able to put only one of their own (Grover Cleveland) in the executive mansion.
In our time and place, the “bloody shirt” is the question of communism and the fall of the Republic of Vietnam. This month is called “Black April,” in reference to when the North Vietnamese Army invaded South Vietnam and started the diaspora of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese to the U.S. and elsewhere.
During political skirmishes among expatriates living in the Little Saigon area of Garden Grove and Westminster, the surest way to arouse emotion is to suggest that The Other Guy is somehow in sympathy or cooperation with the Communist regime in Hanoi.
Newspapers (such as the Viet Weekly on Main Street in Garden Grove) have been boycotted and subject to noisy, disruptive protests. Other businesses and people have been ostracized for similar premises.
At last week’s meeting of the Westminster City Council, the dispute between rival groups hoping to sponsor a “Black April” observance in that city took on a similar tone. The permit was obtained by Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen’s office, but a rival group – the Vietnamese American Community of Southern California – wants to run the show.
At one point, Brian Nguyen attacked the supervisor, saying “On behalf of whom did Ms. Nguyen request the permit? Does she just want to please someone in Hanoi or San Francisco?”
It seems that for the generation that fled from Vietnam 35 years ago there is but one political issue: how much do you hate the Communists? Claiming to be more anti-communist than your rival is a common and effective approach; it’s among the reasons why the Vietnamese community leans largely toward the GOP in voter registration.
This is especially ironic to the “outsider,” because the busiest markets in the Garden Grove-Westminster area are those stocked with good imported from Vietnam, which in turn shores up both the economy and the government of that communist nation.
“That’s different,” one store owner told the Journal. “Buying from Vietnam is just business.” And “waving the bloody shirt” is still business as usual along Bolsa Avenue and Brookhurst Street.
Kaye’s Kitchen is back; the iconic nostalgic restaurant on Main Street in Garden Grove has reopened and seems to be doing well. The official grand re-opening is this Saturday, and the Silva Family which owns and operates the restaurant will seek to do well by doing good.
One quarter of the proceeds will go toward cystic fibrosis research. So you can satisfy your appetite and your social conscience by having a burger this Saturday at the popular re-born eatery.