What do the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty and Long Bien Bridge have in common?
All three were designed by the great French architect and engineer Gustave Eiffel.
All three are iconic and highly symbolic. It is hard to imagine Paris without the Eiffel Tower, New York without the Statue of Liberty and Hanoi without the Long Bien Bridge.
In a monumentally ironic and ugly twist, the Long Bien Bridge was heavily bombed by the custodians of the Statue of Liberty during the Vietnam War. But it survived U.S. bombs and is still used by trains, motorbikes, cyclists and pedestrian to cross the majestic Red River.
I always get a thrill when I cross the bridge on my motorbike. I can’t think of too many bridges in the world that have so much character and sustain their own little world.
Hanoians are very fond of their bridge. It is almost like a living creature. You want to treat it with kindness and respect.
Which is what this story is about.
For some time now, a gang of spray-can vandals have been tagging the bridge with their spray-can names. The same names appear all over Hanoi, on walls, roller doors, construction hoardings, electric boxes, advertising panels, “bombing” – to use their lingo — any “tagable” surface in town.
But the desecration of Long Bien Bridge goes beyond street vandalism. It is an attack on Hanoi’s history, culture and dignity. Why it is tolerated is beyond my understanding.
Would these vandals also spray the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower? I’m sure they would, if they could, but they probably also know there would be a heavy price to pay if caught. New York cops and Paris gendarmes can be pretty rough and the fines are hefty. And New Yorkers and Parisians may not appreciate their cities’ monuments being vandalized.
But in Hanoi these vandals seem to get away with it. Why? And for how long?
For the spray-can vandals, desecrating the Long Bien Bridge and the rest of Hanoi is “a lot of fun,” something to be bragged about on social media, as they pride themselves with their “clever challenging and evading the authorities.”
What they are doing is attacking our living environment by imposing on people’s daily life the screamingly visible results of their public nuisance.
To all of us Hanoians, it is an insult and a provocation.
I call on Hanoi’s authorities to implement appropriate measures to stop this “bombing” of the historic Long Bien Bridge and other places in Hanoi.
And since the spray-can vandals have also “bombed” the roller door of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association, I’m wondering if Hanoi artists don’t feel a little bit challenged to defend their city, the cultural capital of Vietnam?
The “bombed” roller doors of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association and Fine Arts Exhibition House in Hanoi. Photo by George Burchett
*George Burchett is an artist who was born in Hanoi and lives in Hanoi. The opinions expressed are his own.
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