Tonight, Viet Cong, this year's new indie darling band, will be playing at the The Echo in LA. Tomorrow, they'll be playing at the Soda Bar in San Diego. On March 14, they will not be playing at Oberlin College, because the university's promoter decided to cancel their show after Vietnamese-American students complained that the band's name was offensive.
This is not an article about what's happened. No, it's an article about why Viet Cong is such a stupid band name to begin with.
For those of you who don't know, the Viet Cong and the communist government of North Vietnam were some pretty shitty people (I'm not excusing the South Vietnamese government here, they were kind of shitty too.) To illustrate, let me dig up something I wrote when Taco Bell opened a Vietnamese restaurant with a communist star in its logo:
The majority of Vietnamese living overseas are refugees from the Vietnam War. They hate the Vietnamese communist government, and, really, communism in general. Why? Well, when someone invades your country, kills your family (my grandfather was killed by a VC roadside bomb, for example), renames your capital, throws you in reeducation camps and forces you to flee your homeland, it's kind of hard not to.
These kinds of emotions still run very deep in the Vietnamese community, even with 1.5 and 2nd generation kids like me, and it's honestly kind of shitty to name your band after the people who killed a good chunk of my family, stole most of their property, and imprisoned and tried to kill my dad multiple times. I don't care if your band name doesn't mean anything to you or if you just picked it because your drummer thought it sounded cool; it definitely means something to me.
I mean, thinking about how your words and actions might affect someone, even if you didn't intend to affect them in that way, is just part of being a good person.
And before I continue, I can see the argument that I should take a band's name in context with their music before I judge, but the problem is, being called Viet Cong doesn't objectively add anything to their music, which is honestly pretty good. The thing is, it'd be just as good if they were called Diet Dong, for all I care (Thank you, /r/Indieheads user MAN_KEGELS for this band name.)
What upsets me the most about the entire situation is how clueless the band is.
One thing that they never intended to become a statement is the band's name. They took it from Wallace's offhand description of Flegel bouncing around while playing, and "kind of shooting his bass like a gun. I said: 'All you need is a rice paddy hat and it would be so Viet Cong.' We stopped on that sentence and thought it was a good idea..."
"...and now we get hate mail at every single fucking show," concludes Flegel. "It's turned into a thing. I never thought we'd have to explain ourselves to so many people."
Come on. I'm not even going to touch on the whole four white Canadian dudes naming themselves after Vietnamese people thing.
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Perhaps the saddest thing about this entire situations -- apart from all of the ignorance, and murder, and stuff -- is that it's distracting from Viet Cong's music, which, again, is pretty good. During their Portland show, which happened the day after all of the news broke, the band said they were just there to make music, and I completely believe them. They didn't look at me or my parents and go "Yeah, we want to offend all of these Vietnamese people," but they did, and they will continue to unless they change their name.
And that's a shame. These guys should be celebrating their success, but all we're talking about is how stupid a band name Viet Cong is.