week 8 reading 2 - Diversity less There were big to We...

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Unformatted text preview: Diversity less. There were big to. We never had to nists came.” “What :n refugee. “I raised uld come from the .” The Hmong and nd they were forced in the mountains,” 1e American Indians ction of the nearby ) . f Cambodians had t of death. Located Vietnam, Cambodia In 1965, the Cam- lorodom Sihanouk we supplies through ed by General Lon Wat into Cambodia 3e supply lines and ’ietnamese stormed :ame to power and : instituted a brutal population to the mbodians affiliated ant. "‘Pol Pot killed )rs, lawyers, teach- n Rochester, Min- 31 student, I would ouge rule, some 2 entire population, embering the “kill- ma Cheng wrote a Milk. rd guns.‘41 "Strangers” at the Gates Again 469 To escape from certain death, hundreds of thousands of Cam- ‘ bodians fled to Thailand when Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia and overthrew Pol Pot in early 1979. “I am a Khmer refugee, age twenty- -five,” one of them wrote in a letter seeking sponsorship to the United States. “In the four years gone by I have lived' in Pol Pot’ s regime. My uncle, my aunt, and my two brothers were killed and ' buried 1n the Same hole because Pol Pot’ s elements knew that my relatives were soldiers. Pol Pot’s men killed my older sister’s husband because they accused him as a political man who betrayed their Communist Party. Ilive with wretchednessn ..My parents, my older brother and sister died because the Thai sent them back into the mountains?”-2 . From disease-infested and crowded camps, over 100,000 Cam— bodian refugees have been resettled in the United States. They include some educated people from the cities, but most of them are country folk, farmers from the rural areas‘who have a lower educational level than their counterparts from Vietnam. Many are women who had lost their husbands in the conflict and had come here with their children. All refugees carry the horrible psychological scars of the war and mass exterminations. “The tragedy during the war'hurts inside when I remember what happened in the past,” a tenth—grade Cambodian boy told an intervieWer. “I try not to think about it, but . at night I dream and see my brother who they killed. I dream about him trying to find us. I dream .they keep shooting him and shooting him until I wake up. ”‘43 Many Cambodian refugees suffer from what psychiatrists call “post-traumatic stress disorder” —a depression that had also af- flicted the survivors of the World War II Nazi concentration camps. A thirty-five-year-old Cambodian woman living in Oregon found she could not overcome the horror she had witnessed and experienced. After her husband had. been executed and her eighteen—month-old daughter had starved to death, she escaped 'to Thailand with her remaining children. She had left the kiiling fields behind but the killing fields did not leave her. In Oregon each night “she wouid fall asleep, and in her dreams people came to kill her. During the day she was jumpy and easily startled, and when night came again she told herself to stay on guard and not fall asleep Depressed, she was losing weight and had frequent thoughts of killing herself and her two children.”- With memories of the extermination still fresh in their minds, still haunting them, many Cambodians experience recurring nightmares, emotional numbness, loss of appetite, and withdrawal.144 , 47o _ Diversity Cambodians would like to return to their homeland someday, but they realize the possibility is remote. “We want a chance to become part of this country,” said one refugee. “It is a chance for a new life. But, inside, the memories are still there. we” won’t ever forget.” The younger refugees, however, are looking at the future' rather than the past but often find themselves trapped between the two. Sathaya Tor, for example, had slaved for four years in a Khmer Rouge child-labor camp. In 1979, the twelve-year—old boy crossed mine, fields in order to escape to Thailand; he came to the United States two years later. In 1988 he enrolled at Stanford University, where he is the only Cambodian except for a custodian. “Nowadays, sometimes I feel like a frog jumping from one world to the other: school, my family, beingAmerican, being Khmer,” Sathaya reflected. “In a way to be assimilated in another culture, you have to give up your own culture. With one foot in each culture, the wider you have to spread your legs, the more you could lose your balance. i’m at a point in my life where for the first time I feel vulnerable, and it’s scary.” Fellow Cambodian refugee Chanthou Sam can understand Sathaya’s feelings. She herself had arrived here in 1975 when she was only twelve years old. Six years later, in recognition of her scholastic achievement and personableness, she 'was elected by her fellow stu- dents to be the Rose Festival-Princess in Portland, Oregon. Hoping to become an accountant, she realizes her ambitions are often at odds with her traditional culture: “A Cambodian woman is supposed to .sit at home, cook, and clean house. I‘want to be somebody. I want - my own job, house, and car before I marry. I want to be independent. It is very hard to be caught in the clash of cultures.”‘45 The Southeast—Asian Americans themselves are very diverse. They have come from different countries, cultures, and classes. They include, for example, preliterate tribesmen from the mountains as well as college-educated professionals from the cities, welfare families as well as wealthy businessmen, and superachieving university stu- dents as well as members of youth gangs. But, despite the differences among themselves, the Southeast Asians share something unique, a fundamentally different experience from all of the other Asian groups: “necessity,” not “extravagance,” has defined their lives. They did not come here voluntarily, seeking Gam Saan or fortunes in America. In fact they are not immigrants. Except for the Vietnamese who have begun to enter recently under the Orderly Departure Pro- gram, the Southeast Asians in the United States were driven to Amer- “Strangers” at the ' ica by the circum think and dream to plan and-preps the horrors of we of their d'estinatic and the terrible a place to begin 1i society would vii than desired imri and other Asian so than the earliei the uprooted. Thi one of them. “Tli no sense of belong in thi His ti » Hesc: Diversity meland someday, rant a chance to : is a chance for a 3. we won’t ever. :ing at the future sped between the years in a Khmer r-old boy crossed me 'to the United mford University, iian. “Nowadays, arid to .the other: Sathaya reflected. u have to give up 1e wider you have balance. I’m at a llnerable, and it’s n can understand 975‘ when she was n of her scholastic by her fellow stu-. , Oregon. Hoping s are often at odds an ‘is supposed to somebody. I want to be independent. .S'rr145 ' . are very diverse. . and classes. They the mountains as :s, welfare families ing university stuo rite the differences mething unique, a the other, Asian ed their lives. They an or fortunes in' For the Vietnamese rly Departure Pro- re driven to Amer- “Strangers” at the Gates‘Again . 471 ice by the circumstances and powerful forces of war. They did not think and dream about coming; in fact, most of them had no time to plan and-prepare ’for their movement to a new land. Fleeing from the horrors of war, they departed in panic not knowing the country of their destination. They experienced the trauma of refugee camps and the terrible feeling of wondering whether they would hate a place to begin life again. They'worried about how the receiving society would View them as unexpected guests and refugees rather than desired immigrants with skills. Unlike the Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian immigrants in America, they cannot go home. More so than the earlier groups of Asian immigrants, thejrefugees are truly the uprooted. The refugees are like “the homeless people,” lamented one of them. “They have no place they can call their own. They feel _ no sense of belonging to this land.” In Texas, another refugee wrote: In the obscurity of the night, a refugee cries His tear of woe flooded on his eyes .3 He sohs for homeless life, the uncertainty of tomorrow. . . .145- ...
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