Vietnamese immigrant shares hopes, worries
It's clear our country is divided in many respects after the presidential election.
But one Bend citizen, a Vietnam native, is offering his own perspective on his first chance to vote for president. He says he's lived through socialism and that he's worried the U.S. could be leaning toward that philosophy.
John Le came to America eight years ago.
For three of those, he's been a proud U.S. citizen, excited to be here and honored to vote in his first election where he finally has a choice.
Le says in Vietnam, a socialist-communist country, there was only ever one candidate, who you were intimidated into voting for.
But now, he's worried for us.
"We (fled) from a communist country, where I see socialism. We want freedom -- freedom or die," Le said Wednesday.
It's an American virtue John Le would shout from the hilltops of his native Vietnam if he could.
"Every time I come back to my country, I have to spread freedom," Le said passionately. "I speak it with any kind of people -- even with students or the Communist party, I still talk about it.
"Sometimes they get mad at me. They want to take me to the prison, and I say go ahead, handcuff me and take me to prison, and they say no, we can't do that, you're a U.S. citizen."
The Bend nail technician learns as much about American politics and democracy as he can get his hands on.
In this first presidential election as a U.S. citizen, he voted for Republican Mitt Romney. But his daughter and her mother in California voted for President Obama.
So he says just like the rest of the country, even his family is divided.
Because he has such a different perspective, we asked him if he sees the American government seeming to be getting more powerful. Le responded by saying, "Yeah, I think so, I think so. They look like they want to control everything."
The president's proposal of taxing the very rich more to help the country, Le says, could start us down a dangerous path.
Communist Vietnam started taking property and money from the rich, to help the poor, he says.
But as the government grew stronger, Le says it kept the money, and the poor stayed that way.
He says he liked Romney's economic views, and that we should not be influenced against the rich.
"Until now, I'm poor. I only make $1,000-1,200 per month, but I still love the rich. Because if they open more businesses, then we have a chance to work with them, and maybe then we have a chance to open a business like them."
In Le's view, it's been a road of heartache in extreme socialist countries like Vietnam.
Too much prosperity can put you in prison, or killed.
It happened to Le's grandfather, a farmer.
"In 1954, my granddad and grandmom, they (were) working very, very hard to make money. After they make money, they have a little property, and the Communists took over to the North, and they took his property, and they killed him and chopped off his head."
Not believing it would ever reach those extremes here, Le says he wants Americans to know how lucky we are to be a capitalist country.
He's glad that every four years, we have a clean slate to vote again.
"American history is only about 230 years already, so I believe America is getting stronger and stronger-- whoever runs the country."
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