I know why the caged bird sings

Binh Thanh district, Ho Chi Minh City


Vietnamese government hysteria whenever anyone pulls out a guitar is back in red alert mode, with authorities sending two singer-songwriters to prison. 
Vo Minh Tri and Tran Vu Anh Binh were sentenced to four and six years in prison, respectively, on charges of spreading propaganda against the state, said one of the trial lawyers. The musicians had faced sentences of up to 20 years a piece.
Tri was found guilty of criticizing the government’s seeming indifference to China’s increasingly aggressive territorial poaching attempts in the South China Sea. His song video “Where is My Vietnam?” (Viet Nam Toi Dau) has been viewed more than 775,000 times on YouTube. Buffalo Surf blogged about anti-China protests here. Binh’s crime was to write and sing songs about recently imprisoned bloggers such as Nguyen Van Hai (Peasant’s Pipe blog), again using YouTube as a forum in the run up to Hai’s trial, with a song called “Courage in the Dark Prison” (Nguc Toi Hien Ngang). A post about the continuing harassment and imprisonment of writers and bloggers in Vietnam was also posted here.
I realize the title of my post is taken from a memoir of rape, racism and repression in the American South of the 1930s and ’40s (and in turn its title lifted from the poem below), but the cry is the same:
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.   
—Paul Laurence Dunbar, “Sympathy,” circa 1899
Long jail sentences ensue because of an itty bitty guitar waved in the face of an intolerant regime.  

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