Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum

By Sidney Tran

In Communist Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum is supposed to be the iconic symbol of Communism in Vietnam.  It is a respective nod to Lenin’s tomb in Moscow.  It would seem to make sense especially as Ho was a great of admirer of Lenin.  For what purpose this tomb serves for Vietnam I do not have the faintest clue.  I have only seen pictures of it from books or documentaries.  I do get an odd feeling every time I look at it.  To me, it is the most alien, oddest piece of architecture in all of Vietnam.  There is nothing Vietnamese about it.  In fact it is quite ghastly and hideous in its appearance and it certainly does not have any redeeming artistic, aesthetic value whatsoever.  It looks like it came from Mars and has been transplanted onto the Vietnamese landscape.   But in some ways it symbolizes the dysfunction that exists in Vietnam’s modern political history. 

Marxist-Leninist ideology is like the monstrous tomb itself because it was also transplanted onto Vietnam without any conception or forethought of what it will mean for the country.  In essence, the ideology seems unnatural for this Southeast Asian country not unlike the famous tomb of a certain uncle.  It seems rather odd that every communist dictatorship has one.  There’s Lenin’s tomb in Moscow, then there’s one of Mao in Beijing.  I’m not sure if there is one for “the Great Leader”, Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang.  So, when Castro dies will there be a tomb for him in Havana?  Another thing that I really don’t understand is the obsession with the deitification of a political leader after death.  It is as though the dictator’s magical power will emanate from the dying corpse and will empower his successive heir of that country to ward off any opposition to his rule.  In addition, it is quite ghoulish to mummify a dead person’s body.  A dead person is a dead person regardless of his stature or status.  Who practices this strange custom anymore?  How did this idea come about?  Was Ho Chi Minh the new pharaoh in a new Egypt?  In addition, who is the new high priestess in this spectacle of communist pageantry?  In my view it seems rather primitive.  In a way it makes sense for communists to adopt this custom because primitive man before civilization was without exploitation and thus everyone was equal, according to Marxist thinking.      

My guess is that instead of a real constitution, a real court system, and other institutions of power in a civilized society, the communists peddle this magic show to fool the masses about the validity and justification for their rule.  All dictatorships have one thing in common.  They have always created personalization of their political leadership and encourage the practice of the cult of personality.  There’s always an honorific, grandiose title for the ruler.  It could be the Fuehrer, “the Great Leader”, “Dear Leader”, and Chairman so and so.  What is the purpose for this comedy?  Well, in a dictatorship the masses are to be subjects.  It is obedience that is useful to the ruler.  Additionally, it is the kind of obedience that does not question the authority of the political leadership.  Therefore, the more grandiose the title the more omnipotent the leader becomes. The effect is that no one will question his authority.  Thus any crime he commits on a nation will be rationalize away and discounted.  I’ve come across people Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese who treat Uncle Ho as if he is this god like figure that is beyond reproach.  Some answers I have received are like the following: “Oh, he freed of us from the French” or something on that line.  I find this thinking rather repulsive.  It is a rather weak and infantile excuse that is devoid of critical thinking.  No leader should be excused or exempt from criticism.  In a modern functioning democracy we have de-mystified the political leader.  In fact, it is a national past time to insult our political leader.  Instead in a real democracy, we rely on the process of democratic practices, the transparent institutions of government, and of course the rule of law not the rule of men.  The last aspect removes all of the whims and frailty of men in the decision making process that makes democracy so worthwhile.

The political leadership in Hanoi is now faced with a conundrum.  They do not have the status or prestige of the late communist figure.  Therefore, what will happen to Uncle Ho’s Mausoleum?  Additionally, as more and more people question the relevancy of communism in Vietnam, what will be the status of Hanoi’s most famous figure?  My solution is to create a memorial for all the victims of Hanoi’s madness in the past, present and future.  If there is to be a true reconciliation, then there should be a true and honest reappraisal about the man not the myth.  The memorial should be about all the innocent poor peasant boys who were drafted into his army and then sent off to die while the ideologues were safely somewhere else.  It should be about the victims that were killed on behalf of the irrational and unexplained “land reform” program.  It should be about all the political prisoners who were starved into submission and left to die.  It should be about all the religious leaders who were persecuted for their beliefs.  It should be about all the “boat people” who drowned at sea and their bodies never recovered.  It should be about the soldiers of the South who stood up in defense for the real Vietnam.  It should be about the for the mountain people of Vietnam who were stripped of their dignity as human beings.  Simply, it should be about all who were robbed of the most precious thing that belongs to them: their right to live.                                                              

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