Without context this phrase is meaningless, but (like so many conjured phrases in Vietnam) when I saw it on a T-shirt it made perfect sense. It was a deep and oblique commentary on the state of so many things: love, life, war, the future — it was the shortest Zen koan I’d ever seen, a wishful and fatalistic paradox that jammed me up for the rest of the day.
The Junior Officers Club
Up To You
Fix The Machine
Love Is Love
If It Ain’t Broke
T-shirts with American slogans, cliches and catchphrases are all the rage in Vietnam — and the text doesn’t have to make sense to be popular. In fact, the more oblique the better. For example, one shirt I spied sported an attempted knockoff of the Chanel No. 5 logo sitting atop the simple imperative, “Smile and dress well,” a suggestion many Vietnamese take to heart. Another shirt displayed the stacked words “Breakfast Coffee Pancakes,” a rudimentary sentiment I couldn’t argue with. My favorite so far though was a jacket promoting some kind of local sports organization, the back of which was plastered with this long-winded-but-thorough description: “Professional Exciting Sports. American Activities in the Flush of Youth. We Appear Every Time So Fine in Style.”
A young man — couldn’t have been older than 22 — wearing a “Reagan/Bush ’88” T-shirt that was probably made before he was born. Or maybe he was just a big fan of The Great Communicator.