Sunday, August 10, 2008


Ambivalent. That's how I often live my life as an American Born Chinese (ABC). It's frustrating enough growing up, but to also try and reconcile your worth in light of the world, society, family, friends, etc.

I finally finished watching all of the opening ceremonies today. This was after a lesson at church that included a song that had the words "suffering unseen by human eyes". That God sees, only He understands even when the people around you don't.

I'm pretty easy to read. I don't have a poker face. I'm pretty much what you see - is what you get. I can't lie. I tried all through growing up and it never worked. Guilt over lying is just not worth it to me.

Surprisingly, when I am going through a stressful or harrowing time inside my mind, my heart - no one notices. I don't know if it's because I'm expected to be positive, happy... or maybe I'm just not worth it to notice. I don't make that statement lightly, or to illicit responses to contradict it/make me feel better.

I believe that part of it is the fact that as a nation, ethnic group - Chinese people are an unknown entity. Most people don't quite know what to do with us. There's so many of us in the world - it's probably a little unnerving to those not of our culture or our skin tone. Yet, in areas like where I live, there aren't many of us.

If the Chinese government doesn't value the lives of it's people - how can the rest of the world do so? This follows all the way to individual families. If a father, a mother, can't value their own family members, how can anyone else do so? Why would the siblings care about each other?

I suppose that's where the ambivalence comes from. I spend most of my days pretty proud of who I am. And maybe that's because of my hometown. My high school was 45% Asian. Of those - the majority went on to ivy league schools. Most have at least two degrees. We did not live in a cash poor area. But many sacrificed so their children could have the best - the best schools. We lived in the home of Apple Computers, the place where a garage would yield computer changing innovations. A place where speaking tech terms, and understanding them was commonplace. We grew up interested in diversity, trying new things, learning... yearning for knowledge.

Some days I don't feel proud. Some days I'm annoyed, bothered and embarrassed. I live in an area that was, and still kind of is a small town. It has only started to show it's potential with the growth of building and influx of money from the Bay Area (my home town). Many people who grew up here are returning to this area. This is a place that used to be nothing but fields. Where trucks and a lack of traffic lights was standard. Today - it's happily transforming into a real city.

However, sometimes attitudes and prejudices are a bit stubborn to root out. The majority here is clearly white. Throw some money in the mix and you'll find that being Asian here means being treated like hired help. Which is entirely comical given that these people live under a cloud of ignorance having grown up in a small town.

I know I shouldn't be surprised, but I still am when I find there are people who either don't understand, or refuse to learn about people who are different than they are. It's so strange to hear people say that they absolutely won't eat or don't like an entire country's worth of food. I guess my problem always has been and always will be expectations. I just figure if I can find all sorts of fun flavors for my tongue from every country - that other people can too. I always figure food can be a great foot in the door to better understanding.

I know it's hard for people to get their brains around the difference between the few who rule China and the mass of humanity that is China. Isn't that what we want as Americans? We want to be distinguished apart from the embarrassing behavior or policy from our own government.

That's why it bothered me the way the protests against China were carried out. I have no problem with raising our voices against wrongdoing. It's our responsibility. But to attack the people holding the torches - who have nothing whatsoever to do with policy - who are innocent - that strikes me as exactly the type of behavior we condemn terrorists for.

I suppose my conflicted feelings also include the inane commentary from Matt Lauer about the alphabet of countries. The whole world does not revolve around us. There are other countries that speak other languages. Shockingly those other languages might have a different system than ours. Probably more logical systems. But, that's a rumor I hear.

It's sad that the drummers had to be told - "SMILE" or the world might just be intimidated by you. Why do they have to make people who aren't willing to learn feel good about themselves?

It almost seems that it's easier for the rest of the world to relegate us to the "nerd" box. Which - I guess is better than "hoodlum" or "dirty". I dunno. In a supposedly diverse country - how many Asians can you count that actually are known in our pop culture world? Maybe it is intimidating to meet a group who can literally do anything they desire. Maybe that's the problem? That whenever someone succeeds there always has to be those people angry that this is happening, because they are either unwilling or unable to do so themselves. This kind of attitude only ticks me off. Something is lacking in character when we can't be happy for someone's success and ability. Envy is unbecoming.

Maybe that's why the world gets frustrated with us as a whole. So many of our people are too fat in their own lives, and expect the world to bend to their will, to accommodate them. I suppose that's why I still am so grateful for my time living in the foreign language student residence at BYU. I was with a group of people who were constantly open, accepting and willing to treat each other the same - regardless of race or religious beliefs.

One world, One dream... funny that a crazy communist government allowed that one. As a Mormon - we dream about a Zion. A place where everyone lives in harmony. I guess it's just sometimes really difficult to imagine given the strife in our own wards and neighborhoods. For people who ought to know better - we frankly don't.

I'm proud of my roots. I'm proud of my brothers and sisters in China. I'm happy for them - for this beautiful opening ceremonies. It gave them one day to truly shine. It was one day to throw off the mess of politics, dirt and grime. For one day the hardworking people of that nation were able to rise up and feel hope.

No comments: