Madam Nhu: The Passing of the ‘Dragon Lady’
First off, one must express condolence to the recent passing of Madam Nhu. She is a human being and, as such, deserves as much respect upon her death as any other human being. Why must we speak of respect at the beginning of this article? Well, as the wife of a prominent South Vietnamese politician, Ngo Dinh Nhu, Lady Nhu was not the most humble of people. If you have ever wondered why President Ngo Dinh Diem was branded as an oppressive anti-Buddhist, Madam Nhu is part of the reason why.
Tran Le Xuan (Madam Nhu) was known for her sharp tongue and shrill personality. Known as the ‘Dragon Lady,’ Xuan would often express her harsh points of views in the most vulgar of ways. Madam Nhu never hesitated to publicly bash the Buddhist population, making discriminatory remarks, and belittle the people of the religion. She shamelessly labelled the self immolations of the Buddhist monks as ‘barbecues,’ lauding that she would willingly clap her hands as she watches them burn.
To call Tran Le Xuan an outspoken political figure would be an understatement. Aside from her blatant disrespect for the Buddhist population, Madam Nhu liked to bash anything or anyone that she did not agree with. Her targets included the American media, domestic politicians, and even the president himself. As a result, she became a lighting rod for western journalists, providing them with much ammunition to degrade the image of South Vietnam. Madam Nhu’s words and actions would be widely publicized, used by the media to further ruin the reputation of president Ngo Dinh Diem.
To better understand the circumstances of Ngo Dinh Diem, the First President of South Vietnam, one must look at his family. Diem himself did little to discriminate againt the Buddhist population as a whole. In reality, it was the actions of several of his powerful family members, Madam Nhu among them, that sparked the civil discontent of the Buddhist population. Diem’s main fault was failing to control them. The U.S. government also played a role in creating Buddhist discontent as part of their plan to remove Diem. However, the stupidity of some of the members of the Ngo family seriously exacerbated the situation, giving the Americans all the means to destroy Diem’s image.
This is the unfortunate reality. Madam Nhu, the sister-in-law of Ngo Dinh Diem, played a role that affected South Vietnam in an extremely negative way. She was a public figure that attracted much media attention, but she abused this power and represented South Vietnam in a very poor light. This article is in no way meant to disrespect the late Tran Le Xuan. She was a tough minded woman, but the truth is that she made some critical mistakes, many which resulted in the suffering of the Vietnamese people. Therefore, even though one should still respect her passing, one must not forget the wrongs she has done. Madam Nhu passed away on April 24, 2011, at the age of 87. May she rest in peace.