It's been quite a few weeks for the city of Garden Grove and Mayor Bao Nguyen. First, there was the push to have the city officially send a letter to Riverside in opposition of Riverside's sister-city relationship with the Vietnamese city of Can Tho. That push was defeated when Nguyen announced that he did not support the letter because he felt Riverside had the right to decide its own fate and Councilmember Chris Phan offered a compromise. Then there was the horribly inaccurate article from Vien Dong Daily News about the meeting, not to mention the actual, real issues the city has to deal with (the Brucewater scandal, developing something that's not on Harbor Boulevard, the general brain drain from the city).
But hey, at least something is coming up Bao now. For the past few meetings, he's had to suffer hecklers upset at the fact that he wouldn't sign that pesky official letter, but this past meeting got him a few more allies.
His hecklers (mostly older Vietnamese people) have of course been questioning whether or not he's a communist sympathizer and hates the community. The arguments are drawn from a mailer circulated by allies of former Mayor Bruce Broadwater during last November's election that featured comments taken so far out of context they might as well have been fabricated, just like that pesky Vien Dong misquote. The Weekly comes up multiple times during their accusations (Once again, it's nice to know we have readers).
This past meeting was different however. The hecklers were still there, yes, but the few that addressed the council were overwhelmed by a group of several dozen younger Vietnamese-Americans and their "We Shall Heal" signs. Many of them came to show their support after being reached out via social media.
During their comments, they spoke on the need to focus on other issues in the Vietnamese community (below-average graduation rates, poverty, lack of mental health care, overcrowding, elder care, etc.), giving Bao their support.
"I respect my community and it's history, but there are so many needs that are impacting our lives and our families," Julie Vo said. "Tearing down our mayor and slinging these accusations for personal or political gain? Tell me what this accomplishes."
After the hour-long comment section finished, Nguyen addressed the crowd.
"There's a lot of pain that I sense tonight," Nguyen said. "Not only amongst our elders, but amongst our youth. ... I'm just really graceful that there are so many people who are so diverse that are willing to speak and show your perspective so openly. As city leaders, I think it isn't just about leading in terms of policy but by leading by example. And I do believe that we will heal, and the only way to do that is together.
Both Councilmembers Phat Bui and Chris Phan also spoke on the issue.
"I am very thankful that you came here to express your opinions and concerns," Bui said. "This is not about vengeance. This not about being able to heal or to forgive. I am willing to forgive the Vietnamese communist government for what they have done, but the reason I speak out against the sister relationship is that why is it okay to have exchange students? Why is it okay to continue trading. I find that it would be hurtful if we engage in an act that may give a brutal government an excuse to say that 'hey, we are okay. We are entering a sister city relationship with a good city in USA. We must be doing okay on in terms of human rights. We must be doing okay in terms of freedoms'."
"I hear both sides of the story, and I know what it's like from the older generation and also to hear what's been said by the younger generation," Phan said. "My going away thought from this is understanding, and to be sympathetic to each other, because both sides have very valid point, believe me."
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Is this an end to the red scare drama that's been such a distraction?
ProbablyDefinitely not, but it's nice to see some variety.