Thursday, November 12, 2009

"He Killed People Who Looked Like Me"

A heart-wrenching account of a shared poem in an article by Max Money, a member of the Cape Cod chapter of Veterans for Peace:

One of the student winners in this year's Veterans for Peace poetry contest was a seventh-grader whose poem read, in part, "I am a Chinese girl/Adoption is good/ Now I am an American/My grandfather fought in WWII and Korea/He killed people who looked like me/He welcomed me into the family." We talked, she and I, about how words can heal and be redemptive, how different generations can come together in relationships of forgiveness and hope. I told her, "I'm sorry."

* * *

The young poet's poem jarred this "jar head." I had considered Korean and Chinese soldiers as nameless "gooks." Hadn't I grown up in a community with a Chinese immigrant history? Had Chinese college classmates? Had a personal friend, my company executive officer, who was Chinese-American, a Navy Cross recipient, who had fought against "kin"? How mixed up is that?

[Speaking of poetry, don't forget to enter your Haiku poem about adoption in our contest to commemorate Adoption Awareness Month. Prizes, prizes, prizes!]


Anonymous said...

My daughter knows that my father fought in the South Pacific during WWII, and that he killed people "who looked like her". She also knows, because I've told her, that the reason my dad had to fight against the Japanese people who looked like her was because Japan was the agressor, and that ***they had invaded China long before the US entereed WWII***. Funny how information can change perspective. My daughter is proud of the fact that her grandfather fought for freedom against agressors, who were attacking both China and the US. The color of the people who were doing the agression isn't what she sees, she sees the difference between right and wrong. I'm proud of her for having made that leap.

Elizabeth J.

A Chinese Dad said...

One of my second uncles was a China's PLA soldier fighting along side the North Korean during the Korean War. He was killed in action by the American Army. Growing up in China, our big, extended family was very sad and angry because of this death. Adults were blaming each other all the time for letting my second uncle join the PLA. Another distant relative was captured by the U.S. Army and became a POW. He didn't die and returned home after the war. The Chinese government paraded him from time to time as a "traitor" because he didn't fight hard enough or else he wouldn't have been captured. It was a very confusing time for us. A few years after the Korean War, Chinese govenment started a political campaign called The Great Leap Forward, which imposed some ridiculously impossible goal on the output of crop. As a result of GLF, 50 to 70 million Chinese died of starvation from 1958 to 1961 (the lowest death toll of starvation that I have read is 36 million). That's around 10% of Chinese population then. Three of my uncles died during this period when my grandparents could not find enough food to feed the family. I wish the U.S. government had a moral clarity to do more at the time. They could have destroyed the North Korean communist government and toppled the Communist Chinese regime, which was not even considered legal by the UN at that time. The Chinese people could have avoided the brutal dictatorship under Mao Zedong where millions more died during the Cultural Revolution. China could have been a much better nation today had its communist regime been removed in the early 1950's. Maybe. Just maybe. There wouldn't have been as many abandoned baby girls in China had China not gone through the hideous one-child-per-couple population control policy under communism.

Many Chinese Americans are very proud of Flying Tigers, an elite Nationalist Chinese Air Force aided by the U.S. Air Force in the Pacific during WII to fight the imperial Japanese soldiers. All wars are brutal but some wars are a must for the cause of a greater good.