Americans neighbors, I have a favor to ask you.
Today is November 18, 2016. I want you to write about who you are, what you have experienced, and what you have endured.
Write down what you value; what standards you hold for yourself and for others. Write about your dreams for the future and your hopes for your children. Write about the struggle of your ancestors and how the hardship they overcame shaped the person you are today.
Write your biography, write down your memories. Because if you do not do it now, you may forget.
Write a list of things you would never do. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will do them.
Write a list of things you would never believe. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will either believe them or be forced to say you believe them.
- Sarah Kendzior
Struck out Americans because I believe that this is something that everyone should do. I am in Taiwan currently and people everywhere need to consider this, need to really think about what they stand for, what they think is right and what injustices they will not tolerate just as much as we Americans need to.
Personally, I believe that the other countries of the world should educate themselves on what the hell is going on in the US, understand how it affects the world, and take a stand on it.
I am Aikaterine Chen. My parents brought me to the US when I was two when my father came to the US to get a degree in accounting. I am a first generation immigrant. I am a third culture kid. I am American.
The America I know:
Playgrounds and libraries, places for a child to be a child, to explore, to wonder, and to question and have answers given. Crisp air, towering trees, and blue skies with luxurious white clouds.
Laughing teachers who dress up as big pink bunnies on Halloween, or Lewis Carroll’s Alice. Teachers who bend down to my height and tell me that of course I can do anything I want to do when I grow up.
Firefighters who open doors, climb up trees to fetch kittens, and policemen who take lost children home.
Programmes for the gifted, learning opportunities, the chance to skip grades, to take enrichment courses, sports, arts, all the things.
Shining waves of grain, purple mountain majesties, the land of the free, the brave, of opportunity and dreams.
The setting for all the books that I read growing up. Books that taught me what I know, what I wanted to be, what I dreamt of.
Farmer’s markets, one for every day of the week. Co-ops. People who grow and raise my food. Good people who care.
Artists and Patreon and Kickstarter and all the wonderful people on Twitter who are there, who are willing to see.
Immigration officers who interrogate, who prod, who question our very right to stand on this land, this supposed land of the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free”, who threaten to take away our green cards, men in uniform who frighten me so much that any man in uniform now sends chills down my spine.
Children who ignore me, who chant “ching-chong-chinaman” and pull their eyes into slanted slits. Children who look at me askance until I hide away into my books.
Men who think that “geisha” is a compliment, that “me love you long time” and “five dolla sucky sucky” is funny, who think that my value lies in being exotic and demure, a shy flower in need of a stern white hand.
Being invisible, not even less than a demographic, never seeing myself in movies, in television, in books, other than as a stereotype. Always the shy girl sidekick of the feisty heroine, the emasculated nerd who never gets the girl, the token minority there as cannon fodder for the monsters.
The bamboo ceiling that my father smacked into. The effacement of my mother because she didn’t speak the language and was a housewife. The endless microaggressions associated with being a “model minority” and “honorary white person”.
What I have learned from those who came before me:
Honesty, especially to the self, is paramount. Don’t lie about what you are, what you want, what you need, and what you’re doing. Don’t sugar-coat things, don’t tell lies to protect yourself, and don’t manipulate others.
Work to the best of your ability. Give everything your all, and then some.
Sometimes the only way to persevere is to be blind and deaf and dumb and to pretend that obstacles don’t exist. That’s all well and good, but don’t make the mistake of spiritual by-passing and ignoring things for too long.
Grace under fire. Grace when all you love is lost. Grace when there is nothing left.
Love yourself, because no one else will do it for you if you don’t.
Values and standards:
Above all – speak up for what’s right.
Racism is wrong. Discrimination is wrong. Rape is wrong. Classism is wrong. Misogyny is wrong. Bullying is wrong. Capitalism at the expense of people and the environment is wrong. Sexism is wrong. Trampling other people’s feelings and rights to preserve my own is wrong. (the fact that I actually think it’s necessary to list all these out is mind-boggling)
Stand up when someone needs help. Speak up to serve the greater good. Donate what resources you can, when you can. I’m afraid, but there are always going to be others more afraid, others with less privilege than I do.
We’re all in this together. Everyone needs to bail this boat out, to row, to search for that distant shore.
Treat others as you wish to be treated. Be polite. Be graceful. Question. Always question.
My dream is of a world where everyone has access to healthcare, where childcare is affordable, where maternity/paternity leave is a matter of fact, where being of a difference race or religion doesn’t get you singled out for discrimination/abuse, where universal basic income means that everyone can be productive in the ways they love to be productive, and where the environment and the other species that share this planet with us are getting the attention and care they need and deserve. I would like the children of today and the children of the future to grow up in a world that is at peace, where they can be allowed to be children, to be nurtured as our future deserve to be cherished.
I would never hurt someone just because I can, because it brought me relief.
I would never lie about someone else.
I would never throw someone else under the bus to preserve myself.
I would never stand by and say nothing whilst someone is being attacked.
I would never see injustice and not comment on it.
I would never accept that it’s all right to discriminate.
I would never stand for the government taking away the rights of people.
I do not believe that my government has the right to tell me what to do with my body.
I do not believe that my government has the right to tell two people they can’t get married.
I do not believe that my government has the right to let corporations ruin the environment/economy.
I do not believe that my government has the right to enact voter suppression.
I do not believe that my government has the right to influence journalism.
I do not believe that my government has the right to ask any one of any race to “register” themselves for a database.
I do not believe that my government has the right to discriminate.
I do not believe that my government should be using weaponised force on its own citizens when peacefully protesting.
I do not believe that my government should be ignoring the sovereignty of Native Americans upon their land.
I do not believe that my government should be bombing seven countries (at last count).
I do not believe that my government is above the sanction of the United Nations.
I do believe that my government has a duty to the world as a world power. A duty that lies in diplomacy and humanitarian aid and research, not warmongering.
That’s it for now. I’ll probably add more as time goes on. I trust that I will hold strong and not delete anything.
Why is this filed under Of Tigers and Feathers? Because who I am, where I’m going, and who I’m traveling with, are all things to do with Tigers and Feathers. Because standing firm in the face of opposition, of holding true to the self in the face of pain and loneliness and terror (never expected this much terror though) is precisely what I’ve been chronicling.