What are the major differences between capitalism and communism?
One of the promises of communism is to make everyone equal. This is where there is a clear differentiation between communism and capitalism. The competitive nature of people will not allow equality to exist, so all communism did was give the leaders omnipotent power. There was no freedom to challenge this power, and the South Vietnamese were suppressed, tortured and killed. The biggest difference between the ideologies does not lie in economics, which is where communism began. The biggest difference lies in human rights and freedom. If too much power is centralized in any society, the leadership will become corrupt. This is what happened in Vietnam, and it could also happen in more developed countries.
Was the spirit of the South Vietnamese people successfully suppressed?
Understanding the answer to this question was my favorite part of the conversations I had with refugees and the many stories that have surfaced mostly in the last decade. Vietnamese refugees are similar to people tortured by Stalin and Hitler and refugees from other parts of the world. This is my greatest learning from writing the novel. I am convinced that the goodness of the human spirit is stronger than any system of evil and suppression. The South Vietnamese refugees risked their lives for freedom. Most of them did not escape their country because of a fear of death. Viet definitely is not afraid of death. Most refugees would have survived in Vietnam, but they wanted a better life. They risked their lives for freedom. They would rather die escaping than to continue living under persecution. The spirit of these people was not and could not be suppressed. This is the essence of the story.
Many Vietnamese refugees do not want their story to be told. They don’t want to relive the suffering and the shame. How do you respond to them?
Freud said, “Grandchildren want to remember what grandparents want to forget.” I believe the grandchildren of refugees need to know their heritage. With this knowledge, they and others will more likely take action to help people who are going through similar persecution today. It is important for us to realize that there is no shame in being a victim of tyranny. The shame lies with the tyrants.
What advice do you have for young adults who would like to become authors?
Besides helping children, I think it’s the most rewarding thing a person can do. But at least for me, it’s hard, and you have to be committed. Never think about doing it for money. It has to be a passion to be worthwhile. The best advice I ever heard is, “Writers write.”