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Opinion: Why L.A. County’s ‘Jane Fonda Day’ declaration was so astoundingly insensitive

Vietnamese people scale the wall of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon just before the end of the Vietnam War on April 29, 1975.
(Neal Ulevich / Associated Press)
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As a proud member of the Vietnamese American community and the California Assembly, I was deeply disappointed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors’ designation of April 30 as “Jane Fonda Day” last week. This decision on a day that holds sacred significance for much of the Vietnamese community was insensitive and hurtful.

April 30 is widely recognized as the painful anniversary of the 1975 fall of Saigon, a day that marks the emotional closing chapter of the Vietnam War. Known in the Vietnamese community as “Black April,” it is a day of remembrance when we honor the sacrifices of some 250,000 South Vietnamese and 60,000 American soldiers who gave everything to their cause.

It’s become popular to blame the antiwar movement for prolonging the Vietnam War and electing Richard Nixon. That’s misguided.

May 3, 2024

After the fall of Saigon, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese fled the brutal communist regime, many resorting to risky boat journeys and ultimately finding sanctuary and a new home in Southern California. Many settled just across the border from Los Angeles County in Orange County’s Little Saigon community, which has grown to become the largest Vietnamese population outside Vietnam.

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Each year, the Little Saigon community gathers on April 30 to commemorate the fall of Saigon. The city of Westminster held a solemn ceremony last week to reflect on the 49th anniversary of Black April and the enduring effects of the Vietnam War. A wreath was laid at the city’s Vietnamese-American War Memorial to honor American, Vietnamese and allied soldiers and the resilience of the Vietnamese people in the face of horrible trials.

The U.S. paid lip service to freeing the people of Vietnam and Afghanistan, but our primary goals were strategic and self-interested.

Aug. 18, 2021

While Vietnamese and American soldiers fought bravely, Jane Fonda actively participated in North Vietnamese government propaganda. Called “Hanoi Jane” for her controversial activities during the war, the actress infamously posed on a North Vietnamese antiaircraft gun that was used to target American pilots. This was deeply offensive to those who fled persecution and lost loved ones seeking freedom and democracy.

By honoring Fonda on Black April, the supervisors disregarded the Vietnamese American community, America’s Vietnam veterans and countless others, aggravating wounds that have yet to heal. To have this solemn day overshadowed by the celebration of an individual who openly sympathized with the regime responsible for so much suffering is an insult to the memory of those who perished and those who continue to live with the scars of war. This decision demonstrates a lack of empathy for the Vietnamese diaspora and highlights a need for greater cultural awareness.

I urge the supervisors to reconsider this decision, work closely with the Vietnamese American community to understand the pain they’ve caused, and remember this day with the solemnity and respect it deserves.

Tri Ta is a Republican Assembly member representing Orange County.

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