Here’s to the security guards who maybe had a degree in another land. Here’s to the manicurist who had to leave her family to come here, painting the nails, scrubbing the feet of strangers. Here’s to the janitors who don’t even fucking understand English yet work hard despite it all. Here’s to the fast food workers who work hard to see their family smile. Here’s to the laundry man at the Marriott who told me with the sparkle in his eyes how he was an engineer in Peru. Here’s to the bus driver, the Turkish Sufi who almost danced when I quoted Rumi. Here’s to the harvesters who live in fear of being deported for coming here to open the road for their future generation. Here’s to the taxi drivers from Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt and India who gossip amongst themselves. Here is to them waking up at 4am, calling home to hear the voices of their loved ones. Here is to their children, to the children who despite it all become artists, writers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, activists and rebels. Here’s to Western Union and Money Gram. For never forgetting home. Here’s to their children who carry the heartbeats of their motherland and even in sleep, speak with pride about their fathers. Keep on.
Immigrants. First generation.
Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art? Anti-coup protesters in Thailand have been using the Hunger Games salute. And now the military government has banned it.
I wonder what Suzanne Collins feels about this? - CM
At school my name sounds funny as if the syllables were made out of tin and hurt the roof of your mouth. But in Spanish my name is made out of a softer something, like silver…
— Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street (via wocinsolidarity)
A lot of folks are posting about the Tiananmen Square massacre today, of course. I thought we should share it too, but I wanted to write a little bit about what was explained to me about what happened in the spring of 1989 that the western media often overlooks.
I am a 1.5 generation Chinese American leftist. I was two when the massacre happened. My sister had just been born. My father, who immigrated from China to Hong Kong when he was a toddler to escape the revolution, and then Hong Kong to the United States to go to college, tells me he was seeking work in China around this time.
Several summers ago, when we were traveling together in China, he told me about what he understood about Tiananmen Square from his perspective as a young, newly naturalized American citizen who still had deep ties to the motherland. He told me the sense of unrest was not just about state control of the media and politics, but a sense that the state was also imposing capitalist reforms on the Chinese economy without input from the people, and with clear preferential treatment for party cadres and others who had an “in” with the powers that be. Students were upset and anxious about what looked like unilateral decisions about the future that weren’t just about opening markets, they were about neoliberalising the country.
When I think about what’s happening in Istanbul, Turkey, I can’t help but think about this. When we remember Tiananmen Square, I hope we remember that this wasn’t necessarily about the struggle of democracy versus Communism, but that it was about people who wanted to take part in determining the future of their country, and who rejected nepotistic neoliberal reforms. Just like with the media narrative around Gezi, American audiences risk being turned around. A million people don’t turn out and go on hunger strikes against their own self-interest. There’s more to this story than meets the eye.
Remember Tiananmen, but remember it for what it was: young Chinese students and workers resisting their country “modernizing” in the age of Reagan, the godfather of neoliberalism. This is the same ideology that young Turkish students and workers are resisting in Istanbul. It’s the same ideology that has decimated the U.S. economy and that we resist when we say “another world is possible.”
When we ask why the Chinese government still hasn’t admitted that Tiananmen even happened, we should remember that China today is just as cutthroat and capitalistic in some ways as the United States is. They have delivered on neoliberalism, but in the style of an autocratic state, where nepotism and party connections had more to do with business success than anything. Students and workers in China in 1989 were emphatically saying no to this system.
Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence, whether much that is glorious, whether all that is profound, does not spring from disease of thought, from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.
Gila Lyons quoting Van Gogh
Creativity and Madness: On Writing Through the Drugs, The Millions
Preview Mel Kadel’s latest show "Tied Up" at the Merry Karnowsy Gallery in Los Angeles.