IOSNINO S V ISVO SSV IO SNIN V I I S V I O N SN S V I S I O N V I S I O N S V I S I N S V S I O N I S I O S V I S I V O I N I S O N S V I S I O N S V I S I O V I S I O N S V I S I O N S SIN IO O SV IIVIV SO N SN SV SO ISISN O SSV INO V SIIV V O IS N SN ISIN SO N SI SSIIIO V O N V ISS O NSN SS V IVSIVIVV O SO V SIIIO IIO SN I SN SV SIN N V O I O S I S N S I O N S I S S V I S I O N ISIN SSN IO N VV ISN O NNSS V VI VSI VISVVSO SO IISSN IVISN O N IO I ISN IV O IN O VN ISSO SIN O N SISISSO SIIIO IIVSN SN N IVV SO IO O O IV N V I ISVIO ISIO O V NNSS S VV IV SSISIISO N SSSI SISO
ENVISIONING AND BUILDING A STRONGER ASIAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY
LETTER FROM THE EDITORS
Welcome to VISIONS, a fresh and vibrant look at the Asian community at Brown. With pleasure, we invite you to experience the wide range of unique perspectives that the Asian community at Brown has to offer. In addition, we have the honor of publishing an original opinion piece by Professor Vijay Prashad of Trinity College. Since its inception in 2000, VISIONS continues to evolve as a space for expression and dialogue of pertinent issues that affect the Asian community at Brown. We are most grateful to our writers, poets, and artists for creating this amazing collaboration of work, and we thank them for their enthusiasm and efforts throughout the all the months of production. They have madeVISIONS reach new heights. We would also like to thank those individuals, departments, organizations, and businesses that have assisted us by contributing funds. Most especially, we want to take this opportunity to thank Kisa Takesue for her genuine kindness, sense of humor, and encouraging words. Without her inspiration, we could not have made this issue of VISIONS a reality. VISIONS is a unique endeavor that combines the talents of students, faculty, staff, and alumni at Brown. We sincerely hope that you enjoy the wonderful work that you are holding in your hand, and that you embrace the outstanding effort that came from the hearts of all those who contributed to this spectacular publication. We thank you again for supporting our tireless efforts. Peace and Love, Brian Lee â€™06
Faizah Malik â€˜06
CONTENTS OPINIONS 14
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: MR. VIJAY PRASHAD REPUBLICANS ALWAYS ASK US TO FORGIVE THEIR POLITICS
4 6 20
THE WAXING CRESCENT IN EUROPE Sushil Jacob NEITHER HERE NOR THERE: THE PLIGHT OF HMONG REFUGEES IN THAILAND Pang Houa Moua PRO-CON: GUNS AT BROWN ARMING BROWN POLICE: A QUESTION OF SAFETY Charles Wheeler NO GUNS Juhyung Harold Lee A4 FOR ALL Brian Lee HOW TO DEAL WITH THE REAL WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION Eddie Ahn SOVATH NHAR AND THE SOUTHEAST ASIAN COMMUNITY OF PROVIDENCE Noel Reyes I DON’T KNOW WHAT I DON’T KNOW Momoko Hirose INDIA AND PAKISTAN: ON THE ROAD TO PEACE Preethi Guniganti ROTC Kwan Lin SANSKRIT IN SMALL-TOWN AMERICA: WINDOWS INTO ASIAN AMERICA Kartik Venkatesh ASIAN GANGS AND ASIAN AMERICA Jessica Kawamura THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF ETHNICITY Chris Hu
24 30 34 38 41 44 50 52 54
PROSE 8 12 26 42
JENNY’S LONELY PLANET: A GUIDE FOR ASIAN AMERICANS Jenny Partivit THE BITTERSWEET TRUTH Sunisa Nardone AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL HISTORY-MAKING (CONDUCTED IN THE THIRD PERSON) Abe Young MY MOTHER’S HAIR Wen-Chuan Dai
POETRY 3 19 32 33 36 53 56
TIRED Candice Sun QUARANTINE Grace Cheung UNTITLED Abe Young UNTITLED NaRhee Ahn UNTITLED Adoito Haroon DRAGON FRUIT Lam Phan FARMER IN THE CITY Lam Phan
ART & PHOTOGRAPHY COVER 2 9 11 17 18 22 30 37
LA DEFENSE Diane Rhyu UNTITLED Kathleen Cho ANDES FROM PLANE Ben Wise WEEKEND IN PRAGUE Eugene Cha MATERIAL METAMORPHOSES Diane Rhyu SELF PORTRAIT Jon Cho GUNS FOR EVERYONE Brian Lee CARTOON Eddie Ahn UNTITLED Quyen Truong
39 40 46 47 48 49 53 56
ANTI-GAS EXPORT Ben Wise SAGRADA FAMILIA Terri Chiao MY APARTMENT Ben Wise SELLING RICE Matthew Forkin MAIN GREEN Johnny Lin MONK Matthew Forkin TRANSCIENCE Diane Rhyu BOATMAN Terri Chiao
Untitled, Kathleen Cho â€˜04, digital video still
TIRED CANDICE SUN ‘06
How dare you question me? You don’t know who I am Or what I’m about. How dare you question why I’m offended By what I see And what I hear In the media On television In ﬁlm In song lyrics In the very hurtful words That roll off your very tongue And onto my wounded pride The p r o l o n g a t i o n Elongation Propagation Proliferation of a false stereotype that should be buried beneath the yellow that is my skin
It’s not your prerogative to ask my name My race My ethnicity Where I’m really from It’s not my responsibility To teach you And to make you understand Why I feel the way I do SO ﬁgure it out Your damn self. Because I’m tired, Tired of trying to explain To you And everyone else, The feelings that I try so hard to contain, That I’ve broken down And the only way I can rise is to wash these words down.
CANDICE SUN ’06: No longer a teenager since 2004. 3
THE WAXING CRESCENT IN EUROPE SUSHIL JACOB ‘05
“Islam is antagonistic to the West”, Nasir responded, “We cannot assimilate into Western culture because it goes against our beliefs and is inspired by Satan.” I was not more than ﬁve minutes into my conversation with Nasir at Speaker’s Corner, in Hyde Park, London, when he ﬂattened me with this comment. I had just asked him what he thought about the antagonism between fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Muslims; perhaps if he saw potential for any sort of reconciliation and peaceful coexistence. His response profoundly disturbed me, as we stood attempting a civil conversation in a small open part of the sidewalk, surrounded by preachers proclaiming their radical visions for world change. These preachers, mainly Africans or Muslims, are free to speak their minds, despite being heckled by the gathered crowds, because of the freedoms granted to them by this liberal democracy. Nasir, one of the millions of Muslims who have recently immigrated to the UK from Pakistan and Bangladesh, does not necessarily represent the views of his Muslim community, who are generally more moderate and adapting to Western secularism. However, this is not to say that his branch of extremism will not win more support. During the course of my two months studying in Britain, I have been bombarded with many of the debates of these confusing times, but one seems to overshadow all others: the position of Islam in Europe. While the U.S. struggles to establish a new democracy in the Muslim world, many European nations are struggling to balance the demands of their secular democracies with those of their increasing Muslim populations. As Samuel Huntington condemns these people as the “indigestible minority”, governments with signiﬁcant Muslim minorities in France, Germany, and Britain, as well as Norway, Denmark, and Finland are faced with difﬁcult decisions about the extent to which minority populations
should be allowed complete freedom of religious practice and even worse, supported by their liberal, secular governments. France’s controversy over whether or not to ban headscarves in public schools and educational institutions directly confronted this issue, perhaps in a very negative manner. President Jacques Chirac pushed through a reform in French law stating that the wearing of all religious objects, including noticeable cruciﬁxes, head scarves, yarmulkes, etc. would be henceforth banned in public schools. This created a furor within the French Muslim community, as well as in the Muslim world and liberal circles in the West. Many charged the French with disguising this blatant discrimination against Muslims in the shroud of defending France’s secular values. This law, discriminatory in intent, is precisely the example of how the West is denying the opportunity for Muslims to become educated and partake in Western democracies. If countries such as the U.S. and Britain are so keen on bringing democracy to the Middle East, then how can they allow such regressive laws to be implemented, which will in fact inhibit Muslims from ever being able to make change within their own communities? If anything, this will force Muslim women, whom the law primarily affects, to decide between their faith and their education, a choice that no one should ever have to make. If these women are to become empowered in order to reform Muslim society, properly from within, as practicing Muslims, then policies like this will do nothing more than hinder true progress. Moreover, if we are ever to win the war on terrorism, we must do all we can to encourage the moderate, silent majority of Islam to triumph in both the West as well as the Muslim world. Empowerment of Muslim women, particularly through the crucial channel of education in the West, is one of the most crucial steps in this ﬁght. The tension between secularism and moderate Islam also rears
its ugly head in Europe’s treatment of its minority populations. On this issue France is once again the antithesis of countries like Britain. France, with the largest Muslim population in the EU (except Turkey), has to deal with the concerns of 7.5 million, triple that of Britain’s population. It may be no wonder that these two countries have such different policies. France treats every citizen as equal before the law, regardless of race or religion, and consequently little data about the Muslim population exists in government records, and little “positive discrimination” efforts are made to ensure that this community is assimilating into French culture. The French demand that minorities assimilate, but do not provide the government funding to assist young Muslims to ﬁnd jobs, or learn English. Although Britain does not have its race questions completely solved because it also has quite poor and disadvantaged minority groups; it does seem to be making a bit more progress. The British are quite content to let their minorities form their own enclaves, and even encourage Arabic classes, and job-training for young Muslims. In fact the place where I have been taking Malayalam language classes is an Asian Cultural Center that is sponsored by the local town council. The French criticize such policies, saying that these discriminatory measures only encourage the ghettoization of minorities, and thus does not encourage assimilation into British society. However, the French policy of “benign neglect” hardly helps their poor Muslim populations escape ghettoization and unemployment either. In fact, on balance, it seems that the British policy of attention to its minorities, has allowed for more social mobility, which, coupled with its liberal acceptance of religious practices, could be the recipe for defused racial tensions. Racial tensions, and extremism in minority communities is exactly what European governments should be avoiding in the ﬁght against terrorism, as well as the triumph of moderate Islam.
A few weeks ago I went to an exhibition at the local art gallery titled, “The Veil,” which was an exploration of the veil in many different societies, though primarily Islamic ones. A few pictures that startled me were future predictions of what Islam could do if allowed to spread unchecked in Western societies. One such illustration portrayed the Big Ben converted into a mosque, with minarets surrounding it and Arabic calligraphy adorning its walls. The second picture was even more startling, showing the Statue of Liberty covered by a burqa, and her copy of the Declaration of Independence replaced with the new law: that of the Koran. These striking images may be fantastical artistic renderings, but point to a deep fear of the Islamization of European societies. However, I have also seen the ways in which increased diversity is positively beneﬁting this society. In a culture that once prided itself on corned-beef and mash as a cultural mainstay, the inﬂux of South Asians into Britain has added perhaps slightly more palatable tastes into the national conscience, such as chicken curry. In fact, you can ﬁnd South Asian foods on almost every menu and in every grocery store, Muslim and Indian faces in the national news and on TV, as well as point to powerful Muslim members of Parliament. Above all, it is necessary to understand that secular societies need not be antagonistic to the true practice of Islam. Many millions of Muslims have made their way into European society and have been welcomed. If we are to understand anything about the increasingly scary and dangerous threats that terrorism and extremism pose to the peace of our society, it must be that in allowing for peace and coexistence, we can develop new societies. Rather than closing ourselves off, we must be open to change in both the West as well as Islam.
SUSHIL JACOB ’05 is busy developing his Spanish skills and south Indian tan on the southern coast of Spain, for his ﬁve week spring break from Oxford. 5
NEITHER HERE NOR THERE: THE PLIGHT OF HMONG REFUGEES IN THAILAND PANG HOUA MOUA ‘04 Birth Between Battleﬁelds Shoua Thao remembers that her sister’s birth took place in the jungles of Laos between two battleﬁelds. Her family was trying to escape out of Laos on foot, heading toward the Thailand border. They had ﬂed from Phu Yoi, a Communist Hmong village where they had been captive for the past year. Members of Chao Fa, a religious anti-Communist sect had fought to free them and told them to run to Phu Koos Khaub—known to the Hmong as “Rice Mountain”—for refuge. After walking for two days, eleven-year-old Shoua remembers hearing shots ringing out from the direction of Rice Mountain. Scouts up ahead informed her family that Communist soldiers were attacking from that direction as well. They would have to backtrack a day’s walk, sticking to the jungle for safety. It was here in the jungle, caught between two battleﬁelds that December of 1977 where her little sister Ka was born. According to Shoua, it would take her family another year and a half—until January of 1979—to reach the refugee camps in Thailand. The Secret War Beginning in the 1950s, Laos became a major point of contention between Communist countries and the United States. U.S. presidents feared the tiny Southeast Asian country would fall to Communist rule. In Laos itself, a series of contests took place between the pro-Communist Pathet Lao faction and the pro-Western Royal Lao government over who would gain political control of the country. In 1962, ﬁfteen nations—Russia, the United States and North Vietnam among them—signed the Geneva Accords which stated that Laos was to be “neutral and independent” territory in the conﬂict between Communist and Western countries. This meant that all nations agreed to withdraw their military and paramilitary forces from Laos. Nevertheless, in his testimony given before Congress in April of 1994, William Colby, Director of the CIA at the time of the Vietnam conﬂict, stated that even after the signing of the Geneva Accords, North Vietnam kept an active army of 7,000 in Laos (which would grow to over 70,000 during the next decade). As a result, President Kennedy demanded that the CIA remain in Laos to train the Hmong—an ethnic minority people who had made their home in northern Laos since the 1800s—to ﬁght the North Vietnamese and its allies, the Pathet Lao. 6
For over a decade, Hmong soldiers were trained by the CIA and supplied with arms by the United States government. Colby admits that during the war, the Hmong army’s role was to “distract and contain”—never to actually defeat the enemy, because an outright victory would attract too much attention to Laos, and the “secret war” would be uncovered. No one explained this to Hmong soldiers, however, whose commitment to ﬁghting for their homeland resulted in an estimated 40,000 casualties and another 58,000 wounded. The number of Hmong civilian deaths total into the hundred thousands, since the battleﬁelds were their villages and farms. While preparing for imminent defeat in Vietnam, the United States slowly began withdrawing aid from the Hmong. In May of 1975, the last Americans left Laos, leaving Communist forces free to inﬁltrate and ransack Hmong villages, imprison former soldiers, and murder civilians, especially any remaining clan leaders. In the ensuing panic, Hmong ﬂed across the border into Thailand seeking refuge. Resettlement or Repatriation? Resettlement: In the crowded refugee camps in Thailand, Hmong were offered resettlement in countries such as France, Canada, Australia and the United States. Eighteen years ago Shoua, was the ﬁrst in her family to immigrate to the United States with her husband and daughter. But many older and more traditional Hmong—Shoua’s parents among them—were fearful of drowning in a new culture. Traditional clan systems would break down, the spirits of their ancestors forgotten and their children become foreigners; add to this the many myths spread around in the camps: “In America, winged demons devour your children and steal your wives away.” Many of the elderly opted not to emigrate and effectively prevented many of their adult children from doing so as well. However, with the closing of the two main refugee camps in Thailand in 1993 and 1994, each of Shoua’s brothers, their spouses and children also followed her to the United States to make their home in Minnesota. In 1996, when the last camp run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Thailand shut down, Shoua’s parents ﬁnally joined their children in America. But one family member remained—Shoua’s sister, Ka, who had married in 1992. Her husband’s family had not been cleared for resettlement in the U.S., and when faced with the choice to remain with her husband or to leave with her parents for America, she chose to stay. Repatriation In Geneva in 1989, a Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA) for Indochinese Refugees was formulated to address the refugee crisis in Thailand. It provided for a screening process to separate economic refugees from those with a legitimate claim to refugee status. This conference formally introduced the process of
repatriation to the Hmong, in which an individual is returned to her country of origin if not found eligible for resettlement in another country. A tripartite agreement between the United Nations, Laos and Thailand, signed in 1991, advocated repatriation for the Hmong. However, documented atrocities of Lao authorities against Hmong question the wisdom of repatriation to Laos. The unsolved disappearance in 1994 of Vue Mai, who was a Hmong clan leader, administrative chief in the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand, and a voluntary repatriate, raises alarm over whether or not the Lao People’s Democratic Republic is yet politically safe for Hmong refugees who had fought against this regime that at one point had pledged to “wipe them out.” When pathways to resettlement in the United States shut down in 1996, many Hmong remaining in repatriation camps like Na Pho (holding ground for populations poised to be sent back to Laos), decided to ﬂee and are now living illegally in Thailand. Some of these refugees have been able to obtain Thai citizenship through illegal means and are living among the Hmong-Thai in northern Thailand, Hmong who had originally settled in Thailand during the great Hmong southern migration two hundred years ago. Others, like Ka, who have not been able to obtain legal status are hiding out among friends and extended relatives who can only shelter them for short periods. Add to this the fact that Ka is recently divorced from her husband, has a small child to support, and has no relatives in Thailand to aid her. Ka’s situation is precarious. She depends on her sister in the United States for support and tries to stay out of the path of Thai ofﬁcials who are intent on imprisoning any persons without appropriate documentation. She is currently in hiding just outside of Wat Thamkrabok, a temple whose grounds shelter a large illegal settlement of Hmong refugees. Wat Thamkrabok Gold pagodas mark the entrance to Wat Thamkrabok, located two hours northeast of Bangkok. First established as a monk center in 1958, it formally became a Wat, or temple, under the leadership of Bhuddist abbot Luangpaw Chamroon in 1975. Since the early 1990s, over 16,000 Hmong have been living on land belonging to the Wat after ﬂeeing the UNHCR refugee camps. Last year, the United States government agreed to resettle 7,000 of these Hmong refugees in the States after much pressure from the Thai government. These newest refugees will join relatives in the United States beginning in July of 2004. But what of the remaining Hmong in Wat Thamkrabok who were not approved for resettlement to the U.S.? And what of the estimated 35,000 other Hmong like Ka, living illegally and scattered throughout Thailand, hoping for some way to join their families in America? Learning of the new resettlement effort earlier this year, many Hmong refugees living outside the Wat clamored toward Thamkrabok, Ka among them, only to ﬁnd that the U.S. government is very strict about who it accepts as a refugee. Everyone who
came received the same answer: Only those who registered as Thamkrabok residents last year qualify for resettlement. Still Caught in Between For her sister to sponsor Ka to the United States, an immigration lawyer told the family recently, it would take at least twelve years through the family reuniﬁcation system. As their mother’s death in February reinforced to these two sisters—life is short. And twelve more years is simply too much time to spend apart. Although the war in Southeast Asia is a faraway memory to many Americans and is quickly on its way to being unknown to younger generations, the distance that divides Hmong family members today is a constant reminder to them that they, their parents, grandparents, and siblings had fought on the losing side of the war. Today, their relatives living in limbo in Thailand are the constant reminder of the United States’ broken pledge of support in the event of a defeat in that war.Thailand refuses to incorporate these refugees, and the U.S. conveniently ignores them. Like the long ago jungle in which she was born, Ka is once again caught in between. Sources: “Hmong Veterans and Refugees.” 21 Mar. 2004. <http://www.laoveterans.com/> Nelson, Tim. “Future is Unclear for Hmong Left Behind.” Pioneer Press. 2 Mar. 2004. <http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/ 8081913.htm> “Testimony of Jane Merritt-Hamilton.” United States. Cong. Committee on Foreign Affairs: Hearing on Indochinese Refugees. 103rd Congress., 2nd sess. Washington: 1994. “Testimony of William E. Colby.” United States. Cong. Committee on Foreign Affairs: Hearing on Indochinese Refugees. 103rd Congress., 2nd sess. Washington: 1994. Uhlig, Keith. “Family Fights for Relatives Excluded from Refugee List.” Wisconsin Daily Tribune 29 Feb. 2004. <http://www.wisinfo.com/dailytribune./wrdtlocal/ 280668831105751.shtml> “Wat Thamkrabok Resettlement Information.” Hmong National Development. Washington, 2004.
PANG HOUA MOUA ‘04 is amused at your efforts to pronounce her name correctly. Nope, you still haven’t got it. 7
JENNY’S LONELY PLANET: A TRAVEL GUIDE FOR ASIAN AMERICANS JENNY PARTIVIT ‘05
The ﬁrst time I ever rode an airplane was to go visit family in Thailand when I was ﬁve. All I remember about the 13 hour connecting ﬂight from New York to Tokyo was that the Japan Airlines ﬂight attendants thought I was Japanese. And in believing so, they doted on me, taking me to see the captain when my mom was sleeping, giving me extra treats and airplane toys. Being the shy kid that I was, when they spoke to me in Japanese, I just smiled and looked demurely at my feet, which caused them to gush even more words I didn’t understand and to give me more treats. Even at the age of ﬁve, I knew that something was very wrong with the picture. Some mischaracterization was occurring, but at the time, I was relishing the beneﬁts of it. Who knew this was only the beginning of problems I would be forced to face as an Asian American traveling abroad? Asian Americans confront issues of identity in everyday life, even if they do not realize it. But, my question is how traveling abroad makes us even more aware of our Asian-ness and simultaneously our American-ness. How do we decide if we are more one than the other? What does it come down to? Is it the passport we carry? Our perfect English? Do we ever identify as completely both? Given that identities have been perceived to be ﬂuid, perhaps we decide based on the situation we are in at that particular moment. Although I do not have an answer to any of these questions, I can offer some key anecdotes that got me thinking about identity and travel. These episodes are grouped under two caveats for the Asian American traveler. Before I present the caveats, let me explain my perspective on ethnic and cultural identities. As Asian Americans, we may have transnational identities. Depending on what generation we are and how solid our ties to the “old country” are, we may identify for example as both equally American and Vietnamese. Or, if you are like me, you may have a transnational diasporic identity. I am ethnic Chinese, Thai American. Although I was born and raised in the States, I speak Thai ﬂuently and carry both Thai and American passports. The list of holidays I celebrate at home is even more complicated. We celebrate everything from Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July to Chinese New Year, Songkran (Thai New Year) and Ching Ming (Chinese day of the dead). Although part of me knows that my parents are the kind of people who would look 8
for any excuse to throw a party, I know it also relates with the complexity of our identity. With that being said, allow me to turn to issues to which every Asian American should be attuned when traveling abroad. Be prepared to be mistaken as non-American. Joking with an Asian American friend who was going abroad to Spain for the semester, I asked her if she thought her host family would be thoroughly confused when they met her and realized she was not white. Globally, there exist many diverse perspectives about Americans, but the most salient belief about Americans is that they are all white. One indicator of this is how Americans are portrayed in media abroad. In certain foreign ﬁlms, if there is a minor scene with an American, he is usually either very distinguished-looking and wearing a suit, or very ignorant and wearing something terribly unfashionable like a fanny pack (especially if it is a French ﬁlm). In either case, he is Caucasian. My own travel experiences have been marked by situations in which I was not recognized as American. On a family vacation to Paris, I encountered a situation that left me more aware of the color of my skin. While at a department store trying on perfume, my sister and I were approached by a sales woman who greeted us in French. After telling her we did not speak French, we conversed with her in English about what we were looking for, as she was perfectly bilingual. After a couple minutes, she abruptly called over an Asian sales woman to help us. This woman ﬁrst spoke to us in Mandarin, which we did not understand, and then in French, which we also did not understand. And, once we all reached the realization that we would never understand each other despite appearances, all we could do was smile politely at each other. Asian Americans in the States are often perceived as being from Asia. So what is the signiﬁcance of this misperception happening abroad, especially in a multicultural and cosmopolitan city with a sizable Asian immigrant community such as Paris? What kind of space does this open up for you if you are Asian American? This particular situation left me confused even though I was plenty aware of the dynamics at play. I was deﬁnitely caught off guard because I felt like an American in Paris up until that interaction. From that point on, my entire experience in that city was colored by the realization that I was an Asian American in Paris. Be prepared to realize that culture is a commodity. Even yours. Travel experiences are often deﬁned by what you buy. The consumerism that is associated with travel is very unsettling. What I am referring to goes beyond picking up cigarettes at the duty-free shops in airports or buying ethnic garb and crafts you
Andes from Plane, Ben Wise â€˜05
can bring back to show friends. Now, culture, as embodied in cuisine, is a hot commodity that has been exported all over the world. I never thought the food my mother cooked every day was something that would make me rethink identity and the idea of authenticity. When we were in Paris, my family and I went to a Thai restaurant run by Cambodians and then to a Vietnamese restaurant run by Thais. The situation made us laugh, and, at the same time, as unsettling as it was, I knew this phenomenon was not unusual. After all, even in Rhode Island, Japanese restaurants are run by Chinese Americans. And, by the way, the food at those restaurants in Paris was damn good. But, the idea was that we went into those restaurants expecting the people in the kitchen to be from the same country as that of the cuisine they were preparing. In the end, we left the restaurants a little indignant that they weren’t. But why? Has global commodiﬁcation of culture derided authenticity? Translating that into the way we think about identity, what then makes us authentic when we assert our identities? Does the fact that I am ethnic Chinese mean I am not really Thai? Do illegal aliens in the States not have a right to call themselves Americans? The liberal being in us wants to answer no to each of these questions, but in doing so, what is the new deﬁnition of identity we are creating? I guess the dining situation I experienced abroad caused me to call into question why I identify as I do. Where is this all going? In an era characterized by migration and frenetic travel for both work and play, I believe people need to rethink the intersections of ethnic, cultural and national identities and even how identities are formed. Asian Americans can better analyze their identities in spaces that are created from the awkward situations that travel abroad brings. So the next time you are breezing through passport control at JFK, or paying the cheaper, local admission price to get into national monuments in your parents’ native countries (even though they are now naturalized US citizens), think about what forces put you into that situation.
JENNY PARTIVIT ‘05 likes to pick her nose in public to make people uncomfortable. 10
Weekend in Prague, Eugene Cha â€˜04
THE BITTERSWEET TRUTH SUNISA NARDONE ‘07
“And so castles made of sand slip into the sea, eventually…” -Jimi Hendrix
market in an attempt to procure ﬁsh, rice, and sweets to give the Buddhist monks when they walk by Ah Ma’s house at six thirty.
Here I go again. My idea is to talk to Ah Ma, my grandmother, and confront some of the fairy-tale images I have developed over my childhood. I have this notion that my grandmother is hiding her glamorous life-story from me. By interviewing her I am guaranteed to learn more about her rebellious youth, her escape from the clutches of foot-binding when she emigrated from China, and her alternate existence as a young model in Thailand—all things I have gleaned from snippets of secondhand conversation. This is my chance to confront the unspoken past. Of course I have waited until I travel halfway around the world to examine my family background, instead of seizing the opportunity during the decade of living within ﬁfteen minutes away from my precious source of information. In the end, it’s inconsequential. I’m off on another one of my glorious adventures, and this time it might even yield an unexpected enlightenment.
I juggle the telephone clamped to my ear. My hands rest lightly on the keyboard in front of me. I am gunning to go, but as soon as Ah Ma gets on the line she completely disarms me, asking simply “did you know about Ah Lao Mah?” My great-grandmother just passed away. I have received this news, but having never had the occasion to do so, do not know how to churn out the ritualistic ‘my condolences’ in Thai. “My heart is sad with yours” is the best I can manage and, as always, it will have to do. As always, Ah Ma is patient and understanding and grasps the intention of her granddaughter’s comment, if not the content of it.
It is seven in the evening, the right time to ﬁnd that delicate balance in the twelve hour time difference I am hoping to span. I sit down in my chair knowing I will go to dinner soon, and think about my grandmother, Ah Ma, getting ready to start her day in Thailand. If I wait to call, she will be on her way to the market— the kind that only Thai people know about. Morning markets are a haven of smelly ﬁsh stalls and authentic food; they are where you go to buy the best vegetables, knowing that if you arrive after eight all of the stalls will have closed shop and you’ll be left emptyhanded come dinnertime. I know my grandmother could never fail to wake up after ﬁve a.m. anyway, so there is no danger in calling too ‘early’, according to my rather biased, personal outlook. Getting up in time for morning merit-making was always difﬁcult for my brother and I. Maybe my Thai family thinks it is a Western custom to sleep in; the leuk-krung, or ‘half-children’, as my brother and I are termed, never failed to be bleary-eyed and grumbling as we stumbled out of bed and raced on our bikes to the
Speaking to her, I am painfully reminded that in English I can weave an alluring tapestry of words, but my stumbling, bumbling, halting and hesitant efforts in my ﬁrst language are less than ﬂuent. My father puts great faith in my bi-lingual abilities, yet without being able to pun and joke and rearrange words ﬂuidly in my head, I am ashamed of my awkward excursions into my “mother tongue”. I read the collection of questions I have so carefully set out on my screen. English words crawl disjointedly across the monitor, and I decide it will be too hard to read and translate and listen and translate and type and question, all simultaneously. We exchange the usual pleasantries; Ah Ma inquires about my diet. Am I eating any Asian food? Do I miss rice? Do I know how to eat everything in the United States? For Thai people, the fact that you might not like a food doesn’t mean it’s not good. In fact the blame is transferred to the person partaking in the meal, not the cook, because your palate isn’t accustomed to that speciﬁc taste. For me, there were lots of dishes where my mother or my grandmother would intervene and say smiling, ‘Si gin mai ben’- I didn’t know ‘how to eat it’. My mouth was not ready for the onslaught of spices some dishes brought with it. One would assume, naturally, that having reached a land of bread (not rice), knives (not spoons), potatoes and ‘bland’ meat
(not curry and ‘hot’ dishes), I would be ﬁne. And that’s the case. The topic of conversation moves to Ah Ma’s overseas experiences. She comments wryly that visiting her grandchildren in Hong Kong was a lot easier than in the United States; at least in Hong Kong there were people she could communicate with, and at the very least the food was decent. Everyone immediately noticed Ah Ma’s recent arrival because of my sudden change in appearance. I would get remarks from the time I boarded my bus to when I walked through the door of my house. The intricate braids and fanciful creations piled on my head was obvious evidence of her expertise. In fact, one of my most vivid memories of Ah Ma centers on braiding my hair. We continue our tradition regardless of country, culture, and circumstance, and I have come to ﬁnd a kind of security in expecting the materialization of the traditional pigtails or French braids. I remember sitting in front of the mirror in Ah Ma’s house in the mid-afternoon. Two fans are blasting in my direction. The sun streams through the nearby door and creates a pool of dazzling light that reﬂects off the mirror and into the house. I recall asking Ah Ma how she learned to braid, and receiving the suitably whimsical reply that when she modeled she watched people braid her hair in the reﬂection of the mirror. I think this conversation occurred when I was about eight. I was fascinated by such an attractive concept, and made sure to watch my grandmother as she wove my hair together. Later I sat my Barbie dolls down in front of the mirror so that they, too, could watch while I learned to braid their hair. When the subject of modeling surfaces,I begin a series of disillusioning discoveries. Ah Ma wonders laughingly where I got such an idea. “Who has time for modeling when they have six children to raise?” I persist. “How about the fact that you didn’t get your feet bound because you left China?” At least I’m not too far off topic
this time. Ah Ma concedes that she did evade the torturous ritual because of her emigration, but points out that she was probably too poor to be considered worthy of attaining the desired small feet. At the time, large feet indicated lower status. The time has come to debunk, demystify, and de-romanticize my notions about my grandmother. I am shocked when faced with the harsh reality of what has been a difﬁcult life, one devoted to domestic duties and caring for family. It is time for Ah Ma to step off her pedestal and be revealed as human, with a very human existence; I should acknowledge that my grandparents—and possibly by extension my parents—are not the superheroes I thought them to be. How awful. How inhumane. How traumatizing. Have I completely fabricated memories out of my desire to make life more interesting? Was I so bored as a child that I invented facts and ﬁgures to keep me occupied? And most frightening, how do I now know what is real and what is not? This phone conversation is turning into an unwanted reality check. I am unwilling to give up the myths of my childhood. Perhaps in the back of my mind I will retain a sense that Ah Ma was not a model. Yet those recollections are as tangible as those of old pets and lost places. When forced to think about it, I can conceive that I imagined my grandmother had been a model while poring over old photo albums featuring yellowing images of a proud mother, a radiant bride, a stunning teenager beaming down from the branches of a tree. She could have been a model. The distinction between ‘could have’ blurred and morphed into ‘was,’ and that is how it all started. I understand. But to believe the truth is a solution far too logical for me. For now I will maintain these pleasing childhood recollections so dear to my heart. And on the phone, halfway around the world, Ah Ma doesn’t sound surprised. “You were always a fanciful child. Could I expect any different?”
SUNISA NARDONE ‘07 fantasizes about becoming a writer so she can fabricate memories for a living. 13
REPUBLICANS ALWAYS ASK US TO FORGIVE THEIR POLITICS VIJAY PRASHAD, SPECIAL GUEST WRITER
So here it starts again. Every election cycle, we have to go through the same argument. We are asked by all the Indian American Republican candidates to support them not for their politics but for their being of Indian origin. The Indian American Leadership Initiative, which does very important work, has launched a “10 in 10” program - to help elect ten Indian Americans to federal ofﬁce by 2010. Varun Nikore of the Initiative vowed that by 2010 we’ll have two desi Senators and eight desi Representatives. The move was launched in November 2001, at the height of the anti-desi backlash as a result of 9/11. It was optimistic then, and it remains optimistic now. But I’m with Varun: it is better to be optimistic, to set outrageous goals, so that we can motivate each other to attain them. I’m with you Varun: 10 in 10. The 2000 Census showed that there are about 1.7 million Indian Americans. The Indian American Center for Political Awareness took this ﬁgure and calculated that, if we had a system of ethnic representation (which we don’t), this should translate into three US Congresspersons and forty-ﬁve state legislators. There are currently no Congresspersons of Indian origin and a handful of state legislators. As Varun put it, “We have a lot of work to do to ﬁll this enormous gap.” Since 1990, when Kumar Barve won his post to the Maryland House of Delegates (where he is now Majority Leader), Indian Americans across the country have run for elected ofﬁce.They are now Water Commissioners, State Representatives, School Board Members, and District Attorneys. There has been an upsurge of interest in elections - not just among the Second Generation that is coming of political age now, but also among the First Generation who has become naturalized and is now conﬁdent about our place in the US. These are good times for our electoral life in the US, and it is only correct that we have a host of organizations
at work to bring us to the polls and to make us run for ofﬁce. From Southern California comes a new organization, the South Asian American Voting Youth (http://www.stuct.com/saavy/ index.asp) run by Tanzila Ahmed, and from Boston comes another one, SouthAsianVotes run by Reshma Saujani (currently the coordinator of South Asians for Kerry). These groups recognize that only about a third of Indian Americans who are eligible exercise their franchise, and among young desis the percentage is lower.We don’t have statistics for South Asian youth speciﬁcally, but among Asian Americans between the ages of 18-24, the numbers of those who registered dropped from 50% in 1990 to 35% in 2000. SAAVY has been created to help register young desis and get them to the polls - to conduct political voter education in a non-partisan manner, in the style of groups like Project Democracy. We do need to register to vote and get to the polls. That is essential not just for the presidential race, but for all local and regional races. Participation is essential for our place at the US table. If we don’t vote, we won’t get taken seriously when public policy is formulated and our issues will be ignored. It is true that money buys entry into the halls of Washington, but for a community to rely upon its wealthy to open doors, is false: the wealthy among us will begin to dictate our issues, which may end up being their issues and well in opposition to the bulk of us. The only way for us, ordinary desis, to get our views into the DC halls is to organize as a bloc and vote in large numbers. Among Asian Americans, there is a movement known as the 80-20 Initiative that believes the following: Asian American votes are evenly split between the two parties, and that means that neither pays any attention to the community and its issues. If we can draw a larger number of our community to one party or the other, then we can have leverage on that party. African
Americans and Latinos overwhelmingly vote for the Democratic Party - this has given them power not only in the making of appointments, but also in the foregrounding of some issues that are important to African Americans and Latinos. [By the way, many African American and Latinos who live in the nether region of the US economy would say that they have been fundamentally attacked by the two parties who have relied upon debt, prisons and workfare to constrain their freedom - but that is another story] The 80-20 Initiative believes that politicians are interested in their next election, whereas political parties have to have a longer memory - this is why the Initiative is interested in an investment in a party and not just in this or that politician. I don’t believe that either of the two parties are capable of solving the major problems that beset this country and our world - both are in favor of proﬁts over people, and both are wedded to warfare over social welfare. Nevertheless, the Republican Party today is a party of Evangelical Zealots and Warfare Extremists, of Fat Cats and Running Dogs. This is the reason why every time a desi who runs for ofﬁce on a Republican ticket has to tell us that their politics should not matter, only their ethnicity. The most recent candidate to do this is Nikki Randhawa Haley from South Carolina. She is running for the South Carolina Assembly and says, “Does it matter for the Indian community whether a candidate is Republican or Democrat? What we need is more people in political ofﬁce. The candidate’s party afﬁliation is irrelevant for us as a community, at this time.” At this time it is most relevant to know if a candidate is part of an extremist political party (such as the Republicans) or one that is willing to listen to the world and its own population (although much of the Democratic Party is deaf to the crises of the impoverished). We don’t hear Swati Dandekar, Upendra Chivukula or Peter Mathews (all Democrats) telling us to avoid
their politics and concentrate on their ethnicity: each of these candidates leads with their issues because they don’t have anything to be embarrassed about. Dandekar stands for economic rejuvenation of areas wracked by job loss and against the death penalty, and she worked as the co-chair of the Kerry campaign in Iowa. Chivukula’s platform includes rethinking how we fund our education (and to contest the link between property tax and schools - so that rich districts get better schools), defending open spaces in our communities, and beneﬁts for children of immigrants especially so that they can get in-state tuition for college. Mathews, who is a relentless campaigner, recently said of his run for Congress this year, “The main reason I am running is that America is at a crossroads.The US is involved in an expensive quagmire in Iraq. Some $150 billion has already been spent. I want us to have more multilateral, new and responsible foreign policy. I also want to bring funds back into my district which is heavily minority.” These candidates tell us what they stand for, and they don’t have to hide behind their ethnicity to get our attention. We don’t have accurate surveys of desi political attitudes. However, the bulk of desis who run for political ofﬁce do so on the Democratic Party (or Green Party) ticket and they run on liberal platforms. My own research among desis suggests that we are against immigration controls, we are against the death penalty, we are for the right of a woman to control her own body, we are for better wages for working people, we are for better care of the elderly, we are for health insurance coverage for all, and we are generally interested in peaceful solutions to conﬂict rather than war. Among the second generation, I tend to believe the liberal trend is even deeper: and there are many second generation desis who would call themselves progressives and radicals rather than liberals. I was recently at the South Asian Awareness Network gathering in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I was pleased to see that most of those who participated held very
progressive views on diverse issues, from Israel to Women’s Rights. On college campuses, where I often travel, there are always a group of second generation desis who have formed a progressive caucus outside the South Asian Students Association, to work alongside, to push their peers to more liberal or radical positions. For all our diversity, we are a fairly liberal community with regard to our lives in the US (our positions on the homeland may be far less liberal, but that’s certainly another story). The Republicans, who claim to be against Afﬁrmative Action and ethnic tokenism, speak loudly about their ethnicity and softly about their links to the extremism of the Bush government. The classic example of this is the current Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. In October 1989, Elaine Chao told the Washington Times, “I’m an American ﬁrst. I’ve never viewed myself as an Asian American.” This view is resonant with the general antipathy held by the Republican administration for ethnicity and ethnic assertion. However, at the same time, Chao was national chair for Asian Americans for Bush-Quayle. She wanted the support of Asian Americans when it came to her own position in public life, but she savagely attacked Bill Lann Lee’s conﬁrmation to be US assistant attorney general for civil rights because Lee supports afﬁrmative action. Why didn’t Chao support Lee regardless of his politics? Because Republicans don’t. They are ideological and partisan - they ask us to support them regardless of their extremism, but they won’t support people who disagree with their own framework. This is hypocrisy and it bears remembrance when we hear from people like Randhawa Haley.
us her false story of uplift (the real story is in Laura Flanders’ excellent Bushwomen, from Verso Books) as a way to not talk about her support for the corporate pillage of the global village. When Chao was appointed Labor Secretary, far too many Asian Americans fell over backward to be jubilant. Dan-Thanh Nguyen of the National Paciﬁc American Women’s Forum offered a more sober view: “Chao opposed Bill Lann Lee, she opposed afﬁrmative action. She’s afﬁliated with the [ultra-right wing] Independent Women’s Forum, she’s anti-union, and Asian Americans are supposed to be glad because she’s Labor secretary? She is somebody’s American Dream. But not ours. Not everybody’s.” We are a bunch of savvy voters, and we don’t get taken in by this façade. The substantial desi voters of District 18 in New Jersey (Edison and New Brunswick) sent Jesal Amin (Republican) home and elected the Democrat. I hope that this represents a national trend. Just because Jindal is of Indian origin is not the point. We need more desis in politics, but not at any cost. They have to be desis who are aware of our community’s complex demands and needs, they have to be desis who recognize racism and anti-immigrant sentiment, who will stand up for us when the time comes. They have to stand up for us, all of us, not just the Fat Cats who claim to be our leaders and have set themselves up as heads of this or that shell organization. So, Varun, I’m with you: 10 in 10. But let us organize and send ten progressive desis to Washington, and not ten who will offer ethnic cover to the zealotry of the Bush war machine.
Chao and people like her disguise their hatchet job for the extremists with their ethnicity. As journalist Sonia Shah put it, “Chao has shrouded her right-wing stances and hard-core corporate mindset in soft-core identity politics.” In other words, Chao likes to talk about being an “Asian immigrant” and to give
MR. VIJAY PRASHAD is an Associate Professor and the Director of the International Studies Program at Trinity College. VISIONS would like to thank him for his kindness and his contributions to this publication. 16
Material Metamorphoses, Diane Rhyu â€˜04, exploration of wood and light
Self Portrait, Jon Cho â€˜06, Digital Painting 18
there was anger when i ﬁnally landed in laguardia listen, i said, listen i do not have sars
GRACE CHEUNG ‘04
white gauzy rectangular thin strip ﬂexible metal blue fuzzy four strings to each corner of the room i walked around tan son nhat airport garnered strange looks someone pulled me aside whispered from a safe distance your mask is on backwards a butterﬂy knot hanging beneath each earlobe “just check khong” i shrugged it was easy cough no close contact no severe symptoms no acute no recent travel no respiratory infection no ache fever no difﬁcult breath no stiffness no malaise no loss no appetite no rash no diarr- no syndr- no we left vietnam arriving at bangkok one rainy afternoon kindly eyes white coats soft hands pressed a mood card to my head here is a mask with a small monkey where your mouth ought to be (weeks later an english backpacker said me go thailand too and ﬂaunted his primate)
but then you grow paranoid and think about coughs droplets in the air a woman just three rows away her proximity to your oriﬁces kissing and hugging and hands over hands stop box after box of surgical masks came in the mail post-its: change every day love mom in vietnam no one wore anything there was trust no one cared are you scared of the vi rut our teachers teased virus became the new vocabulary word fear is white men stepping into an internet cafe muted by gauze hospitals are the plague bookmark the W.H.O. guangzhou toronto china panic mottles over the world they found sars in ho chi minh city at brown my biochem professor
lipstick sales went down stepping into beautiful changi airport my body was scanned by an infrared sensor they were looking for the color red or blue or green or orange which meant 38C+ but dancing makes it hard to tell one body blurs into the next passenger rainbows public health or breach of privacy we worried counting the times throats were cleared but how can i eat with a mask on or blow bubbles do i go hungry risk infection ask yourself that on a 16 hour ﬂight across the paciﬁc ocean braised tofu or health braised tofu or health despair. my mother sits at home listening to the chinese radio for four months. she enjoys rumors that begin at the chinese radio and end at seattle or australia (sometimes i think all chinese people think the same or at least the old ones)
“i’m sick and i can’t go to the hospital” we turn on each other and i say to a good friend, maybe you should get that cough checked out, it and she says a pathogen
as the resident pre-med i had two thermometers and one bottle of rubbing questions like : have you ever felt the following here, anh tang, have my masks he took them like money
in taiwan it was a felony to remove our masks stepping off the plane in california a man in blue said welcome home thirteen stripes and ﬁfty stars hung limply from the ceiling in new york my mother refused to touch me began to drive me straight to a basement in long island just for 10 days i stripped in the living room my mother actually suggested burning my clothing i threw them at her fucking media GRACE CHEUNG ‘04 always breaks her glasses when driving balls to the basket. 19
ARMING BROWN POLICE: A QUESTION OF SAFETY CHARLES WHEELER ‘04 “The Bratton Group observed that in order to have a signiﬁcant effect on street crime, Brown police would need the ability to make vehicle stops, to pursue ﬂeeing suspects and to arrest perpetrators who might be armed. None of these functions can be performed safely by police ofﬁcers who are not armed.” Thus reads a December 2003 Brown University press release explaining the recent decision to arm our campus police ofﬁcers. None will dispute that police ofﬁcers perform a vital service to the community at the risk of their own lives, and that to risk their safety would be an insult to them and the ﬁne work they do on our behalf. Although concerns may exist that the issuing of ﬁrearms may not actually decrease the danger faced by campus police ofﬁcers, we students should accede to the conclusions of those whose job it is to analyze such matters. The arming of Brown’s police force will lead to the death of the current “disengagement policy”, a policy the Bratton report deemed “unworkable.” Whether these changes will truly deter criminals from plying their trade on Brown University students is one on which we must seek the consultation of more experienced voices. Despite the analysis of several alternatives, including the use of non-lethal weapons and closer coordination with the Providence Police Department, the Bratton report ultimately concluded that guns are necessary for the Brown University campus police to effectively ensure the safety of those they are meant to protect. However, the questions of safety and crime prevention are not the only issues that must be addressed in this debate. There also remains the important issue of student-police relations, which is a question that only we, the student body, can properly address. Many have argued that the arming of campus police ofﬁcers will adversely affect this relationship, that the addition of ﬁrearms will create a sense of fear that would be detrimental to the Brown community. Brown currently employs twentythree campus police ofﬁcers, eighteen security ofﬁcers, and ten supervisors to meet its security needs. Of these ofﬁcers, only the police and supervisory ofﬁcers are to be armed. Brown’s campus police already work closely with several deans and
the ofﬁce of Campus Life and Student Services, including integrating peer counselors into their operating procedures. The process of arming the Brown campus police will include additional training in issues of diversity far exceeding those undertaken by municipal police such as the Providence Police Department. A substantial part of their training will consist of nonviolent methods of enforcement, and all police will undergo additional psychological testing before ﬁrearms are issued. The administration has taken student’s concerns about student-police
PRO AND CON:
GUNS AT relations seriously, and it is difﬁcult to determine what measures other than arming could be undertaken to ensure student safety. And safety is really the most important issue here. The Bratton report concluded both that ﬁrearms are an indispensable part of maintaining public safety, and that the likelihood of institutional bias or accidental death by armed police ofﬁcers is extremely low. Recent experiences regarding the prosecution of potential hate crime suggests that the Brown University police are already quite in tune with the needs and fears of the Brown community, a state of affairs unlikely to change due to arming. An unequivocal recommendation from a group designed to investigate situations such as ours, combined with a responsible, thoughtful implementation by the Brown administration, should allay any fears as to the reasons or nature of the Brown police arming process.
CHARLES WHEELER ‘04 can survive anything – even nukes. 20
NO GUNS JUHYUNG HAROLD LEE ‘06 It’s hard to accurately describe how truly sad I felt after ﬁrst receiving word of President Simmons’ decision to arm. Suddenly, it became depressingly clear to me: by the time I graduate, Brown Department of Public Safety (DPS) police ofﬁcers will be carrying lethal weapons. I am fundamentally opposed to arming for a number of reasons, which I will address in the second half of this article – yet I am equally opposed to the manner in which the decision to arm was made, particularly the actions of the Undergraduate Council of Students (UCS) and the University administration.
BROWN Indeed, I am deeply saddened by the role that the UCS played in spreading pro-arming propaganda prior to passing its resolution in favor of arming last fall, particularly because the information that the UCS perpetrated in the Brown Daily Herald and the College Hill Independent was actually false. For example, several UCS members made public statements assuring everybody that arming the DPS is just “replacing Providence police with Brown police.”1 However, the fact remains that Providence Police (PPD) ofﬁcers are not going away, especially given the introduction of “community policing” and increased police presence on the East Side. And while it may be preferable for Brown students to be protected by armed DPS police ofﬁcers that are directly accountable to the University, the exact opposite is true for Providence residents who will soon ﬁnd themselves policed by
the DPS. PPD ofﬁcers are accountable to a publicly elected city government, not to a private institution like Brown – what right does the University have to police public streets with armed ofﬁcers liable to a private entity? Moreover, PPD ofﬁcers will soon be governed by an external civilian review board, which is something the DPS currently does not have (why not?). The UCS also claimed that the arming of the DPS would not bring guns on to our actual campus, since “Brown Police [ofﬁcers] are responsible for issues of external security…they do not respond to problems in dorms, unless these have been determined to be very serious by the Brown Security Ofﬁcers who ﬁrst respond to such incidents…nor do Brown Police [ofﬁcers] patrol the grounds of the University.”2 However, at the DPS “Meet & Greet Winter Social” in January 2003, several DPS ofﬁcers told me that both DPS police and security ofﬁcers make regular walking patrols of the actual campus, which includes entering dorms to let students into their locked rooms. I’ve personally seen DPS police ofﬁcers (not just security ofﬁcers) on campus and in my dorm countless times. Moreover, all of the ofﬁcers I spoke to agreed that arming DPS police ofﬁcers will in fact increase the presence of guns on the actual campus.3 The University could have done much more to include community members and students in the decision to arm. Former Brown President Vartan Gregorian held two student referendums on this issue, the results of which concluded that students were overwhelmingly opposed to arming. Strangely, President Simmons decided against giving students a voice in this debate, choosing instead to allow only the UCS to speak on our behalf. Now, as we move to arm, students are again being excluded from the process – for example, a March meeting between University administration, DPS ofﬁcials, and Third World Center staffers to discuss the arming process was cancelled at the last minute, and at the writing of this article more than a month later, it has yet to be rescheduled. I also believe that we should be wary of the DPS’ promise to
Guns for Everyone, Brian Lee ‘06, silkscreen on bristol provide extensive training to its ofﬁcers prior to arming. The reality of the situation is that these ofﬁcers already underwent countless hours of training and workshops prior to even working their ﬁrst shift, and this did not prevent two DPS ofﬁcers from aggressively questioning and violently arresting two Brown students – who just happened to be black – for refusing to show their ID’s as they walked across the Main Green a couple years ago (I thought Brown had an open campus?).4 More recently, a rash of homophobic hate crimes elicited an insensitive and apathetic response from DPS ofﬁcers and University ofﬁcials, 22
according to friends closely involved with one such incident. The University constantly ﬂaunts such training to demonstrate that its ofﬁcers are highly trained and disciplined individuals – yet the fact of the matter is that no amount of training can fully prepare a human being for the huge responsibilities associated with being a police ofﬁcer, much less carrying a gun. Thus, we should not rush to arm under the assumption that every single DPS police ofﬁcer will be responsible enough not to abuse such power. Moreover, the University should not be so quick to point to the
2001 report compiled by the independent consulting group of noted law enforcement ﬁgure William Bratton – which recommended that the DPS be armed – as a valid basis for its decision, as Bratton hardly seems like someone we should be taking advice from. For example, during Bratton’s tenure as NYPD Commissioner from 1994 to 1996, annual civilian complaints increased by 61%5 and police brutality complaints increased by 37%.6 I ﬁnd it awfully hard to believe that the University was completely oblivious to this information before it hired him. Finally, I am disturbed that President Simmons made the decision to arm in the face of direct opposition by Providence Mayor David Cicilline and Ward One Councilman David Segal.7 The decision to arm effects every single person who lives, works, shops, and eats on College Hill, and I am still perplexed at how the University could have shown such blatant disregard and disrespect for the community in which we live as to ignore the pleas of their elected ofﬁcials. We should also keep in mind that arming will continue to affect these people after most of us are long gone from here. We all have a right to be safe – Brown students and staff, DPS ofﬁcers, and Providence community members included – but the fact remains that neither the Bratton Group nor the University has managed to provide a shred of concrete evidence to prove that arming the DPS is actually going to reduce crime and make us any safer. In fact, I suspect that the introduction of lethal weapons and more aggressive policing to College Hill will actually cause an escalation of violence and tension within our already volatile community, unnecessarily threatening the well-being of the same people whom this measure is intended to protect. Moreover, this notion of “increased protection” at Brown is similar to the Homeland Security rhetoric currently being passed around by our nation’s leaders. Does anyone – either the University administration or the Bush administration – honestly believe that we can somehow militarize and secure ourselves to the point where we are completely exempt from possible attack? We’ve seen the negative effects of this protectionist doctrine overseas, where resentment and violent action against the U.S. is on the rise. Is it too far of a stretch to suggest that a similar reaction can be expected here on College Hill? It should also be noted that the vast majority of crimes around campus have occurred because DPS ofﬁcers weren’t there, not because they were present and unable to engage the suspect(s). How then, is arming going to make us any safer? Clearly, the better and more effective alternative is prevention, not engagement or prevention through fear. Indeed, upon examination of the root causes of crime, it is clear that the University can implement nonviolent, preventative
measures to play a huge role in eliminating crime for the long run. I personally believe that insuring equal access to quality public education from preschool to college is the surest and best way to create greater social and economic equity, and thus a safer community – especially after considering the fact that 80% of America’s prison population is comprised of high school dropouts.8 By making a dedicated commitment to the youth and schools of the community in which we live – including increasing our support of Providence schools, increasing our ﬁnancial aid budget, and increasing our recruitment of economicallydisadvantaged high school students of color (especially from Providence) – the University can create long-term solutions that will lead to real change. Crime is not a simple problem that can be easily ﬁxed by a band-aid solution such as arming – it requires great amounts of time, effort, patience, and most of all, an unrelenting dedication to the ideals of true positive social change.
Coppola, Gaby. “Mojo for the BroPo.” The College Hill Independent 21 Nov. 2002: 2+. 2 Hodges, Sam. “A different choice: why Brown should arm police.” The Brown Daily Herald 4 Nov. 2002. 9 Mar. 2004 <http: //www.browndailyherald.com/stories.asp?dbversion=2&storyID =7766>. 3 Various DPS police and security ofﬁcers. Personal interview. 30 Jan. 2003. 4 “2 Brown students arrested on Main Green Friday afternoon.” The Brown Daily Herald 11 Mar. 2002. 21 Mar. 2004 <http: //www.browndailyherald.com/stories.asp?dbversion=2&storyID =6426>. 5 Shaffer, Gwen. “Bratton worse?” Philadelphia citypaper.net 4 Dec. 1997. 12 Mar. 2004 <http://www.citypaper.net/articles/120497/ hr2.shtml>. 6 Bratton. The Justice Committee. 12 Mar. 2004 <http://www.jcny.org/work%20Histor y%20docs%20folder/JC_work_folder/ Bratton_JC_W.html>. 7 Blumenkranz, Carla. “Cicilline opposes arming of Brown Police, will ask Simmons to reconsider.” The Brown Daily Herald 16 Jan. 2004. 11 Mar. 2004 <http://www.browndailyherald.com/stories.a sp?storyID=2082>. 8 Fight Crime: Invest in Kids. 28 Feb. 2003. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids. 9 Dec. 2003 <http://www.ﬁghtcrime.org/dropout.php>. 1
JUHYUNG HAROLD LEE ’06 sends love and respect to all those who fought so selﬂessly and tirelessly against arming – thank you. 23
A4 FOR ALL BRIAN LEE ‘06
Finding one’s niche in a relatively new environment can be a great challenge in any environment, and Brown is no exception. However, this obstacle can be easily overcome when we are aided by the guidance of people who have already traveled similar paths. The Asian/Asian American Alumni Alliance (A4) at Brown is one such group of people. An amazing collection of diverse experiences, talents, interests, backgrounds, senses of humor, and simply selﬂess devotion, A4 exists “to foster a multi-dimensional sense of community among Asian and Asian American students and alumni, students and alumni of color, and the entire Brown community.” I was lucky to meet some of its members during Career Week last November and at its recent Second Annual Meeting this March, and I have truly been able to re-evaluate my place at Brown, and what I have the power to control during my time here. With this in mind, Faizah and I asked members of A4 to provide us with their current information as well as their perspectives in light of their Brown alumni status in the “real world.” We asked the following question: Looking back at your undergraduate years at Brown, what piece of advice would you offer to current undergraduates? What was something you learned that prepared you for life after Brown? NaRhee Ahn ’93, A4 Secretary Current Home Location: Taking a sabbatical in tiny Newark, Delaware Occupation and Location: New York City-based ﬁlmmaker Please see her poem in this issue of VISIONS for a unique response to our question. Peggy Chang ’93 (listed with Alumni Relations as Class of ‘91), A4 President Location: Warwick, RI Director of The Venture Consortium, Providence, RI. Has been working in Higher Education since 1994 Don’t be afraid of being different -- we’re lucky to be at a school that tries to embrace and encourage difference, creativity, and ingenuity through its curriculum and life outside the classroom.
Take advantage of the truly rich resource of people (faculty, staff, students, Providence community members), courses, off-campus/ study away programs, research opportunities, etc. Don’t be too proud to ask for help when you need it. Don’t graduate from Brown without having cultivated a relationship with at least one or two professors! Also, one of the most “activist” things that you can do at Brown is to be proud of the risks that you took and the attention that you paid to your work in the classroom. I am thankful that at Brown I learned how to take risks, learned to embrace my own and others’ differences /uniqueness, and learned how to build coalitions across constituencies for the greater good. Adoito Haroon ‘02 Location: Lodi, NJ Software Engineer, Rochelle Park, NJ At Brown you are surrounded by amazing people who come from all different cultures and backgrounds. They each have unique ways of looking at things and approaching problems and you have a lot to gain by assimilating all those different points of view. So go out and push the envelope of what you are used to, meet new people from all different kinds of backgrounds and tastes, and don’t be afraid to be challenged to change. Runa Hatti ‘02 First Year Medical Student at Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, PA. My number one piece of advice to any and all undergraduates is to study abroad. There is no class I took that broadened my mind or developed my character as much as studying abroad… My second piece of advice would be to go to convocations… I learned so much from convocations, not only about the speakers themselves, but [also] about the organizations sponsoring the convocations. I was able to get involved in a lot of really interesting projects by having my curiosity piqued at convocations. Third and last, get involved in as many completely different organizations as you can. The exposure to various group dynamics, styles of leadership, and most importantly interests not only made my life more
interesting but also helped me process things more coherently once I had left Brown. And I met a lot of fantastic people. Khambay Khamsyvoravong ‘02 Location: Rhode Island Assistant Director of Admission and Co-Coordinator of Multicultural Recruitment at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY It really doesn’t matter what you major in at Brown...I was a Biology major, on the pre-med track, wanting to save lives. And now I am a college admissions ofﬁcer, ruining students’ lives. ...That’s the beauty behind a liberal arts education. Saeromi Kim ’96 (originally ’95 but took one year off) Location: Providence, RI, near Pawtucket Doctoral student in Clinical Psychology at Clark University, Worcester, MA. Psychology trainee at the Stone Center Counseling Service at Wellesley College. Stepmother to our 12year-old son (at home). Social comparisons are normal, but they can be harmful too. I used to think I was a little less in every respect, instead of being proud to be among talented people and knowing I was one of them. I think being aware of the commonality and potential harmfulness of this process is important. A strong sense and personal philosophy of social justice. I take this with me everywhere I go, sometimes adjusting it with new things I learn. And I have been told by others that this passion for social justice is a very valuable quality I bring to everything I do. I make mistakes and go through periods of apathy, for sure, but I am open to learning because I care about our world and communities around me. I think I learned to be proud of this at Brown. Hanna Rodriguez-Farrar ’87, ’90 AM Location: Providence, RI Researcher at Harvard Business School Go talk to your professors and get to know them; [the] same goes for alums and others who encourage you contact them! Don’t be afraid to take risks and defy your own perceived conventions. One never knows where that path may lead you. Another thing: know yourself enough to trust your instincts. The four years at Brown are partially a selfreﬂective process that allows you to develop your “true north.” Cristina (Cris) Sales ’90, A4 President-Elect Location: New York, New York (Manhattan) but my heart belongs in Providence... Occupation and Location: Manager, Standards and Practices, Comedy Central, an MTV Network
Remember that the challenge of Brown is to develop the most original identity you can. Ultimately, that is what will serve you the best in the real world. Originality of thought and action is what makes the difference between adulthood being something that opens up possibilities as opposed to just a whole bunch of responsibilities. Never apologize for what you ﬁnd to be your truth, whether it’s in your beliefs, your person, your predilections or your natural instinct. And also know that there’s nothing wrong with that truth changing as you mature and grow. It’s essential to be honest with yourself which is something I really understood for the ﬁrst time at Brown. Sharmila Rao Thakkar ‘95 Location: Chicago, IL (formerly NYC) Public Health/Public Administration, currently Manager of Public Affairs at a health care organization in Chicago Take it all in...never miss an opportunity...no regrets. Four years like those at Brown only come once… Slowing down is sometimes the fastest way to achieving your goals… It’s challenging sometimes to be pulled in the many directions that we often are, but stay true to yourself and success (however you choose to deﬁne it) will follow. Sunny Youn ’90 Location: New Jersey Financial Services, New York Enjoy the academic thought process, learning to question assumptions & come to your own conclusions. Life after Brown is an independent study program of making your own choices, not following a cookie-cutter formula for success. Brown grads are known for original thinking, which prepares them for entrepreneurial efforts, and carving out innovations where no one else has gone before.
As undergraduates and as members of VISIONS, we are grateful to have such wonderful advice from people who have already been through many of our current undergraduate experiences, and we would like to thank A4 and its members for taking the time to reach out to the greater Brown community. If you would like to learn more about A4 and its events, please contact Peggy Chang at Peggy_Chang@brown.edu
BRIAN LEE ‘06 is too old to be adopted by A4 members, but is young enough to become a member when he graduates. 25
AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL HISTORY-MAKING (CONDUCTED IN THE THIRD PERSON) BY ABE YOUNG ‘04
phone number, routine for him. “Hey whatsup,”—her voice, on the phone...—“Yeah I’m good; how’re you doing?”—...and I am on the receiving end... well, kind of—“Just calling to talk,” said his best friend’s voice in the phone, to her—and he hung up the receiver with a slam, unwillfully, abruptly, as if he had no control over a spastic arm. “...Oh, that was nothing,” he could hear his best friend explaining to the girl in the other room...
THERE’S A NEW AMERICAN IN TOWN, and he’s coming in hootin’ and hollerin’ like a cowboy. “I am here!” his pistol goes off BANG! “I am here!” his pistol goes off BANG! “I was born American, and I’m here to stay!” The people around him look a bit bewildered, but only for a second, and then they go back to their own business; but he has made his mark, in the air somewhere (there’s a theory that everything that has ever been said is still suspended somewhere in the air...) he has occupied space. Daddy, who am I? he used to ask, but his Daddy just looked off and did not answer; he left him supportless in the water, not hoping he would drown. The boy did not drown, and reached some seashore; and has been there, walking around since. The surroundings were new, but new in the way light and air is new to a newborn. The space was also vast, and the directions to look were as many as angles he could turn in one turning. Because of the unconstrained capacity, like diffusion of a concentration of particles, suddenly let go, he clung; clung outwards, not frantically, but welcomingly to his side, what objects passed that eye contact met. It was almost as the minds of Konrad Lorenz’s imprinted ducklings, who, at ﬁrst sight, clung to Lorenz as Mother; but different, the boy decided what he clung to (though he could not decide in what order the objects came by), and decided what and distinctly when to let go, as he ﬂoated across the land. The released objects bobbed back and away into the distance, like buoys on the bobbing surface. In ﬁfth grade, all four of his friends were the popular kids, all having had girlfriends, the little girlfriends the all-Americans having little boyfriends. He had a crush on one of the girls for the longest time, even thinking of her so much conceiving her last name Rosen a nice riddle: a rose with an n. He never thought to “ask her out,” or give her his riddle as a gift, or anyone else, he wasn’t ever expected to. In his perspective, he was the narrator, of a story where all the American boys had girlfriends, and it was a given like an innate quality, like shivering, that the narrator was not to take a part, just narrate, just observe the plot. Once, he held the receiver nervously, while his best friend on the house’s other receiver, dialed one of the American girl’s 26
The only kiss he ever got or gave, was a cheek kiss in Spin the Bottle, the girl no doubt (or I wonder, if...) unexcitedly receiving; while all four others had experienced making out, feeling up, stages experienced by sixth grade... He was put on the stage once, and he realized he liked it. He lived a double life: one to the world, and the other to what he considered not the world, or at least not the outward one. And on this stage, maybe it was because for the ﬁrst time, he saw himself acting to the world, interacting to it, and like a shocking plot device, eyes were suddenly narrating him, and he liked it; his voice was ﬁnally the one speaking. But this physical voice was conﬁned only to the inward world, and only there did him speaking, having a voice, make sense; seeing his own face for the ﬁrst time—a face that would not make sense outside—he did not heed its reﬂection, but embraced it to his chest. His chest and voice grew strong, and he knew what it was, now, to be proud. He wrote on a scrap sheet of paper, because he took up writing things down, that fuckin loser, his friend; the way I somehow attached, related to kids in the gutter, one way or other and he went to this park one year, day after day after school and everyday of the sun crushing summer. They all played on the grinding torn asphalt and pavement. The Hispanics jived at the one black Jamaican boy, for being a sponge for heat in these brutal rays, just like the hot dark ground. The Jamaican boy laughed, and jived back, and he laughed, and they all laughed, and the days of the All-American boys bobbed invisibly far behind. One of those days under the heat—when they sat speckled across the large wooden picnic-table bench, quenched by the cool net of shadow cast from the oak tree above—they exchanged phone numbers, each tearing off enough scrap sheets to disseminate their own number to each other one there. They challenged the old guys to basketball together; they got into ﬁghts together; they stole sodas at the McDonald’s fountain machine together; they devised plans and snuck into movies and movie-hopped together; they jumped into the chlorinated
apartment complex pool together, in one big continual splash throughout summer afternoons. The Jamaican boy’s phone number was the easiest to remember, the dials forming a “seven” shape: 233-9363; and while all of them—except the one white boy that kept on getting beat up by one of them because of his haughtiness, his family’s wealthiness—clicked well, he clicked the most naturally with the mild-mannered (sometimes explosive) Jamaican boy. They became good friends. He suddenly remembered that time ago on the waves, and that his memory consisted of more than when he was dropped free, just looking over the surface of the rhythmical seas, until he landed. There was before that, things obscured by fatigue and delirium of one stranded in the ocean after days. He began to remember forms of his father, and his mother, and their hands and chairs too high leaving his legs dangling; and of those hands under his armpits helping him up, or putting a tall book under his seat at the movie theater. And he remembered blood, and life, and chants and crowds yelling too passionately for one not to feel a part. He once lived in a home, and there were walls and woodenpaneled ﬂoors, and the mopeds and pedestrians outside ﬂowed incessantly like red and white blood cells through pumping veins and arteries. He looked out the back window and waved silently, knowing that his neighbors waving goodbye, fading away outside, could not hear him, and that the vehicle was not simply crossing a street, but venturing out into waters until some land, somewhere could be met and considered a crossing of the sea.
“What the hell’s going on?” he whispered. After a pause: “I beat the shit out of Dominique earlier today,” his friend answered, with no remorse, but also with no pride. “You didn’t come today till after he had left,” he added. “And I think that’s his mom outside.” He felt somehow excited, but also sorry, that the white kid within the group got beat up again. “So what did he do? What’d he do to you earlier today?” For a second, in the direction of his eyes, his best friend almost showed a sign of regret, or a little shame, he couldn’t tell, but the friend quickly suppressed it—“You know—youuu know how Dominique be always talkin’ shit. He keeps on talkin’ and talkin’, and I tell him to shut up—but he keep on talkin’ and talkin’...” “—Shhhh!” came a command to them two from one of the boys on the bed. Imagining the incident earlier on the asphalt, he found himself quietly rooting for his friend, even though the white boy losing the ﬁght was also his friend. Then he imagined the kid bloodied on his head, with maybe a swollen lip, going home, singularly away from the crowd, and he somehow felt bad, related... and then in a reﬂex shook it off—shit, his Mom’s here; damn momma’s boy, deserved it...
“FRRRIED chicken! FRRIED chicken! Let’s go get us some fried chicken,” the Hispanics laughed and called out jivingly to no one, but implied by heading out towards the Jamaican boy’s apartment complex. The throng moved like a ﬂimsy, wavering soap bubble down the street, and ﬁnally piled into the small sitting area right outside the kitchen. “Let’s cook us up some hot dogs too,” someone suggested, and a messy mix of fried chicken legs, wings, and bun-less hotdogs was piled out, oil still sizzling hot from the pot, onto the table. Hands and faces were soon oily, and scrappy bones with shredded meat attached lay across the area like carcasses near-done by vultures.
Somewhere along the way, he was suddenly comfortable. It was as if he had been lying on a raft, anxious of where the current would take him; but all of a sudden, when he woke up from a nap atop the mysterious waters, he found his raft still, washed onto the sand of some dry luscious land. There was a girl, somehow also unknowingly, maybe also ﬂoating in search of nothing a long time now, that clicked and locked with him so smoothly. It was like time was no longer chronological, and the time they would know and grow with each other surely for the rest of their lives, was already background to their intimate, joyful interaction upon even their ﬁrst meeting.
Later, while some were crowded boisterously around NBA Jam on the ﬂickering TV screen, and others were lounging out on the couches, rewinding-playing-rewinding-playing and writing down the lyrics to Gangsta’s Paradise, suddenly someone checked a knock at the door, and everyone in the place began scrambling with panic and joy and tense exhilaration—“Turn off the TV!” “Turn off that light!” hissed everyone, at everyone, “Put the music down!” And then the frantic movement subsided and nearly everyone was crowded on the bed that sat adjacent against the wall, with the window (shades closed) that peered right out next to the front door. Him and his best friend stayed right outside the room, near the kitchen.
The blazing hot summer on asphalt and splashing in the pool were long behind, and other hazier gaps ﬁlled some space, some interval between, somewhere. Now, his life was ﬁlled with those he regularly talked to, in the way he did with his best friends past; and roots began to grow, spread in places he felt warm, somewhat homelike. For the second time now, he resolved to reach out, as a man, to a tender other. The ﬁrst time he did, the girl whom he had gotten along with well so long, and had treated him closely when they were “just” friends, suddenly reacted the way he imagined that the girl reacted inside, when he kissed her in ﬁfth-grade Spin the 27
Bottle. He had been disrupted by that then, and his emboldening self-perception was set back a few paces; but this time, he felt it was different. It must be different. The girl was soothingly receptive—missing no step—to his advances, and the bonds and relations and understandings between them quickly became stronger, and deeper and deeper. It was like they each respectively had a well, speciﬁcally accessible by the other, that homed bottomless quantities of feelings, experiences, skills, and humanity, for the other to drink to their unquenchable satisfaction. They developed the joint strength of a married man and wife, but contained the capricious agility and energy of youth. His attraction to the stage also grew stronger and more keen, and some sort of vague purpose of hearing his voice reverberate out was forming inside of him. The passion stirred by the presence of this girl in his present, also transposed into his advancing hand at expression. He wrote more on scraps as he did before, when he had lucid thoughts, but now he got hold of full sheets of paper to scribble down even ﬂeeting, misty thought-pieces. Never before had he been particularly trusting or understanding to the word “happy,” but now, he felt somehow appropriately contained within it. The days passed, with his various, groups, of friends; and of all the things that he had ended up letting go to the open abyss past, he was conﬁdently determined that this was one physicality he would never ﬁnd the need to abandon. One day, when he was joking (he had developed the strength of his chest, and had grown more conﬁdent in his speed at wit) with friends together in a car down the highway, the level of playful tension and interpersonal breast-ﬂaring between him and a friend grew like competing bids at heated auctioning. This friend suddenly blurted, half laughingly, “Well, you think you got more black friends than me? Just cause you’re friends with that Jamaican kid—” “What the fuck did you just say?” his reﬂex did not allow the dead silence that suddenly doomed the car to drip in—“What the FUCK!—Say it again, man, say it again,” he tempted in a clenched rage. “Say it again, I didn’t hear you.” And the friend suddenly realized he was in a shark-infested deep sea, not in the play-pond in the back woods anymore. “I’m sorry, man. Sorry.... Didn’t mean anything by it,” he whispered as though his breath could set off trip-wire. My mind is racing, and my ﬁsts are clenched. But I don’t know what I’m clenching... what for... “I’m sorry,” the friend kept mumbling. 28
Floating on water, can sometimes be lonely, he thought aloud. The pool at his friend’s house was shaped in a large rectangle, except for the one asymmetrical corner, where artiﬁcial rock formations were stacked like pancakes and water ﬂowed down to refreshen and circulate the pool supply. Everyone else had gone inside, they were tired of their pruned ﬁngers and clogged ears, but he had decided to stay out, ﬂoating on his back, hearing the sounds of the hissing underworld, and looking into the glacial blue sky. His mind wandered, and he did not even notice whether his eyes were closed or open, and he thought of the time he was at his girlfriend’s pool, and her family was out for the night. They had teased each other, both pretending not to know what was to come, and both knowing the other was pretending, and they had dived into the dark pool with their swim trunks on. Not soon after, the water no longer felt cold, and the waves created from their bodies reverberated out and back into their bodies, and the soft crashes upon the skin were like lulling calls to a deep sleep... Along with attachment and possession, inevitably comes pain. Tracks are structures of the real world, not the world dictated by the mind, and with no exceptions, lives come to crossing points where passengers must get off, if only brieﬂy, before they board the next train and head along their way. Because at all destinations, and along the way, there is so much to hold and to grab and to see, even though many companions are present aboard one train or browsing at one destination, one must travel alone for lack of hands to carry it all. Only until one is matured, and ripe with satisfaction of experience, can one forgo the practical use of hands; instead to use them lastly for this ﬁnal purpose: to hold the hands of the one they love. And when their ﬁngers are locked, they are freer than they had ever been before, to seek out the world in joint company. The farther down he traveled, the more he realized that he could feel like he was born again. Like he was in waters again, searching the riddle waves for signs and direction. Sometimes, he clung to objects for ﬂoatation, for rest; and he was tired swimming, ﬂoating. At points now, he would also think of the ﬁrst time he was left alone to fend, or to ﬂoat, and he thought of the hands that had let him go initially. They came from a different land; a different land from the one I now know, he thought. But also, they came from a place where I too have been before, if only brieﬂy, and have felt breathe within my bones. With a ﬁrst sighting of recognition, he began to inspect and handle the point like the tip of a pyramid, now uncovered somewhere within the rock and soil. Then as his courage grew to this seemingly foreign, misplaced object, he began to probe, and to dig around, and then to dig and to dig and to dig, and the ridges
and faces and cracks began to show, and the debris and earth began to pile. He remembered a drop of blood, or one trail of blood running down the side of the head, sticky with hair and congealing but running. Then he remembered that he was not alone; that his mother and father were there, running alongside him, holding tight to his hand, or maybe carrying him, he could not remember. People scattered in colliding directions, and screams, shouts, waving batons and shields all ﬁlled the air overlapping with chaos. Only moments before, they had all been holding signs with printed slogans, wearing head and armbands with painted phrases, and being a part of the mouths, microphones, faces, civilian raising ﬁsts that shook symbolically with inﬁnite words against the wall of police lining the streets with stacked shields.
He looked to where she implied, and after ﬁrst not seeing any reactions, any particular attention paid, he saw a balding white man in a suit, glaring directly at them as if posing a poignant question.
These had been his parents’ passion. This is from where they were born. And this is from where they had given me life, he said to himself, realizing he was speaking from more than his own mind.
Midway through their dinners, she brought up the topic again, bearing no weight though because the evening was one of indulgence, “Do you notice how we get stares a lot of times?”
I have uncovered truth and from the courage of my parents I will hold them uncovered. Once, the girl that he loved, had given him a snow globe once as a gift. The kind that emits dancing metallic sounds of music when one twists the winder on the bottom, and has snowﬂakes that settle on the ground or swirl in the wind depending on one’s mood. This one inside had a cherub-like girl with scarf and beret, on her tiptoes, leaning against a cherub-like boy with hands in his pockets; the white-faced boy waited pleasantly, slightly surprised, but frozen happy just about to make contact with her seeking, cute lips. The sight of him and her as miniature, within the security of a small glass globe, gave him a warmth he could not describe to her, and the sight of his inexpressible smile immediately reassured her. Without saying so then, they mutually felt locked forever into that safe place, where neither of them would ever fall, and the waters would never lead either astray. That was all many years ago. One day, the snow globe fell from a high place and broke. It did not shatter, so was salvageable; but cracks formed, water leaked out, and the miniatures within the glass walls lost their impenetrable security. Somehow, when he looked inside, he did not anymore see himself as the pale-faced boy kissing the cherub-girl; he did not see himself anywhere within— Once, when they went to dinner at a fancy restaurant, she
commented to him under her breath, “They’re looking at us funny over there.”
“He’s just jealous, of me that is,” he whispered into her dark curly hair, as the hostess turned a corner, and showed them to their seats. “And he’s balding and old, the bastard. Of course he’s jealous,” he jived. “Oh yeah, and ugly too.” She chuckled.
He really had not noticed, but since she asked, he scanned through his memory to assess the question. “I don’t think so, unless you’re including those Asian moms. But that’s only ‘cause Asian moms don’t want their kids to be with white girls—” and the second he verbalized this, despite the fact that the statement had resided in his mind in content before because it was established mantra in his culture, heavy solid thoughts, about himself, about himself and her... about how it always felt right when they held hands but he had never thought about them holding hands... about how when he kissed her he saw her but he never saw them both kissing... about how maybe he had seen people stare at them walking together intimately down the street, about how maybe he had ignored it, because maybe he thought there was no way they were staring, because maybe he was American, almost all-American, and—and he tried to play it off, while not really paying attention as he continued the rest of their conversation, “—and deﬁnitely not with black girls...” —He wrote. He wrote and he wrote and he wrote words that described, words that probed, words that stabbed and left wounds bleeding, words that healed, words that told of the words he was seeking. In these waters, in this world, it was triumphant to be searching. The weight of the world is predominantly occupied by the mass of its waters, pushing inwards. I am a ﬂake standing on its surface, looking upwards; but when I turn those eyes completely down, I look into myself, and all of what that means. I stand on top of it all, and I am the king at its apex. To continue on... ABE YOUNG ‘04 is a warm-blooded Miamian who asks, “Doesn’t winter end in January?” 29
HOW TO DEAL WITH THE REAL WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION EDDIE AHN ‘05
Without a doubt, the current stand-off between North Korea and the United States represents the largest threat to East Asia’s short and long-term security. Unfortunately, little progress was made as the second round of six-nation talks concluded on February 28, 2004. To summarize its unsurprising results, the United States rejected North Korea’s offer to freeze but not scrap its nuclear facilities in return for energy aid and security assurances, while North Korea rejected the U.S. demand that North Korea submit to the complete, veriﬁable and irreversible dismantlement of all its nuclear capabilities. Although the parties have agreed to meet again in the middle of the year, the lack of agreement on a speciﬁc date is an ominous sign.
Yet the 1994 deal disintegrated due to mistrust and over-caution. A key player in setting the stage for the original agreement, Selig S. Harrison, has stated that the U.S. dragged its feet in honoring the key provisions of the 1994 agreement. Within six months of the agreement, barriers to trade were to be reduced and foreign investments were to be increased in North Korea. Disregarding this clear commitment, the U.S. failed to implement even a partial relaxation of the embargo until June 2000, and the construction of the two nuclear reactors fell hopelessly behind schedule. On the other hand, North Korea not only maintained the freeze of its nuclear program but also unilaterally suspended missile tests for four years after the conclusion of the accord.
Even worse, virtually every mass media discussion of North Korea expresses a variation of the following unedifying mixture of facts, opinions, and myths: With 70 percent of North Korean forces poised within sprinting distance of the demilitarized zone (otherwise known as the DMZ, the militarized border that divides the two Koreas), the entire Korean peninsula can be consumed in a “sea of ﬁre.” As one third of George W. Bush’s unholy “axis of evil,” North Korea possesses and seeks more weapons of mass destruction by withdrawing from the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty, expelling United Nations nuclear inspectors, and reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods into weapons grade plutonium. Oh, and the dominant ruler of North Korea, Kim Jong Il, is an unpredictable, psychotic, cheating, alcoholic, womanizing, Stalinist terrorist dictator of a state on the verge of collapse.
Although North Korea should not be let off the hook for restarting their nuclear program in 1998, part of the blame should squarely fall upon a schizophrenic U.S. foreign policy that has always dominated the Korean peninsula. In order to assuage hardliners crying “appeasement,” the Clinton administration backtracked on an engagement strategy and delayed aid in hopes of facilitating the collapse of another Communist state. To everyone’s embarrassment, the same regime still remains as
Admittedly, the North Korean regime does possess extraordinarily dangerous conventional forces and an undeniably horrendous human rights record, but its negotiations are anything but psychotically unpredictable. Contrary to American media reports and public debate, one of the most common misconceptions is that North Koreans are entirely to blame for the current crisis. The original 1994 U.S. nuclear freeze agreement guaranteed North Korea two “tamper-proof ” nuclear reactors in exchange for giving up their nascent nuclear programs for military and civilian use. In the words of Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Mike Mochizuki, former co-director of the Center for Asia-Paciﬁc Policy at RAND, “the deal the [Clinton] administration signed was a smart one: energy in exchange for energy and nonproliferation.” Illustration by Eddie Ahn ‘05 30
deﬁant as ever ten years later. Having visited North Korea nine times, Eason Jordan, president of CNN International Networks, explains, “When you hear about starvation in North Korea, a lot of very level-headed people think, ‘There is no way a country like that can survive.’ Well, I can guarantee you this: I’m here to tell you with absolute certainty those guys will tough it out for centuries just the way they are. Neither the United States nor any other country is going to be able to force a collapse of that government in North Korea.” If not for the enormous stakes involved in the conﬂict, the two sides would be locked into an inevitable course of violent confrontation. The most hawkish members of the Bush administration and U.S. military do not savor the North Korean response to the highly unlikely scenario of a successful decapitation strike against Kim Jong Il and his nuclear infrastructure. Unlike Iraq, the pervasive inﬂuence and hard-line attitudes of the North Korean military and the Communist Party ensure a massive counterstrike and resistance of foreign invasion to the bitter end. Moreover, the best and latest of U.S. Special Forces tactics and air war technology could never overcome a country that has readied itself for another war throughout the last ﬁfty years. For instance, over 15,000 underground installations related to national security, including jet plane hangars, tank revetments, and arms factories, exist in North Korea. Hardened concrete bunkers have also been built deep inside the earth and the mountains to survive nuclear attack. Nestled in mountainous protected locations, North Korean artillery could wreck devastation upon South Korea’s capital, Seoul, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians almost instantaneously. In less optimistic scenarios, the devastation would spread to Japan and the rest of South Korea as North Korea launches missiles tipped with chemical weapons and deploys notoriously ferocious commandos off the coastline. Millions could die as the collapse of South Korea would devastate regional and global economies. However, hysterical and breathless descriptions of a new Korean War only strengthen North Korea’s bargaining position against an American president who appears to enjoy playing the role of the generalissimo. In George W. Bush’s charming analysis, paying North Korea to get back inside the Non-Proliferation Treaty would be like “buying the same horse twice.” But if one can move beyond the reappearing nuclear crisis in North Korea as a symptom of short-sided policies, U.S. policymakers should follow a long-term vision for the future to strike a balance between appeasement and violent conﬂict. Outlining a “grand bargain” that the U.S. could negotiate with North Korea, O’Hanlon and Mochizuki isolate the underlying causes of North Korea’s nuclear brinksmanship. Evidenced by its dabbling in drug trafﬁcking and counterfeiting, the North Korea
regime apparently wants to salvage its stagnating economy, but not at any cost to its grip on power. To change that parochial attitude, North Korea’s insistence on trading in its nuclear program should be taken seriously this time. A real engagement strategy should condition future energy aid on more stringent veriﬁcation to prevent any more clandestine nuclear programs, including unfettered on-site inspections. Furthermore, economic and humanitarian aid should constitute a development program to deemphasize North Korea’s failing command economy and to pry open its tightly sealed culture. Similar to China, a human rights dialogue with the outside world should also be established with increased trade. As for security, signiﬁcant steps must be made to deescalate tensions on the DMZ. Following the same logic of reciprocated cuts in nuclear weapons between the U.S. and Russia, the U.S. should negotiate substantial reciprocated cuts with North Korea in conventional forces around the DMZ. Such reductions would not only lessen the possible devastation of war but also free up resources to reform the North Korea economy. Both sides would still possess enough conventional weapons to deter each other from becoming too frisky, and in the meantime, the U.S. could seriously consider a nonaggression pledge, open diplomatic relations, and ultimately, a peace treaty. There are many encouraging signs that North Korea would agree to such a bargain. Closely following the evolution of the Chinese Communist Party and its economy, Kim Jong Il has experimented with reform by lifting price controls, increasing wages, and establishing small free economic zones. North Korea’s act of good faith from 1994 to 1998 also signals that the North Korean leadership would not cheat as long as the U.S. lives up to its end of the bargain. Like China and Vietnam in the last few decades, North Korea would take a path of reform that stops the humanitarian toll of malnutrition in the short term and gradually changes the closed nature of its society in the long term. Only when the U.S. and North Korea set aside their belligerent arrogance would North and South Koreans ﬁnally be able to pursue their dreams of national uniﬁcation.
EDDIE AHN ‘05 is obsessed with bubble tea. 31
UNTITLED ABE YOUNG ‘04
To the land that is in b/t Asia and America: Is it destination, Or open sea? I know a voice I’ve known it since I was a kid doesn’t matter what my ﬁrst word was. But I still learn it along the way. They told me I-am-Asian. So I believed it. They told me I am an Asian-Paciﬁc-Islander-American, So I am an APIA. I know (a lot of things) and don’t know, at the same time somewhere in the hy-phen in b/t
To the touch it is human but to my eyes / theirs, I am awkward: I don’t know my self in her white hands But I know myself in her ﬂesh— to live there, to turn insides out. Eyeless sheets ridge with warmth wearing her skin warm Draped tight transparent cover over condom If worn her/me in public, down the street I would not be invisible But be man.
The mirror is a scary thing (and somewhat funny) like a whoopee cushion suddenly exploding. That’s me, but to see it through their eyes— Shit!
ABE YOUNG ‘04 has a grand total of 3,866 words in this issue. 32
UNTITLED NARHEE AHN ‘93
If I could do everything from the past over I’d do it all again with one important exception to be forgiving: Of the trial and error of the Brown experience ‘cause it made me stronger and now that I’m back as an alumna I see how I made myself uniquely me there Because I never got a chance to apologize to everyone for my moments of voluntary incapacitation Of immigrant parents who were braver and suffered much more than me so what if they’ve got my understanding backwards and Koreanglish for words, I love ‘em Because I’ll never be Miss Korea and though I curse the nightly eye cream used after age twenty one, the pre-peptic ulcer and gravity-induced stretch marks I stressed over at the quarter century mark, the unbearably settling metabolism and grunting noises I started to make when sitting down or getting up at age 28 and the panic brought on by the third decade when I realized that I wasn’t getting married anytime soon and that those kinds of guys I used to like were now described as jailbait and me a cradle robber, I think I look pretty damn good and so do you Of good intentions making wrong turns and remember that everyone’s human even the haters Because I love myself and to say that honestly, it takes me dishing up a whole lot of that forgiveness humble pie to everyone in sight
NAHRHEE AHN ‘93 is the Secretary of the Asian/Asian American Alumni Alliance. 33
SOVATH NHAR AND THE SOUTHEAST ASIAN COMMUNITY OF PROVIDENCE NOEL REYES ‘06 The Socio-Economic Development Center for Southeast Asians, a non-proﬁt organization in downtown Providence, serves a growing immigrant and refugee community. Holding the position of Tobacco Control Coordinator, Sovath Nhar works tirelessly to address the problems of the Southeast Asian community. She herself a Cambodian refugee, Sovath has long been an enthusiastic and optimistic leader in the Providence community. Working closely a with Southeast Asian families and youth, her openness and hospitality show no trace of her difﬁcult childhood and challenging life experiences. Sovath Nhar was born in Battam Bong, Cambodia in 1968. The eldest of four sisters and one brother, her memories of the ﬁrst ten years of her life in Cambodia are clouded with soldiers, grenades, and bullets. She remembers her parents telling her that sights and sounds of war were just “ﬁreworks.” Under the Khmer Rouge, Sovath witnessed violence she could never forget. In 1975, she was the only one separated from her family and forced to work by the repressive regime. From six o’clock in the morning to six in the evening, she dug ditches, planted rice, and survived without hospitable living conditions. “This,” Sovath says, “was the hardest time of my life.” Freed by Vietnamese solders in 1979, she returned home to her family who sought refuge in Thailand that same year. Her father arranged for them to travel to the United States by obtaining a sponsor, but three years passed before they were ﬁnally allowed to leave. As her family was passed around to ﬁve different camps, Sovath learned to read by going to church and reading the Bible. During this time that she and her family also endured the passing of her grandfather. Finally, on November 8, 1981, with only one piece of luggage and the clothes on their backs, Sovath and her family came to Providence, RI, the hometown of her family’s sponsor. Needless to say, her family went through a difﬁcult process of adjustment. But for the ﬁrst time, Sovath had the opportunity to go to school. Initially struggling in the fourth grade because she did not speak English, by the end of the ﬁfth grade she was at the top of her class, had perfect attendance, and was a comfortable English speaker. She thanks her father, a Pastor, for always encouraging her to get an education. 34
Even as she worked to support her family, Sovath served the Cambodian community in Providence by acting as a translator and being active in the Church. She recalls realizing, at the age of eighteen, that if she didn’t help her people, nobody else would. With both parents working many hours each day, Sovath took it upon herself to play the role of mother and father while continuing her studies. She graduated from Central High School in 1990 and Johnson and Wales University in 1994 while still supporting her family. While in college, Sovath decided to get married and start a family of her own. The mother of two children, she found time to balance her education with family, while always serving the needs of her community. Working several jobs, teaching Sunday school, working in a nursing home, and being active in the Church became her usual routine. In 2000 Sovath was hired as the Tobacco Control Coordinator at the Socio-Economic Development Center for Southeast Asians (SEDC). Her current work focuses on eliminating and educating the community about substance abuse, prevention, awareness, and educating the community, particularly youth, about the dangers of drugs. Most of the work she does, however, is actually related to the family problems of the Southeast Asian community. She often deals with cases of domestic abuse; these cases are very difﬁcult because even when being abused, women in the Southeast Asian community in Providence are very dependant on their husbands. With nowhere else to turn, it is exceedingly difﬁcult to leave abusive relationships. Another problem of the Southeast Asian community is eviction—language barriers, difﬁculty of ﬁnding work, and racism often lead to families being evicted without their knowing there was even a problem. Sovath often works as a translator and intermediary between families and their landlords. Because parents in the Southeast Asian community often work day and night, children are left to themselves. As they confront, racism, drugs, and the pressures of growing up, many are attracted to gangs. Sovath often deals with parents who do not understand why their children have become violent. Sometimes youth drop out of school, and parents are not informed until weeks or months after. The language barrier is another issue—generally, parents speak the language of their native
country and their children only speak English. Misunderstanding among generations and conﬂict is the biggest family problem. Parents also do not understand notices or letters from school. Meanwhile, the youth are not the only ones at risk. Seniors often cannot speak the language, cannot work, and have difﬁculties obtaining healthcare and medication. They are sometimes left alone in the home all day because all other family members are in school or working. All these problems are compounded for undocumented immigrants. Without the proper paperwork, it is impossible to ﬁnd jobs and secure housing and health. Issues also arise for immigrants who are over ﬁfty years old—it is very difﬁcult to ﬁnd a job because companies would much rather hire younger employees with better language skills. Sovath believes that young people, especially college students in Providence, have a lot to offer the Southeast Asian community. One main problem is that kids simply need attention—they need a presence who can act as a role model in their lives. Tutoring, even for an hour a week, can help keep kids off the streets. “Showing youth that staying in school and staying off drugs pays off will inspire our Southeast Asian youth to stay out of gangs,” Sovath says. The SEDC also has several other programs for Southeast Asian youth, many of which could use volunteers. Programs for high school and middle school age children are designed to enhance their education and keep them away from drugs and gangs. According to Sovath, these programs would be strengthened by the presence of college-age role models for our youth. The center also runs English language programs for youth and adults.
ensure that all the needs of the community are adequately met. Sovath very appropriately describes herself as someone who does not know how to say “no.” She is always there for others, and continues to work long days during the week, volunteer at Church on the weekends, and still raise two children as a single parent. While life is sometimes difﬁcult and often overwhelming, Sovath knows she is very blessed. My family has jobs and an education, she says, and has been able to make a new life in this country. Unfortunately, however, she realizes that many Southeast Asian families come to the United States thinking that life will be full of opportunities. The reality of the situation is that life is difﬁcult for the Southeast Asian community because of a myriad of problems that face all generations of immigrant and refugee families. Community organizers and volunteers are needed to help the Southeast Asian community adjust and grow strong. But small, underfunded non-proﬁt organizations cannot do all the work alone. College-age youth and other community members also need to share their time and resources with a growing community whose needs have to be addressed. College students are always welcome to volunteer at the SEDC. Socio-Economic Development Center for Southeast Asians 270 Elmwood Avenue Providence, Rhode Island 02907 Tel: (401) 274-8811 Fax: (401) 274-8877
An ongoing program at the SEDC is one where the State of RI does free income taxes for the Southeast Asian community. The SEDC is looking for greeters who can assist families in the process. It often seems, says Sovath, that she never stops working toward a better future for her community. “My dream,” she says, “is to open a charter school for the community, a day care, and a senior citizens center.” But these ambitions, she says, are a long way away. Until then, Sovath works tirelessly as she envisions a time when she will have the necessary resources to
NOEL REYES ’06 dedicates this article to the MPC family —past, present, future— many voices, one love. 35
UNTITLED ADOITO HAROON ‘02
Where do I begin my science Ply my trade of reason To a thousand questions That wrap around the naked boughs Of this late season Dare I reckon with the hand That has been dealt Or bury its devious plots Like the snow now buries Memories of summer Should I live among stars And ask “What lies beyond this universe?” And “What lies beyond that?” People have asked these questions before Then they picked a religion Out of a hat Should I live among living atoms And ask “What meaning is their symphony?” And “How meaning they begat?” People have asked these questions before Then they picked a religion Out of a hat Maybe I should live among Sunday paper articles And sips of coffee And read about the lives of celebrity Maybe I should live among reality shows And pick a life for you and me Maybe I should roll my days into one Self-important question, And spit out its masticated remains For all to see
But what use is this all Thoughts that dance with the swirling ﬂurry, Like braided streaks of cigarette smoke Rising over some raunchy joke In a dozen cozy poker parlors in the city, As the real answers cling to their questions The same answers That became The lifeless shards of DNA That became You and me, And the world That be Across the street Eduardo shovels snow As winter bellows at his feet Memory lays out Mexico As she sleeps The morning sun basks At her feet And slowly beats its retreat A man of faith Driven by god and family And yesterday as I preached to him The miracles of science He preached to me The miracles of his own faithful journey I assured him: he is with me, Clowns in the same ragged-edged comedy...
ADOITO HAROON ‘02 is a member of the Asian/Asian American Alumni Association. 36
Untitled, Quyen Truong â€˜05, oil on canvas
I DON’T KNOW WHAT I DON’T KNOW MOMOKO HIROSE ’06
For ten years, I lived in Wellesley, Massachusetts—a classic suburb with manicured lawns, four bedroom houses, and swimming pools. The median single family home sale price is over $500,000 and less than 5.0% of the population live below the poverty line.1 In fact, the median household income is over $90,000.2 The town is also not racially diverse—87.4% is white.3 As such, the publics schools were neither economically nor racially diverse. Both my elementary school and middle school had 10% or less students of color4, and I was the only Japanese student in my middle school. However, like many people who lived in Wellesley, I am part of the middle to upper-middle class. For me, racial issues have always been discussed. Whether exploring my Japanese identity further with others or debating racial issues with friends, I have talked about race in my class, with my family and with my friends. Yet I have never really talked about class. I understand the extremes of class, where homeless people can’t always ﬁnd food and shelter or celebrities can afford to buy huge mansions with every luxury imaginable. But unlike race, I feel I don’t understand the issues, the details relating to class. Why do we have such large gaps between the rich and poor? Does our society focus too much on material success instead of equity? Does class intersect race and if so, in what ways? How do class issues arise at Brown? Can we resolve these issues? When I came to Brown, I felt I was always discussing race compared to class. While debating the validity of TWTP, covering Third World issues for the Brown Daily Herald, and reading about Asian/Asian American issues in my English couse, the issue of class seemed to be in the background. Yet when my English course started looking deeper into the issues and conﬂicts within Asian and Asian American communities, I began wondering more about the role of class. For example, if Asian Americans are stereotyped as the “model minority,” do people see them as having higher incomes? Is this a reason why some scholarships for minorities do not let Asian Americans apply? Perhaps one reason why I tend to discuss race more, is that I SEE race more clearly than I do class. I can see the 38
varying strata of skin color, while I don’t necessarily see class differences. Someone wearing second hand, thrift store clothes is not necessarily of a lower class; someone with a brand name accessory is not necessarily of a higher class either. Also, I do not see the extremes of class on a daily basis. I stay on campus most of the time, studying, doing extracurricular activities, and do not work at the Ratty or the Gate. I do live in the city of Boston now, but even still, I don’t always notice the small nuances of class differences. Because of my background, I’m not even aware of the invisible privileges I might have being part of the middle or upper-middle class. How does class play into my daily interactions with people, whether I’m at the mall, at the bank, or applying for a job? Will I be treated differently because other people believe I have more money? I have begun to look at people differently. How does the girl with Gucci shoes, Burberry trench coat and a Tiffany ID necklace get treated compared to a girl in sweats and a gym bag? Do people automatically make assumptions about someone’s class based on appearance? What choices do people make because they need to save more? Do simple questions like, “Where did you go to break?” become a sensitive issue because I am automatically assuming s/he was able to take a vacation? I know I am naïve and ignorant of many issues, especially class. I am increasingly more aware of how my own class background limits my sensitivity to class issues. Perhaps this article frustrates you. Maybe when you ﬁrst came to Brown, you were able to see these issues, and the answers to my questions are obvious. But for me, I am just starting to learn. I never knew what I didn’t know, and I am still struggling to understand what I don’t know. 1 Demographics and Housing. 30 May 2003. Massstats, Massachusetts 4 March 2004 <http://riesling.caliper.com/ maptitude/mastats/demographics/map.asp>. 2 Ibid. 3 School Directory Proﬁle on Wellesley. 3 March 2004. Department of Education, Massachusetts. 4 March 2004 <http: //proﬁles.doe.mass.edu/>. 4 Ibid.
MOMOKO HIROSE ‘06 doesn’t wear Abercrombie.
Anti-Gas Export, Ben Wise â€˜05
Sagrada Familia, Terri Chiao â€˜04
INDIA AND PAKISTAN: ON THE ROAD TO PEACE PREETHI GUNIGANTI ‘05
After ﬁve decades of armed conﬂict, three wars, and nuclear proliferation on both sides, India and Pakistan may ﬁnally be on the road to peace. Since the partition of the British colony of India in 1947 created two independent states, these two nations have fought over the territories known as Jammu and Kashmir, a scenic area located in the foothills of the Himalayas. On February 18th 2004, the ﬁrst formal peacetalks since 2001 occurred, resulting in a “road-map” for future negotiations. The three day conference in Islamabad, Pakistan was deemed highly constructive by both sides, with all issues, including the extremely sensitive issue of Kashmir, on the table.The conference was planned after a groundbreaking meeting between Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in January. While the parts of India ruled by the British were primarily divided according to religion with Hindu-majority areas belonging to India and Muslim-majority areas to Pakistan, Kashmir was a kingdom independent of the British state and thus its ruler was allowed to decide its fate post-Partition. Two months after India and Pakistan became independent nations, the kingdom of Kashmir joined India. In 1948 and 1965 the countries went to war over Kashmir, leading to intercession by the United Nations and the creation of a Line of Control. A third war took place in 1971 over the creation of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan. The conﬂict once again entered center-stage on the world arena when India conducted its ﬁrst nuclear tests in 1998, followed soon after by similar tests in Pakistan. Tensions escalated in 2002 following a terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament and the Indian government announced that it was ready for war. Insurgency in Indian-controlled parts of Kashmir has led to over 65,000 deaths since 1989. Peace between these two countries, together home to over 1.2 billion people, could have tremendous consequences all over the globe. If conﬂict is no longer imminent, Pakistan and India may contribute a greater portion of
government expenditure to promoting economic growth, spurring economic developments on a global scale. Since November 2003, when both countries signed a cease-ﬁre agreement, Kashmir has seen relatively little bloodshed. While it may be too early to tell whether the stability is because of efforts by the two governments to stop inﬁltration or whether the heavy winter snowfall is responsible, authorities on both sides say that this most recent round of peace talks shows new momentum. President Musharraf has pledged that he will not allow Pakistani soil to be used as the base for terrorist activists, a dramatic change from his previous positions. Stopping cross-border inﬁltration into Kashmir has long been a key point of dissension for India. However, Musharraf is eager to improve its appearance in the international community. Pakistan’s military has been denying for years that it trades nuclear technology, but after the International Atomic Energy Agency found Pakistani components in Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities, Abdul Qadeer Khan, the “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, announced that he been trading nuclear secrets. Khan claims that the trade occurred completely without the authorization of the Pakistani government, but the information released has furthered international fears concerning Pakistan’s involvement in international nuclearization and terrorism. India is increasingly gaining share in international trade and the economy growing at new high levels and Vajpayee wants to focus attention on these economic gains. With Musharraf eager to show his anti-terrorism stance to the world and Vajpayee hoping to reduce conﬂict in time to win the upcoming elections, establishing diplomatic ties seems to be high on the priority list for both leaders. While tensions between the two countries are far from over, recent developments are a heartening symbol of reduced animosity. As a sign of increasing goodwill between the two nations, India began a cricket test tour of Pakistan on March 10, for the ﬁrst time in almost 15 years.
PREETHI GUNIGANTI ‘05 is a returning VISIONS writer. 41
MY MOTHER’S HAIR WEN-CHUAN DAI ‘06
I don’t know what to do with the most violent memory I have of my mother because it wasn’t supposed to happen. We were ﬁghting: I had neglected to do my ‘Kumon,’ the 10-12 page packets of neatly printed math problems printed in a Japanese press somewhere far from New Hampshire that I was assigned every week. It wasn’t the ﬁrst time, nor was it the last, but I had admitted to sometimes copying answers from the answer book on the Saturday mornings before Kumon class, and she had dug a handful of incomplete, blank-faced homework packets from the cubby in my room. They were cream-colored worksheets, crumpled and hanging out of her grip in a contorted wad. At some point she let go, and pushed me to the ground. I pushed her back with as much force as I could muster, and I attempted to wrap my leg around hers and throw her off balance. I wasn’t supposed to be screaming back at her icy, locked eyeballs and her open and moving lips, the words falling out of her mouth in hot torrents and daring me to respond. Do not let her win. Do not look at her. I wasn’t supposed to ﬁght—to take up arms against my own mother-- but I did, and can no longer even remember who fought ﬁrst. I had speed on my side and she had size on hers, but we were equally matched in ferocity, temper and strength. The ﬁrst thing I regret is pulling her hair, because she responded by grasping mine and pulling back. We were both brought to the ground, tumbling, crumpled in a ball of teeth and hair. When she guffaws, her mouth is too wide and reveals too much of her teeth and gums. She laughs with a sound that reminds me of how I imagine someone less educated, less female, less forty-nine, would laugh. The sound comes from too far back in her throat and comes out in short bursts of sound byte, all bumbling and idiot-like: “...Huhhuhuh..huh.” And of course, the grin-- the hideously goofy slice of her character that she exposes to the world when her lips travel too great a distance over her front teeth (the left central incisor slightly darker due to the silver ﬁlling cupping it from behind) and reveal almost a centimeter of her upper gums, wet and light pink. I don’t know whether it is the sight of too many teeth bared, or whether it is other things about her smile that make me want to look down or away for a moment. I have often considered that it might be the way the wrinkles at the corners of her eyes
crinkle up violently along with the ﬁner ones on the top of her nose, the ones that make her look almost sinister with glee. She laughs at inappropriate times, and pouts childlike and deﬁant when anyone decides to tell her so. “Hmph! SO?” In high school, and even a few times when I was in middle school, people began to confuse our voices over the telephone. When I am at home in New Hampshire, I have become so accustomed to telling the caller, “No, this is her daughter; I can take a message for her...” that I have once taken down a message for myself, thinking I was her. I might have become her for a while, in ﬁfth grade, after I won a prize for ballet and she began to drive me—from school in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, to ballet class in Boston, back home to Hollis, New Hampshire, six days a week, every week of the school year. She would drive me to the ballet class where she would deposit me at the front door and leave for a moment to park the car; then she would come back and drive me over the studio ﬂoor with her eyes as I took the class. When she drove in the machinery she operated—our car—she liked to sit sunken back into the driver’s seat, the relaxed tips of her ﬁngers tickling the wheel, with the posture of a rubber-jointed doll. She was a terrible driver; she followed close on the bumpers of trafﬁcjammed cars and on the crazed heels of ﬂeeing squirrels alike, and sometimes I wondered where all the force was coming from-- where she got the fuel, the energy, to drive like that. She was terribly mechanical, terribly fast and terribly efﬁcient. When she drove me with her eyes, they followed so close on my heels that I felt their heat as I stood at the back of the class, behind the other girls, where I could make sure the combination I executed was never a beat ahead or behind. The step had to be ﬂawless, the limbs simultaneously energized and languid, the ﬁngers soft, the arches pointed to the furthest extreme, the sweat squeezed out in small beads on my forehead. Belly in, butt tucked under, ribs tucked in, hamstrings ﬂexed, knees unlocked but not relaxed. Eyes front. Do not look at her. I was mechanical, meticulous—never erring on a combination. I don’t know where I got the energy, but when my mother stood looking through the glass doors of the studio, I was a terrible
dancer. She never asked me whether I wanted to be driven to dance class, but I would have told her what she didn’t expect. I would have told her what she wanted to hear but wouldn’t listen for: that I loved to dance, but I hated the way she drove. Once, on the way either to ballet class or on the road home, I looked over at her in the driver’s seat as she was laughing. I told her ridiculous, often deeply exaggerated stories about my classes, teachers and friends at school; they made her laugh, they got her mind off the road for a moment. She was laughing as usual, with her mouth gaping open and nearly all her teeth exposed in that awful, unﬂattering way, and I wondered whether I looked like that when I laughed, too. If I ever guffawed like she does, she might tell me I look like an idiot, or just give me one of her looks. My mother’s hair is long and wavy from a perm that has lost its strength over time, and mine is short and straight, but people often say that we look alike. Correction: people always tell my mother and I that I look like her—that I have her voice, her mannerisms, her everything—everything but her hair. We have the same cheek bones, the same smile, the same skin. But I can see that our eyes—hers deeply-lidded and coming to a point at each corner, my lids smoother and my eyes smaller—are as different as our lives. When she was young, a few minutes before her ﬁrst dance class, in the lobby of the dance studio, she collided with another running girl and two of her temporary front teeth were knocked out. Because of the accident, she wasn’t allowed to go back to class, and thus never learned to dance as a child. When I try to understand her desire for me to dance, it is easy for me to assume that she used me to live out the unfulﬁlled in her life. I understand that parents sometimes need their children to do for them what they couldn’t do for themselves-- but using, occupying, driving the life of another is like arming oneself for civil war, like treating another, who is so like yourself, as your own weapon against the unseen enemy of time and bad chance. My mother is not a dancer. For years she was but a driver, my personal chauffer for 150 miles each day, covering the highways between Massachusetts and New Hampshire six out of seven days of the week, thirty out of ﬁfty-two weeks of the year. I am
a dancer trained pre-professionally, and I am her dancing, luckier daughter. This was not supposed to happen. But at some point while she was driving me to dance, to take up arms, to combat and conquer her unfulﬁlled dream, I forgot to put up a ﬁght. I forgot to look her back in the eye and ask the very question I wanted her to ask me. Do you want this? I was supposed to ﬁght back but I can no longer remember why I didn’t, or whether, if I had, I would have won anything at all. Perhaps I only wanted her to stop watching me dance, and to look at me. When I think of my mother, the ﬁrst, most vivid image I see is not one of her smiling, or braiding my hair, or pushing me on a swing in a ﬁeld dotted with dandelions. It is of her, sitting in the driver’s side of the car, not looking at me but facing front to eye the road. I am not supposed to think of these things, but they are a driving force in my memory, as they must be in hers, too. A few months ago, I was perusing her clothing and jewelry out of curiosity when I came upon a clear, plastic ﬁlm canister containing human hair. There were but a few hairs, but the difference between them was distinct enough to see: straight black hairs mingled among longer, wavy ones. My memory ﬂashed back to that violent memory of the time I fought her, and we screamed at each other, clawing at each other’s hair and rolling on the ground in a terrible wad of contorted limbs—the memory of our ﬁght, which I have repeatedly denied, but which repeatedly re-surfaces. I cannot look at her, when she is driving, without thinking of the time she saw herself in me so vividly that she could take ﬁve years of my life and make them into her own, could make me into a living machine to carry out her what was hers and undone, could make me into a weapon that could, would and would regret turning against her. I don’t know what to do with these memories I have of my mother. I suppose my mother kept her hair so that she would always remember our ﬁght: our terrible, mechanical human error; but I do not have the courage to ask her why she chooses to keep this memory in such vivid, material form. Maybe this is the way things are supposed to happen. Maybe the memories are just as they should be. In me, in my mother, in my mother’s hair and mine.
WEN-CHUAN DAI ‘06 puts the fu (translation: luck) into Fusion. 43
ROTC WAH-KWAN LIN ‘07
Occasionally, you may catch a glimpse of a handful of guys walking around the Brown campus, dressed in starched military fatigues and polished combat boots. If you happen to be up early in the morning, before the sun has come up, you may see these same people running along Thayer Street, dressed in gray Army warm-ups and black sweatpants. On the weekends, you may see them again in combat fatigues, but this time wearing helmets and rucksacks. Their faces may be covered with camouﬂage and their boots in mud. These are undergraduates at Brown University, and cadets in Providence College’s Reserves Ofﬁcer Training Corps (ROTC) program. There are only four Brown cadets in this program. I am one of them, and I’m glad that I joined the program because of how greatly it has supplemented my college experience. ROTC is an amazing learning opportunity, one that any Brown student seeking to expand their horizons could beneﬁt from.
the lives of dozens of enlisted personnel, or for the care of millions of dollars’ worth of equipment. Certainly, a military ofﬁcer’s job is not a matter to be taken lightly; ofﬁcers’ duties should not be assigned to anyone who is less than qualiﬁed.
National security has always been an area that I’ve been particularly interested in. It’s the primary reason why I want to concentrate in International Relations with a focus on global security, and why I am involved with ROTC. Military service is undoubtedly one of the best ways someone can serve her/his country. It offers young men and women the opportunity to be directly involved in matters that affect national security. Later on, I may discover other ways in which I am better suited to serve America, but for now, I’m exploring the possibility of the Army through the Patriot Battalion, my ROTC unit.
A different cadet is in charge of leading PT each day. Upon his or her command, “Fall in,” all the cadets immediately assemble in a neat rectangular formation. We then commence stretching. It’s quite a sight to see rows and rows of men and women all moving as a single body. All have sacriﬁced late nights out so that they can wake up early the next day to work towards one single goal: becoming an ofﬁcer. It takes a great deal of dedication from each of these cadets to show up day after day for company runs, riﬂe assembly and disassembly drills, and forced marches. The workouts are quite exhausting, and when I get back to Brown around 0800, I want nothing other than a shower, a nice Ratty breakfast, and sleep. Sadly, I usually have class shortly after I return to campus.
ROTC battalions can be found at many colleges and universities throughout the country. Its purpose is to transform college students into competent ofﬁcers. The program is designed to be extremely challenging, both physically and mentally, and requires a great deal of commitment from its participants. Cadets in the program are groomed to lead someday in the military. Upon graduation, a cadet is commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and sent to specialized training camps for advanced training. Fresh out of training, the new ofﬁcer might become responsible for
Wednesday is usually what I refer to as “ROTC Day,” the day of the week where my entire schedule seems to revolve around cadet training. The day begins at 0530 (5:30AM). I head towards a designated spot to meet the other Brown cadets, and seat myself in a small Honda Civic for the short trip over to Providence College for morning PT (Physical Training) with the rest of the Patriot Battalion. There are only a few cadets in the battalion from Brown, but there are dozens more from Providence College, the University of Rhode Island, Bryant College, the Community College of Rhode Island, UMass Dartmouth, and Johnson and Wales.
From the time I complete PT to the time I leave for Providence College again at 1400 (2:00 PM), I am like any other typical Brown student – except for the fact that I’m sitting in class and walking around the campus dressed in BDU’s (Battle Dress Uniform). I sometimes get quizzical looks from professors and fellow students, perhaps wondering, “Why’s he dressed like a soldier?” As far as most people know, there is no military training program
at Brown that would account for the uniform. They’re absolutely right – Brown has no ofﬁcial afﬁliation with anything even remotely military, and certainly not ROTC. Even so, that doesn’t prohibit any Brown student from participating in military training. I am back at Providence College at 0230 for my ROTC class – Military Science 102. The instructors for military science courses are all soldiers with previous military experience. My class is taught by Major Bento, who can give me a soldier’s account of what Kosovo was like – a unique perspective from the ground, not from newspapers or textbooks, from which most Browncourses draw their primary resources. Despite Brown’s excellent academic program, I doubt most classes can offer a resource like Major Bento. The other members of the ROTC cadre have just as much ﬁrst-hand knowledge to share: Iraq during Desert Storm, Germany at the end of the Cold War, South Korea along the De-militarized Zone, and even Vietnam when it was considered ‘hot’. These instructors lead us through studies of military history, tactics, communications, military writing styles, operations management, and land navigation – a plethora of topics that are not covered by any single class listed in BOCA. At 1600, the fun part of ROTC begins– Leadership Labs. This portion of ROTC gives cadets a chance to sample a bit of everything that the military has to offer. I’ve found each session to be very memorable, as every session is meant to be unique. One week we might have Combat Water Survival, during another we might have Riﬂe Bayonet Training, and yet another could be Drill and Ceremony. The labs are crafted and overseen by MS4’s – senior cadets who are mere months away from being commissioned. They’re pseudo-ofﬁcers, who MS1’s like myself are required to address as “sir” or “ma’am,” and who are responsible for leading the battalion, organizing training exercises, and essentially managing the entire ROTC program. It’s hard to believe that these MS4’s were once green cadets like myself; despite their age, they hold such authority and can claim such
extensive experience. . Their experiences range from jumping from a plane thousands of feet above ground at Airborne School to struggling to survive in arctic conditions at Mountain Warfare School. I doubt that any college graduate who immediately enters a civilian career could claim to have done such things. It’s a shame that ROTC is not supported or advertised by Brown University. The program offers so much. Certainly, its availability would only serve to enhance the liberal education experience (frankly, I get enough of my education from books and lectures – the change of pace that ROTC offers is rather pleasant). I’ve participated in PT, military science classes and leadership labs, and weekend STX’s (Situational Training Exercises) and FTX’s (Field Training Exercises). I have been taught how to handle an M-16 correctly and safely, how to assemble and disassemble it. I have been coached to navigating conﬁdently through heavily wooded areas and treacherous terrain, a task which now seems as simple as navigating from the OMAC to the Ratty (quite a remarkable development for someone who has spent most of his life in suburbs and cities). I have become more efﬁcient in tasks ranging from packing a rucksack for an exercise to managing large groups of people – skills which may easily transfer to other aspects of my life. I have been trained to be a better team player through obstacle courses emphasizing effective command and cooperation – elements vital to success in the military and the civilian sector. I’ve learned a lot from the ROTC experience, and feel that my fellow Brunonians would beneﬁt from it as well. That’s why the Brown cadets are currently campaigning for change at Brown. We’re hoping to convince Brown’s administration to offer more support to ROTC in order to increase awareness of the program’s presence at the school, and in order to bring down the obstacles that Brown cadets currently face, such as a lack of funding and lack of course credit for military science classes. If we are successful, then perhaps more students from Brown may gain from the ROTC experience, just as I have.
KWAN LIN ‘07 is more entertaining than a Happy Tree Friend. 45
My Apartment, Ben Wise â€˜05
Selling Rice, Matthew Forkin â€˜06
Main Green Autumn and Main Green Winter, Johnny Lin â€˜07
Monk, Matthew Forkin â€˜06
SANSKRIT IN SMALL-TOWN AMERICA: WINDOWS INTO ASIAN-AMERICA KARTIK VENKATESH ’06 Research for this article has been funded under a Royce Fellowship, Swearer Center Following the elaborate bathing ritual of the black granite image housed in the sanctum accompanied by a chorus of men chanting the rhythmic Sanskrit Vedic texts, the ofﬁciating bear-bodied high priests dressed in white loin cloths begin to decorate the deity in fragrant ﬂowers, semi-precious gems, golden jewelry and ﬁne silk. Simultaneously, a group of lay Brahmins perform an elaborate ﬁre ritual or yajna as a sacriﬁce to the Vedic deities. A group of sari-clad women sing, while an ensemble of musicians plays traditional drums, reed clarinets and cymbals. The entire audience watching the ritual is enraptured in this apparent chaos of multiple ceremonies. Such a festival scenario might conjure an image of a distant village in India outside the realm of modernity and globalization; however, this generalized description of a festival scene is increasingly common in most American, Canadian and Western European cities. As immigrant communities have come to America, they have often painstakingly attempted to preserve their traditions and culture in their new home in America. Asian-Americans, whether Chinese, Indian or Thai, have attempted to recreate their respective homelands in America through impressive community centers, mosques and temples to serve as microcosms of their native lands. Since the mid-1960s, the Indian-American• community has progressively grown in the United States and is part of the larger Asian-American community today. Since their arrival, Indian-Americans have attempted to recreate India in America through the construction of temples/community centers rivaling those of ancient India in order to preserve and reafﬁrm their identity within a Western social context. The new American monuments have often involved traditional architects, artisans and materials supplied directly from India to basically reconstruct India in America. A recent New York Times article describes how an American group based in Hawaii is constructing an all-granite temple on the island of Kauai where all the carved pieces are being chiseled by hand in South India and traditional artisans are assembling the ﬁnal masterpiece without any modern technological tools in Hawaii. This will be the ﬁrst all-granite temple made strictly according to the Sanskrit architectural manuals outside of Asia. In fact, such a structure that strictly follows tradition has not been built in Asia for at least 200 years. 50
The goal of such structures is to recreate the social atmosphere of India in America. Here, an individual’s own identity is made into a physical tangible reality. One longtime trustee of a large temple in the U.S. described the goal of her institution as to “authentically re-create India as closely as possible so that community members can temporarily forget that they are indeed in America.” These temples and centers have thus ambitiously employed everything from traditionally trained cooks and musicians to Sanskrit scholars to create living centers for the Indian society in America. This mass construction of centers rapidly increased in the 1980s with the ever-burgeoning Indian community in the West. Temples now serve as centers of culture and tradition that support the continuation of ritual and festival, education programs and the teaching of traditional dance and music. Presumably this current trend will only continue at a faster rate since India today is the second largest source for legal immigration into the U.S. according to the New York Times March 6, 2004. Interestingly, this phenomenon is not contained to the large American cities with ghettoized Indian populations. In fact, some of the ﬁrst American and Canadian Indian communities to embark on this re-create India track have been relatively mid-sized communities, which are not generally identiﬁed with large Indian sub-communities. Today many IndianAmericans take trips to multiple temples and centers in the United States in a manner similar to how they would have done in India. Thus, the landscape of small-town America— increasingly dotted by such monuments—becomes India for a community that tries to geographically recreate their homeland through giving their new home relevance and meaning. In America, language barriers between various Indian communities, such as North Indian and South Indian, lead to the use of English as the medium for communication. Indeed, the use of English makes a joint feeling of community often difﬁcult within a festival context. The breakdown of the multi-lingual Indian community into supporting institutions of a speciﬁc denomination or regional sub-group is more common in larger cities where the community is much larger. As would be expected, in smaller cities, greater syncretism is apparent where a center that is predominantly either South or North Indian in architecture, ritual, and observances, may make amends to accommodate other regional groups as well. Although regional and sectarian divisions of India
are certainly much more ﬂuid and blurred in America, regionalism is still apparent in the observance and rituals and festivities. Interestingly, ritualism and festivities may be more authentically preserved and practiced in America than in the native culture. Many immigrants remember a nostalgic vision of their culture and attempt to preserve that past in America. It isn’t uncommon for participants in festivals in America remark that the traditional and orthodox conduct of festivals on America rival that of the most conservative Indian village. Living within a society so different and foreign, the community center becomes an escape and a safety zone. Since an immigrant is faced to live in a society of social norms vastly different from his/her own, the home and community center remain the last two bastions of all that is the homeland immune from the changes around her. The construction of centers rivaling those of ancient India has often required employing a vast staff to maintain and create a genuine atmosphere where the idealized homeland can be lived everyday. Many times as many as ten traditional Sanskrit scholars may be employed to ofﬁciate and perform various rituals and festivities. Many mid-sized American cities are home to more highly trained traditional cooks, musicians, and Sanskrit scholars than some mid-sized Indian towns. The same economic reasons that may drive a physician and engineer to seek a future in America is often the same motivating factor for a Sanskrit scholar and his family to seek a future in the West. Even though caste and gender differences and segregation may be disappearing quickly in urban India and are certainly irrelevant in America, caste and gender roles within a social context continues to heavily inﬂuence social discourse and behavior patterns. The Sanskrit ritualist community continues to be the exclusive domain of Brahmin males both in India and America. Most ritualists I have met readily admit to not being adequately equipped to meet the various needs of their increasingly diverse local communities in America and India. In America and modern India, a scholar solely trained in community/temple festivals may be called upon by a sponsor to perform a house ritual. These complex social scenarios are increasingly common in America and urban India where sectarian, caste, and ritual distinctions are blurred. Some scholars readily admit that even though their families may have been traditionally employed only in the practice
of temple festivities, they have begun to learn and perform other festivals, such as home-based events, traditionally reserved to other sub-groups. Practitioners as well as participants admit that they ﬁnd themselves in an intricate balancing act where they seek to meet the ritual needs of a community that often does not recognize ritual and sectarian traditions, while still maintaining their own traditions reserved for their sub-group and heritage. The Indian-American community ﬁnds itself in a bind like many other immigrant Asian communities where it attempts to hold on to tradition ever more strongly in a larger society that seems apparently alien. Many esoteric rites and festivals are more authentically performed in America according to tradition than in India today due to increased resources and a concerted effort to preserve tradition. For instance, two years ago over 120 Sanskrit scholars were collected from all parts of North America and India to conduct a yajna – an esoteric rite that is performed only every few years in India – spanning eleven days in the town of Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. All the temples, festivals, and Sanskrit ultimately represent a timeless unchanging aspect of one’s identity—a tangible expression of history and tradition—that one can cling to in times of rapid change. Perhaps Sanskrit represents a certain indescribable constancy in a society full of rapid changes and modernization. The Indian author U.R. Ananthamurthy captures this sentiment in the ﬁctitious Kannada novel Samskara. In this book, a lone group of practicing Sanskrit scholars in Karnataka State in the early 1960’s attempt to maintain the purity, relevance, and authenticity of their heritage, while keeping pace with social change in the face of extreme odds. Today, apprehensive Asian-Americans may attempt to maintain their cherished traditions in times of rapid change and modernization. When faced with a scary world ripe with changes, tradition can reinforce identity and community. Footnote Though many of these ﬁndings may apply to all Indian-American subgroups, here Indian-American mainly refers to the Hindu community.
KARTIK VENKATESH ’06 sings in Sanskrit in the shower. 51
ASIAN GANGS AND ASIAN AMERICA JESSICA KAWAMURA ‘07
The overachieving student, the geisha girl, the docile servant and martial artist—for as long as there have been Asian Americans, there have been images and stereotypes associated with us. Over the past couple of years, the attention drawn to Asian gangs has resulted in a new image: the violent and delinquent Asian youth. This is exempliﬁed in the dual portrayal of Asian American high school students in the movie “Better Luck Tomorrow,” which depicts Asian American youth as both over achieving “model minorities” and delinquent criminals. What does this new image imply for Asian Americans, especially those of us who are still in our teens and twenties? Even though many of us have grown up in suburban environments, outside of the ethnic neighborhoods that conﬁned previous generations, we hold a common identity with as Asian Americans. Despite differences in culture and background, Asians in American are often clumped together as single unit. As a result, these stereotypes affect all of us. The concept of the Asian gangster is stemmed in a history of gang violence in American immigrant communities. Throughout the past centuries, immigrant youth who have felt isolated from their communities have sought gang activity. Recently, gang activity has plagued Southeast Asian American communities, primarily in urban areas amongst Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian immigrants. It is important to consider what drives youth to become involved in gangs and why they turn to violence and crime, often inﬂicted upon to the Asian American community. First and second generation youth grow up in an environment where they are forced to deal with issues of racism, cultural misunderstandings, and institutional barriers. Gangs are a place where youth can ﬁnd
understanding, family, and community amongst their peers. The image of the Asian gangster also reﬂects a tradition of racism in American society. Stereotypes of Asian Americans have by no means been positive. During the early 19th century, white Californians referred to new Asian immigrants as the “Yellow Plague.” Asians were viewed as submissive yet sneaky and were regarded as untrustworthy. Asian immigrants were not allowed to become citizens, and as a result could not own land. The internment of 120,000 innocent Japanese Americans during World War II was based on the pretense that they were spying for the Japanese. Most recently, former Los Alamos nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee was wrongly accused of security violations. This concept of the Asian American criminal is by no means a new phenomenon. The presence of Asian American gangs reminds us of the socioeconomic strata and generational differences that exist in the Asian American community, yet at the same time, it calls us to come together in solidarity. Whether or not we come from recent immigrant backgrounds or know anything about Asian gangs, it is crucial that we as Asian Americans be aware of the issues that are affecting our community. Without solidarity, we lack the political power to combat issues such as gang activity. It is important for us at Brown to learn more about the issues affecting underprivileged and immigrant communities, as our futures are inevitably intertwined. To a certain extent, we can all relate to the Asian gang member who feels isolated from community, family, or peers by cultural differences. Whether or not we have experienced blatant racism because of being Asian, we will most likely experience this sometime during our lifetime. Although we represent numerous backgrounds and cultures, we must recognize the necessity for unity in Asian America.
JESSICA KAWAMURA ’07 wishes she were in California eating spam musubi. 52
DRAGON FRUIT LAM PHAM ‘06
my foreign home swarms with warmth yet stills like ice abreast shattered s t r ee t s clam distant relatives i (g)utter their language but they don’t speak mine “what’s that on your shoulder?” i asked foolishly - poignantly i peeked i pried, “i’ll buy it” i say from torn baskets appears a jewel it’s red-round-rosette-green dragon by name but it doesn’t burn doesn’t destroy soothingsucculence “can i buy another?” (of course i can i’m american) i thought as may evanesces from my mind
as if dragon tears grew on trees: relinquished pride never dies so silently i calm yet an insatiable hunger lingers on and on feasting until these markets grow (de) so late a cold hold on a dragon fruit is like a remnant of (failed) success trailing home to a strange abode i my(drown)self for when i around look around the dragon is nowhere to be f
Transience, Diane Rhyu ‘04
LAM PHAN ‘07 will “spoon” you to death because he loves you. 53
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF ETHNICITY CHRIS HU ‘06
A review of On Not Speaking Chinese: Living Between Asia and the West. by Ien Ang. Routledge, 240 pp., $25. “‘Where are you from?’ ‘From Holland.’ ‘No, where are you really from?’” - from On Not Speaking Chinese I’ve faced permutations of this question (with “Holland” replaced by “the United States,” of course) dozens of times in my life, usually from well-meaning people who are simply curious about my ethnic background. But there is also a lesser-known cousin of this query, one whose assumptions are equally irking. Voiced by native speakers of Chinese as well as white Americans, it usually occurs along the lines of “Do you speak?” – which means, essentially, “You look vaguely Chinese, so you must speak the language, right?” The reply that I don’t, in fact, “speak” is often met with disappointment if not disapproval, as if failure to speak Chinese ought to condemn one to a state of inauthentic Chineseness, to fail this linguistic litmus test that places one into the discrete categories of either Chinese or not-Chinese. This awkward situation seems all too common for people of Asian ancestry living in the West, particularly those who are highly assimilated into the culture of Western society. It is the quandary of being neither fully here nor there, of failing to ﬁnd acceptance in either rigidly policed camp of ethno-cultural identity. As Ien Ang, author of the recent book On Not Speaking Chinese: Living Between Asia and the West, writes of speaking at an academic conference in Asia, “In Taiwan I was different because I couldn’t speak Chinese; in the West I was different because I looked Chinese.” Starting with an exploration of the limits of Chineseness that is rooted in Ang’s own personal history – she was born in Indonesia (where she was part of a sizable ethnic Chinese minority population), spent her formative years in Holland, then migrated to Australia as the nation began to shed its white protectionism
in favor of a mantra of liberal multiculturalism – On Not Speaking Chinese moves towards a discussion of contemporary Australia’s uneasy relationship with Asia and Asian immigration. Along the way, she engages critically with the terminology of cultural and ethnic studies that impact these issues, most notably the notions of ‘diaspora’ and ‘hybridity.’ Of these two terms, both hotly debated within academic circles, Ang clearly believes that the latter is a far more useful way of conceiving the contemporary, transnational nature of Chineseness. Throughout the course of her book, Ang posits that in today’s world, whether one is “doing” cultural studies or merely embroiled in the everyday struggles of living in a multicultural society, ‘Asianness’ or the practice of being ‘Asian’ is marked by such a hybridity that to speak of them as clear, unproblematic entities is all but impossible. At once autobiographical and critical, Ang’s work combines the seemingly disparate experiences of her work as an intellectual (she’s currently a professor of cultural studies at the University of Western Sydney) and, in personally living ‘between Asia and the West,’ her personal narrative of navigating the issue. As Ang states in the book’s introduction, “The themes I focus on in this book are not merely personal, but coincide with some major cultural and historical developments which have taken place in the past thirty to forty years.” The project is a sort of hybrid itself, a strange mélange of personal narrative and high-minded academic buzzwords that attempts to use ﬁrsthand experience as a way of explicating wider discussions in the critical discourse on culture and ethnicity. In most ways it is a success – the text that results, while not always lively or smoothly structured, is always careful and thought-provoking. Ang is thoroughly scrupulous in giving fair recognition to the competing ideas of the many cultural studies thinkers she draws upon, often giving them generous block quotes within the text.Yet through Ang’s decision to prominently place ﬁgures such as Stuart Hall, James Clifford, Homi Bhabha and Rey Chow (the Brown professor from whose excellent recent work The Protestant
Eth(n)ic and the Spirit of Capitalism, via Milan Kundera’s work of a similar name, I draw the title for this review), her own critical voice is minimized, making her points often seem like polite, subordinate afterthoughts or mediations rather than conﬁdent assertions of her own. But Ang’s trepidation has its rewards in addition to its pitfalls; her chosen tone and treatment of the matter at hand lends On Not Speaking Chinese a certain useful caution and subtlety. One instance in which Ang is at her best in mixing the personal and intellectual is in her discussion of internet responses to anti-Chinese riots in Indonesia in early 1998. She describes receiving an unexpected email from the website www.huaren.org (which is still online six years later, albeit infrequently updated), which was established by ‘diasporic’ Chinese in California and British Columbia to mobilize support for the minority Chinese population in Indonesia. Intrigued, she logs on, and over the course of several weeks becomes engrossed in the website’s message boards, through which self-identiﬁed ‘overseas Chinese’ voice their support for the Indonesian Chinese and their rage at the violence perpetrated by the ‘native’ Indonesian majority. Drawing on her own childhood experience in the country and an analysis of the historical dichotomy between ‘native’ and ‘nonnative’ Indonesians, Ang illustrates the political complicity of those posting on the Huaren message board. As she demonstrates, they are unwittingly fueling this same destructive dichotomy, the ‘us vs. them’ mentality that enables the violence and prevents constructive alternatives to it. What Ang proposes is local, pragmatic hybridity, a sort of micropolitics of accommodation that she argues is already practiced in many places throughout Indonesia as a means of survival. “Hybridity,” she writes of ethnic politics in Indonesia, “is not a luxury, but a necessity.” This discussion is linked to Ang’s wider arguments against the notion of the global Chinese experience as a cohesive diaspora, an imagined, placeless “sameness-in-dispersal.” Instead, she proposes a more localized, hybrid conception of the Chinese being “together-in-difference” with other ethnic and cultural
groups in the localized sites of their dispersal. Ang carries this argument into one of On Not Speaking Chinese’s other notable sections – her discussion of the rise and potential fall of multiculturalism in Australia. Once welcomed in a spirit of benign liberal multiculturalism, in the late 1990’s Asian immigrants in Australia became the target of populist politician Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party, who channeled white Australian resentment of Asian newcomers into a brief but signiﬁcant backlash against the idea of ‘multiculturalism’ and racial diversity. Rather than dismissing Hanson’s movement, Ang notes that it may actually point to important failings of the discourse of multiculturalism – its exclusion of race (a signiﬁcant underlying factor in white resentment, but deemed an impolite issue to explicitly raise) from mainstream political discussion and its unrealistic portrayal of cultural diversity as harmonious and tension-free. Ang’s refreshing pragmatism, which argues that differences “cannot be erased, only negotiated,” might be helpfully applied to similar debates about diversity and assimilation in America. In James Joyce’s short story “The Dead,” there is a particularly poignant exchange in which the protagonist Gabriel is asked at a dinner party, “And haven’t you your own language to keep in touch with – Irish?” His response is a pithy as it is plainly honest. “Well,” he says, “if it comes to that, you know, Irish is not my language.” It is this sort of complacent ethnic essentialism that Ien Ang argues is not so much wrong as it is obsolete, given the state of the contemporary globalized world. Whether thinking about Asians in continental Asia itself or in the advanced, multicultural West, we would do well to keep in mind the arguments contained in this slim, insightful book – or at the very least, to think twice before making lazy, presumptuous assumptions about the command of one’s ancestral tongue.
CHRIS HU ‘06 is an English and Political Science concentrator. 55
FARMER IN THE CITY LAM PHAN ‘07 He is a melancholy hayseed embellished by wild strawberries of July. Autumn kissed his lips and his eyes glimmer of wind-blown Dandelions. With an unripe thumb and weathered hands he draws, gently, crimson red-roots. Out here, in this snowy hinterland, ﬁreﬂies ﬂock and form geometric frailties: warming his tinted heart. And when pink cherry blossoms blanket dewdrenched grass and meet his feet, he remembers the time. Not long but far(ago) he had ventured before; entranced - mechanical byways technical highways by the tall (city)fall of it all. Mystifying latitudinarians screaming “Damned atheists!” in whol(y)e Braille his head bled ephemeral tears: conﬂated but not consumed. they met on a friday night under longing dirty street lights She is a wild horse running alongside the neon ambience; she’s shimmering but a little dull. Her days ﬁlled full of empty emotions: an hour brings love rings and all those nice, exciting things. Sometimes rain is her companion; a veil for diamonds in her eyes. but they never coalesced she, caught by the muting wind he yearning for eternity the city left the farmer
Boatman, Terri Chiao ‘04
Congratulations to the VISIONS Staff for putting your hard work and selﬂess efforts into this beautiful publication! -- The Ofﬁce of the Mayor, Providence To all those who contributed to VISIONS, we applaud your excellence and enthusiasm on making this issue so special! -- Sodexho School Services
STAFF EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Brian Lee ‘06 Faizah Malik ‘06 LAYOUT EDITORS Terri Chiao ‘04, Layout Director Johnny Lin ‘07 Sharon Song ‘07 Tomoko Takeda ‘04 PRODUCTION EDITORS Chris Hu ‘06 Angela Siew ‘06 Kartik Venkatesh ‘06 WRITERS Eddie Ahn ‘05 Preethi Guniganti ‘05 Momoko Hirose ‘06 Chris Hu ‘06 Sushil Jacob ‘05 Jessica Kawamura ‘07 Brian Lee ‘06 Juhyung Harold Lee ‘06 Kwan Lin ‘07 Pang Houa Moua ‘04 Mr. Vijay Prashad Noel Reyes ‘06 Charles Wheeler ‘06 Kartik Venkatesh ‘06
VERY SPECIAL THANKS TO
Jenny Partivit ‘05 Abe Young ‘04 Wen-Chuan Dai ‘06 Sunisa Nardone ‘07
Brenda A. Allen, Associate Provost & Director of Institutional Diversity
Margaret Chang, Director, Venture Consortium & President of A4
NaRhee Ahn ‘93 Grace Cheung ‘04 Candice Sun ‘06 Adoito Haroon ‘02 Lam Phan ‘07 Abe Young ‘04 ARTISTS & PHOTOGRAPHERS Eddie Ahn ‘05 Eugene Cha ‘04 Terri Chiao ‘04 Kathleen Cho ‘04 Jon Cho ‘06 Matthew Forkin ‘06 Brian Lee ‘06 Johnny Lin ‘07 Diane Rhyu ‘04 Quyen Truong ‘05 Ben Wise ‘05 ADVISOR Dean Kisa Takesue SPONSORED BY Ofﬁce of Student Life
Asian/Asian American Alumni Alliance (A4)
Gonzalo Cuervo, Communications Director Ofﬁce of the Mayor, Providence David Green, Interim Vice President of Campus Life and Student Services Evelyn Hu-DeHart, Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown Daniel Kim, Assistant Professor of English Karen McLaurin-Chesson, Director of the Third World Center Mr. Vijay Prashad, Associate Professor and the Director of the International Studies Program at Trinity College Robert Richards, General Manager, Sodexho School Services Michael Silverman, Professor of Modern Culture and Media Dean Kisa Takesue Elizabeth Weed, Director of the Pembroke Center The Entire VISIONS Staff
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