Last week, I was being a bad person.
One, a girl living in my house wasn’t very nice to me and my friend. She wanted to explain herself, but I just walked out on her mid-conversation. I wasn’t even that mad at her. I just don’t like people who aren’t nice to my friends.
Two, there’s that one American English teacher in Vietnam whose story has been upsetting me for a long time. First, he made a condescending video showing how his parents react to the way Vietnamese people speaking English to prove that Vietnamese English teachers can’t teach English, together with another video instructing Vietnamese people on how to dine with westerners. Dude, if you make your living in Vietnam, you’d better learn to dine with us, not the other way around.
Second, he made a joke about American soldiers bombing and raping Vietnamese daughters – he must have meant it to be satire, but it wasn’t funny. Third, he made another joke, comparing the head of a deceased Vietnamese war hero to a testicle. What upsets me isn’t him — you can find assholes everywhere — but the fact that many Vietnamese people idolize him. A long history of being dominated by power has taught us to look up to foreigners, no matter how offensive they are.
So I wrote a post to discredit him. The act of writing the post made me uncomfortable, as I dislike attacking people online. But I decided to publish it anyway because I felt that his story represents something bigger — it sheds light on the discomforting way Vietnamese people perceive ourselves in the presence of foreigners. My post probably struck the right note with many Vietnamese people as it was shared more than 700 times, which made me even sadder because now I’m officially part of a large online community that attacks an individual. Even though I believe that I did the right thing, I could have done it more tactfully.
After that, I couldn’t sleep at night thinking about those two events and ended up with a terrible headache for the next few days. Instant karma! I don’t know how to both keep my voice and be nice to people.