DEAR SEN. RICARDO LARA, BILL MONNING, and KEVIN De LÉON:
The Senate Democrats had shaken the Senate floor on Thursday morning, February 23, 2017. You did that because California Republican Senator Janet Nguyen, a refugee from Vietnam, had her speech cut off and was forcibly removed from the State Senate floor as she spoke out in memory of fallen Vietnamese refugees who fled persecution and oppression by Viet Cong. Did you really have the right to silence and humiliate your colleague in such a disreputable and despicable way? My American friends and media did not agree with your actions. Here are some of their suggestions and views.
* Bill Laurie, Viet Nam veteran: “The actions taken by Senators Monning, Lara, and de Leon are all the more disgusting and vile. Senator Janet Nguyen deserves her right to free speech but also the profound and sincere gratitude of Viet Namese-Americans, U.S.-born American veterans, and anyone else concerned with the cause of justice and honesty in Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia.”
* Maureen Blackmun, President, Garden Grove Neighborhood Association: “Which is exactly what happened to Senator Janet Nguyen on February 23 when she spoke out about the late Senator Tom Hayden. Vietnamese refugee Senator Janet Nguyen respectfully waited two days after until Hayden's family was not present, when she read a prepared speech about her disapproval of the actions of Tom Hayden when he worked with and supported the North Vietnamese government… I applaud Senator Nguyen for taking a stand and speaking up for the millions who died fighting the communist regime and speaking up against what many of us felt were ‘traitors’. I thank her as well. Many wanted to thank her as well.”
* ALEXEI KOSEFF - email@example.com: “Republican colleagues say Sen. Janet Nguyen, R-Garden Grove, was silenced by the Democratic majority when the Senate sergeant-at-arms escorted her from the chamber as Nguyen tried to criticize the late Democratic lawmaker Tom Hayden for his stance against the Vietnam War. Hayden, who traveled to North Vietnam with then-wife Jane Fonda in 1974, Nguyen said she wanted to offer “another historical perspective.”
Presiding Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, interrupted Nguyen and gave the floor to Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, who said Nguyen was out of order because she did not raise her objections during the Hayden tribute ceremony two days before.”
* Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield: “One Democrat, Sen. Tony Mendoza of Artesia, defended Nguyen’s right to ‘say what she needed to say and express her feelings and thoughts about what she feels strongly about, especially as it relates to her district and community.’ He said someone should have given her direction on the appropriate time to speak, “but to forcibly remove her, I think that’s too extreme.”
* Julien Nguyen, Portland, Oregon, 2/24/2017: “Senator Nguyen did nothing wrong, she just told the truth. She just spoke the truth. She did not “defame” him, but was recounting and describing what Hayden had done against her people.”
* ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER EDITORIAL BOARD: “She had risen to offer remarks critical of the late former Sen. Tom Hayden for his opposition to American involvement in Vietnam, which included friendly visits to communist North Vietnam and Cambodia during the war… Sen. Nguyen should have been allowed to speak… Crushing dissenting speech is a grave problem, regardless of which party wields the gavel… If Senate Democrats can praise Hayden’s legacy on Tuesday, Nguyen can speak for herself, her family and millions of Vietnamese Americans that lived through the war about the effects of his legacy on them on Thursday… This is the kind of behavior we expect from our elected leaders, not forcibly removing someone because they do not share the same views.”
By the way, I want to remind you about Tom Hayden’ activities in the past.
* Bill Laurie, Viet Nam veteran, wrote: “Tom Hayden, because of his immoral duplicity and mendacity, si guilty of the deaths fo hundreds of thousands of Viet Namese... and Laotians... and Cambodians,... and American and other allied service men killed in SE Asia. He is a repugnant liar. The putrid actions to censor Senator Janet Nguyen are met with disgust by both Viet Namese-Americans, among our best citizens, as well as U.S. born veterans who loathe and despise the late Tom Hayden, and with ample reason for doing so.”
* Maureen Blackmun, President, Garden Grove Neighborhood Association, wrote: “For many of us, the Vietnam War defined our lives. Whether you were for it, against it, fought in it, drafted to it, draft-dodged it, filed conscientious objector, or had friends and family that did some of all of the above. Even with doubt about our presence in the war, I never understood Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda actively working with the North Vietnamese; and I never forgave them.”
* ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER EDITORIAL BOARD wrote: “But the war has not truly ended for many of us, as became apparent once more. When he was first elected in 1982, denouncing him as a traitor. For Hayden, it was part of the deal. In his final book, ‘Hell No: The Forgotten Power of the Vietnam Peace Movement,’ he wrote about the need to remember the awful reality of the war and the power of the anti-war movement that helped end it.”
* According to Wikipedia, Tom Hayden was a leftist: “In 1965, Hayden, along with Communist Party USA member Herbert Aptheker and Quaker peace activist Staughton Lynd undertook a controversial visit to North Vietnam and Hanoi. The result of this tour of North Vietnam, at a high point in the war, was a book titled The Other Side. Staughton Lynd later wrote that the New Left disavowed ‘the Anti-Communism of the previous generation’ and that Lynd and Hayden had written, in Studies on the Left, ‘We refuse to be anti-Communist, We insist the term has lost all the specific content it once had’."
“Hayden made several subsequent well-publicized visits to North Vietnam as well as Cambodia during America's involvement in the 'Vietnam War' which had expanded under President Richard M. Nixon to include the adjoining nations of Laos and Cambodia, although he did not accompany his future wife, actress Jane Fonda, on her especially controversial trip to Hanoi in the spring of 1972. The next year he married Fonda and they had one child, Troy Garity, born on 7 July 1973. In 1974, while the Vietnam War was still ongoing, the documentary film Introduction to the Enemy was released, a collaboration by Fonda, Hayden, Haskell Wexler and others. It depicts their travels through North and South Vietnam in the spring of 1974.”
Remember that Senator Nguyen, who escaped Vietnam on a wooden boat and immigrated to the United States as a young child after her family members were arrested and murdered by the North Vietnamese Communist regime. She sought to put some historical perspective on a resolution honoring Former Senator Tom Hayden, an anti-war activist who openly supported North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Senator Nguyen was right in her speech against Tom Hayden. You owe her an apology.
Ms. Julien Nguyen asked you: “May I call your action an unpardonable temerity, a nascent despotism, a flagrant abuse of power?” Make your insightful decision, Senators. It’s up to you.
(Avondale, AZ, Feb. 26, 2017)
A political refugee, poet, writer