Violence is everywhere.  These days it seems we can't turn on the TV without being forced to witness horrendous scenes of war, famine, and poverty by the (government-run) news programs .  Sometimes we may even forget that something so innocent as a child's laugh even exists.  However, one local San Diego resident is taking things one day at a time, and smiling the whole way!

by Staff Reporter   

   SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA -- One of the lessons a young Vietnamese girl learns quickly is to never, ever change your sweater when you're walking through a rice paddy.  It can lead to beating, rape, and having your delicate feet covered in syrup while water snakes are forcibly put down your shirt by laughing GI officers.  Phung Thi Ba Le Hayslip-Butler (or Bah Lee, as her friends and family call her) learned that lesson when she was only 15 years old.

   Born in a small farming village in Vietnam, Bah learned at an early age that her people had been abused and oppressed for centuries.  "Mother tell me all about French.  I remember father cry because French tank roll over vegetable patch.  Next year we go hungry when crop die.  No rice.  No rice for months."

   Bah Lee doesn't have to worry about rice anymore.  Tucked snug and safe at the end of a cul-de-sac in sunny San Diego, Bah owns and operates a successful restaurant, catering company, and key chain manufacturing enterprise.  "I go business school, learn how manage money, how hire qualify people, how put air condition!  I so excite by opportunity afford me in America."

   It wasn't always this perfect.  Bah Lee had to endure many years of hardship, and many instances of rape before achieving what she describes as "capitalist nirvana."

   She was first exposed to Western culture at the tender age of 14, when the American soldiers arrived in her village.  "I balancing on buffalo in rice paddy when big helicopter come from nowhere and blowed my straw hat away.  American soldier so mean -- they park in rice paddy, sleep with our women, talk loud, and wear sunglass and boot the house!"  

   As if the tactless dismissal of local customs wasn't enough, the American soldiers soon graduated to full-fledged sexual harassment.  Then Bah fell out of favor with the Viet Cong, a turn of events that Bah describes as the last straw. "They rape me in ditch and call me name!  It then that my relationship with village end."

   With nobody to turn to, Bah Lee and her mother moved to Saigon, selling cigarettes and serving tea to rich bourgeois business owners.  "I get job in John Burn house, change litter box for cat, Marcus, and serve tea to wife. John Burn wife was sick, too much aggravation, too much fancy clothes and fancy lipstick, no patience. She was Catholic." Vulnerable and loving, it was only a matter of time before Bah was abused by John Burns. "He throw himself on my bed and not take no for answer. I only sleep with him because I suffer and hurt greatly. John Burn tell me him love me, him take me Los Angeles to be in movie! Him say he want be Aaron Spelling producer, make TV show with white woman have no bra, but always jump. Then him hit me with stick and make me get his check from temp agency!" It was only then that Bah Lee learned she was pregnant with John Burns' child. "I try jump down stair, make baby go away. But John Burn seed too strong and baby come anyway" Soon, John Burn's wife learned of the affair. Pussy-whipped by the shrewish and orgasmically challenged female head of household, John Burns sent Bah Lee away and promised to send money. "The money never come," says Bah Lee, crying, "I was shocked by the insolence of men!"

   Her distrust of men almost prevented her from meeting the man she would eventually marry.  "I see man, and I tell my friend, I say, 'Me and men don't mix!'  I try drive away on moped , but man him find me and buy my child toy. Him tell me him need good Oriental woman, and that we help each other heal scars of war."

   That man was abusive, shell-shocked Vietnam vet US Officer Steve Butler, and the following year he brought Bah Lee home with him to San Diego.  Bah Lee's eyes fill up with tears.  "I get so excite when I see big supermarket, all the bag of rice!  So many bag!  Uncle Ben trusted man!"

   Now, after many years, Bah Lee looks back on her life and has no regrets.  "I don't care that I divorce Steve and make him kill himself.  I own restaurant now, have children, have affair with many, many men."  Bah Lee gets quiet.  "None of them touch my heart like Steve," she laments, frowning at the ground.  Suddenly her energetic little head pops up and a big smile beams across he face, "then again none of them point gun in my face either!"