Resilience

My mother grew up during the war.  She was 13 when Chinese communists and Korean dis-loyalists colluded a hostile takeover of her homeland.

Korean War People

After war (AP archives)

After having to leave the north where she was born, she never saw her home again.  She never really talked about it, but I don’t think she knew what happened to her parents.  And many of her siblings perished and were lost from her.

mom & me

I remember mama

I didn’t grow up in war directly, but I was privy to the damage that it caused my mother as the pain and anger weeped out of her.

As a Korean child of Korean immigrants, I have conflicted feelings  towards the Chinese and Japanese (along with the despot Kims of the North).  And I have trust issues with white Americans, too.  These conniving powers hell bent on destroying a small nation that just wanted to be left alone.

But what a phoenix Korea turned out to be:  from the ashes born a creature of resilience and determination.   Yes, we are.

War, illness and famine will make you their favorite grandchild.

You’ll be like a blind person watching a silent movie.

You’ll chop onions and pieces of your heart

into the same hot skillet.

Your children will sleep in a suitcase tied with a rope.

Your husband will kiss your breasts every night

as if they were two gravestones.

––excperted from “What the Gypsies Told My Grandmother While She Was Still a Young Girl” by Charles Simic

 

 

 

 

 

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Do Chinee Wear Shworts’r?

Not to take a too hard line on it, but what’s up with the Dutch?

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A Shworts’r and Chinee walk into a bar…

It would appear that even their “Dutch” girl is not stereotype-proof, but why the urge to typecast others?

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Old recipes?

As it turns out, the Dutch or Deutsch are Germans who emigrated en masse to America’s high plains in the 1700’s.  These German “plains people”  then came to Pennsylvania to flee persecution and subesquently became the Pennsylvania Dutch.  Read David Laskin’s Children’s Blizzard for an indepth view of  how these emigres fared in the New World and how they lived through the harrowing 1888 blizzard.

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The International

Blizzards aside, I can’t find any good explanation for including weird off-color images of people in these old time cookbooks.  Is it because the Dutch lost their way when they landed here?  Did they forget what it was like to be on the receiving end of prejudice and persecution?  Many were indentured servants or sold off as slaves by “soul drivers” * who would march them through Pennsylvania towns to sell at auction.

According to independent food historian, William Woys Weaver, even their cuisine got lost: groundhog, yes; shoofly pie, no.

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Consider the groundhog

 

 

 

*explorepahistory.com

 

 

I Dream In Flowers

For some seasons now, I’ve been saving zinnia seeds to sow the next year.  I can’t believe how a tiny seed can hold this wealth of beauty and grace.

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Always looking ahead

Though I am a just one gardener growing on a very small scale, I claim my right to collect and save seeds so that I can play a part in crop biodiversity, and to keep the seed free.   I don’t mean “free” in terms of I’m giving them away, but free from corporate control, free from copyrighting and patenting like how Monsanto does.

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Mother of zinnias

And the question of seed sovereignty and control is one that we urban gardeners can answer.  The practice of seed collecting has been around ever since humans could identify what a seed was, and for the agribusiness goliaths to make it a crime for small farmers to keep their own seed is criminal.

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Fuschia forever

The life force of the seed is the life force of the people, and when big companies take that away from us, they are essentially killing us.

In 1995, Indian Agriculture was reoriented from being focused on National Food Security, which rests on the livelihood and ecological security of our small farmers, to being focussed on corporate control and corporate profits, which are made possible by the corporate written rules of “free” trade, trade liberalization, and globalization. Enabled by these rules, agrichemical giants entered India and started to control the seed sector. Where once farmers grew, saved, and replanted seeds, they were now forced to buy seed-chemical packages that allowed companies to extract super-profits from farmers through royalty collection.

–Dr. Vandana Shiva,  April, 24, 1995

And since 1995, almost 300,000 farmers in India have committed suicide.

Live seed or die.

 

 

 

Common Knowledge

I was on the subway platform last week when I overheard a woman who was eating an egg sandwich ask the man who was with her if eggs came from chickens.

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These is eggs

It didn’t occur to me until that moment that such a thing wasn’t common knowledge.  And then the notion of “common knowledge” just went out the window.

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The yolk’s on you

Luckily, her companion was able to answer in the affirmative with confidence.  Yet, I felt  bad for her––not knowing what most of society knows.  Why was she not in on this already established truth?  Like she got on the wrong bus the day we were all learning about chickens and eggs.

As it turned out, I only felt a little bit bad and mostly judgey about the fact she couldn’t stop flailing her sandwich around or keep it in her mouth.   And that she didn’t bother to find out where her food came from.  Oy vey.

I need food

and you walk away reading the paper.

––excerpted from “Food” by Anne Sexton

 

 

 

Bad People

There is a myth circulated among families with young children, mostly white families, that cops only put “bad people” in jail.  I wonder how they’re choosing to define “bad” people–what do these people look like?

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Bad People

Do they look like former LAPD officers Koon, Powell, Wind and Briseno?  Because they look pretty shitty to me.

From what I can gather from media reports and various articles, the police seem very bad at math––four cops to subdue one Rodney King, forty-one shots in one Amadou Diallo, and six hands all around Eric Garner’s neck in what some cops refuse to admit was a chokehold.

According to a NY Magazine online article, cops anonymously posting on police message boards e.g. Thee Rant, PoliceOne on the Eric Garner killing are stirring up “racial, political and professional tensions, most of them quite ugly”.  Quel surprise!

Here’s one I found almost poetic.

SAPDMAS:

Again if Mr walking heart attack had simply put his hamburger shovels behind his back, he wouldn’t have had a heartbattackmfor over exerting himself. The NYPD did absolutely nothing wron. Tomthe guys slamming these NYPD officekrs, I and many here wouldn’t want any of you guys around us on a critical,incident. Hopefully you guys are desk jockeys.

 

Note the almost alliterative quality:  “his hamburger shovels behind his back…”  Not sure what all the extra letters are for, though.  Is it part of a cryptic message to his police buddies?

Cops are hard to like, but we are not supposed to like them.  They are an institution created by the rich to keep the poor in their place.  Mostly in jail and in squalor.  As in keep that swarm of swarthy foreigners away from my lily white family.

Yes boss.

 

 

Love In The Time Of Robots

Don’t fuck robots.   But if you do, don’t blame it on other people.

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I’m not a robot

I was surprised to hear that men were having sex with robots.  Though that might strike you as naive as romance with dolls has been going on for some time.  But at least it was an inanimate object, not artificial intelligence run amuck.

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Okay but sometimes I act like one

So some guys would rather have a relationship with a simulated woman versus the real thing.   We should all be afraid.  These men have given up on being with a real person because it’s hard.  Maybe they were rejected by someone they liked, but welcome to life. Did they think they were going to all get a trophy for their mediocre effort?  Get used to rejection,  it’s part of life.  But it does not have to break your spirit.

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But not when I’m in love

If someone says “No thanks” to you, you can say, “Good riddance” to them.  Don’t let it get in the way of becoming a fully participating citizen.  Please use your highly advanced technology to find a cure for cancer or an end to war and famine instead of creating an entire race of fake people.  That’s what the Kardashians are for.

Coming home

from the dance

where one danced, he’s

in love with Polly Basil.

Holding her hand

does nothing for it,

breathing beside her

the moon-drenched air,

letting the silence speak

of the slow weight

in his belly

does nothing for it.

Against the chain-link fence

going for throat and ears,

breast and crouch,

helps a little.

––excerpted from “First Love, 1945” by Philip Levine

Colored

Years ago someone asked me if I considered myself “colored” and I think about this from time to time.

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From the Dutch

The person asking was (and still is) herself black, and I wonder if she did not consider me to be colored because I’m not black. Not colored enough?  But all the nonwhites in South Africa’s apartheid era could have told her:  If you’re not white, you’re colored.

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It’s so fan

So, yes, I consider myself colored.  But more to the point I feel colored because America has not let me forget that I am not white for all of my life.   It also happens that being faced  with how the rest of the world sees you when you’re made up into merchandise is another clue that you’re colored.  Like a slit-eyed fan.  The manufacturers are Dutch.  You know, the Boer War and the slaughter of the Zulus.

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Et tu, Dr. Seuss?

Or how Dr. Seuss sees me: A slanty-eyed, conniving traitor.  Ouch, Theodor, what gives!  You know where you can shove your green eggs and ham.

Well Dr. Seuss was in his full adulthood (and race hatred) during the fifties when it was the thing to muck people up into carciatures without breaking a sweat.  He did so with blacks and Arabs as well.  I could go on, but read this good article on Dr. Seuss and his outdated books instead: Horn Book.

 

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What’s her excuse? San Juan, PR

And don’t forget about the people who coopt your identity for their own selfish commerical purposes, like this girl trying to get customers into her (or her boss’s) “sushi” resturant.  I’ll just have a hot dog, thanks.

 

However it is important to understand that Seuss Geisel, helped fuel that racism and war hysteria with many racist cartoons that he published during that time. His cartoons targeting Japanese Americans directly contributed to the public support of Executive Order 9066 (the executive order that incarcerated Japanese Americans). This is not an opinion, much like Hitler’s anti-Semitism is not an opinion, for Geisel’s hatred of Japanese is well documented, and is chronicled in American history books. Unfortunately our family has had a direct impact and has suffered directly from Geisel’s cartoons.

––Steve Wong, Curator, Chinese American Museum, Los Angeles

Read his full letter here