The Disfigured Man In Saigon

Dennis Prager posts on his FB page:

I need to tell you about this photo. It is quite a story. On Thursday late afternoon, I returned to the ship, while Allen and my wife Sue decided to walk around an upscale shopping district in Saigon, Vietnam. When Allen decided to also return to the ship Sue continued to wander around in the city. When I saw Sue later that night at dinner, she told me that she had done something she was deeply ashamed of. A man with a hideously disfigured face gently touched her on the arm, clearly begging for a little money. As Sue turned and glimpsed the man’s face, she had what is probably not an uncommon reaction: she let out a little gasp, quickly averted her gaze, and picked up her pace to distance herself from him as fast as possible. She said in that instant she actually felt frightened by his appearance, a face that resembled something out of a Hollywood horror film.
Allen, hearing Sue’s story, then said that he, too, had seen this man, and that he had never seen such a grotesquely disfigured face (expand the photo to its original full size and you still don’t really appreciate how disfigured; according to both Sue and Allen, the 2-D photo just doesn’t capture the full horror of the man’s mummified appearance). He, however, did give the man money. Sue could not stop thinking about what she considered a hurtful response to a man who deserved her compassion, not revulsion. She was so troubled by her behavior that after a fitful night she got up early Friday morning and went back to that area of Saigon hoping to find the man. She hired a “bicycle taxi” driver who spoke some English. The man knew exactly who Sue was looking for, as he begs for money in that area of the city regularly.
After 45 minutes of peddling through the area, the driver said he would make one more circle around the marketplace since Sue had to be back at the boat to leave for the airport (we flew to Cambodia in the afternoon). Sure enough, after nearly an hour of searching, the taxi driver spotted the man. Sue spoke to the man through the driver, who acted as interpreter. She first offered her heartfelt apology to him for the way she’d reacted to him the previous evening, then asked him what had happened to him. Neither Allen nor the cycle-taxi driver had thought he was old enough to have been wounded in the war, but they were wrong. His name is pronounced “yah-ohm,” and he is 61 years-old. He was a soldier during the Vietnam War when a bomb exploded in his face. He suffered terrible burns and the loss of his right eye. They had a warm exchange, and Sue gave him a hundred dollars — probably what he gets in a month. The story had a happy ending, but, of course, tomorrow this man will wake up once again, as he has for the last 40 years, to the knowledge that people will have to force themselves to look at him. And many simply won’t.

I hope you’re not getting tired of pictures of me because I could not resist sending this one. It was taken in Malaysia on the island of Borneo. I was walking around town in the vast Sunday market when I came across people posing with a giant python around them. Having never encountered a 12-foot python outside of a zoo exhibit, I figured, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Not thinking through the answer to that question, I had the python put around me to the delight of the local onlookers who were, I think, more transfixed by the giant white man than by the giant python. Anyway, until my new friend started turning toward me with jaws gaping, I felt perfectly safe. I only hoped Allen got at least one good photo for Facebook. He did. The next stop was Vietnam, and that report – a very heartfelt and serious one — comes next. Thanks for all your comments. And don’t forget to read my latest column (see below) on visiting my hundredth country.

Feb. 1: Hello everyone from Hong Kong, where my 2011 listener cruise begins. If there is a more fun place in the world, I haven’t been there — and I’ve been to 98 countries! It is essentially the world’s largest mall. Anything you can imagine buying — and a lot you cannot imagine — is sold here by cheerful, hard working, ho…nest Chinese, many of whom work in the stores until 11:00 PM each day. In the attached photo, I asked a group of taxi drivers if I could pose with them. They responded with such enthusiasm, it was if a long lost friend had returned.

Feb. 2: Hello everyone from aboard the ship with 200 listeners, now sailing to the Philippines. Just spent two wonderful days in Taiwan. This was my third visit to what I still refer to as Free China — because that is what it is. And, as in Hong Kong, the friendliness and joyful spirit of the people was noted by everyone of us. In the accompanying photo Sue and I are posing for a photo in a village in southern Taiwan. I had offered to photograph a Chinese couple, and afterward the man offered to photograph Sue and me. In this village the four of us who went from the ship were the only foreigners. No one spoke English, yet we felt entirely comfortable. If anyone knows what the Chinese sign says, please let me know.

Dennis Prager writes: If you love liberty, you must target the left and put its totalitarian tendencies in your cross hairs. We must shoot down political correctness and wage a crusade for truth and liberty. All those ladies and gentlemen who cherish personal and societal freedom must fight like great Indian chiefs, braving secondhand smoke if need be, in affirming a masculinity that has been under relentless attack. And yes, we must even endure the taunts of our foes and, at the appropriate time of the year, wish fellow Americans a “Merry Christmas.”

Then, and only then, will we be able to vanquish lies, defeat the foes of liberty, and once again be able to proudly sing a national anthem that affirms that “the bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”

If we don’t, that line in “The Star-Spangled Banner” will go the way of “Merry Christmas.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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