Nobody Gets Off the Bus:
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One should be able to dream and to believe, but there comes a time when some dreams have to put aside or even relinquished because they are too far out of reach. That is when new dreams have to be dreamt.
I am not talking about a little whimsical dream. I am talking about the "Hmong dream"--the dream of ousting the communist government and regaining Laos as a Hmong country. That dream can never become a reality. It hurts to know that a dream you want so much to come true will not come true. But sometimes we have to let them go no matter how much we want to keep them. Hmong-Americans have to go on with their lives and try to make as good a life as possible in this strange land The Hmong who are left in Laos and Thailand have to go on with their lives and dreams new dreams--maybe the dream that their Hmong-American cousins will one day help them out of the squalor they live in.
The war ended seventeen years ago, but a war still wages on, backed financially by Hmong-Americans. It is terribly unfair and cruel of Hmong-Americans who are far from the clutches of war to keep supporting the resistance, impelling the Hmong in Laos and Thailand to keep fighting like pawns. Conditions in Laos are so oppressive for the Hmong mainly because of the resistance. How can we expect the Laotian government to help the Hmong when the resistance only intensifies the government's distrust and aggravates prevailing anti-Hmong feelings? One-fourth of our people were butchered in the war. The resistance is only killing more and more of our people the longer it goes on.
The Hmong in Southeast Asia should be able to depend on their Hmong-American cousins. But how can we help our relatives if we can't help ourselves first? There are so many problems plaguing Hmong-Americans today from cultural conflicts to gang violence. My generation is distraught and caught in limbo with one foot dangling in Laos and the other planted in America. Yet despite these disadvantages, there are so many opportunities in this country. You have to look for them and keep the doors open. You can't let discrimination and cultural barriers hamper you from doing the best you can. I too am Hmong, and I have experienced all the ups and downs of being a refugee in a foreign land.
However, I still believe the streets in America are paved in gold. You have to dig for it; that means getting down on the ground and getting a little dirty. The Hmong have always had a strong work ethic, but somehow, through the thousands of miles we have traveled from Laos, that ethic was neglected because of a generational gap. We can still recapture our work ethics. Our ancestors have always worked hard to make a better life for their families when they migrated into foreign lands. However, they did not assimilate to the new customs, so they became isolated and were far behind the western world. We don't want to make the same mistake. This isn't Asia and we don't have to sequester ourselves in the mountain tops anymore. We can finally partake in the riches of the lowlands. But we have to build strong foundations so the monsoons won't wash us away. What stronger foundation can we build than one made of education?
I care very much for the Hmong left in Laos and Thailand. I too have relatives whom I love still living there. However, I don't believe a Hmong homeland is going to get them out of the abject poverty they are trapped in. I can do more for them than the resistance once I establish myself.
All the mystique and glory of a Hmong country is not going to happen. Our leaders deserted us in Laos. Our families had to flee through the jungles with guns aiming at our backs; some of us were used for target practice. Remember Phou Bia, our Alamo? I don't believe in our so-called "leaders." Again and again they have betrayed us, so I have no reason to trust them or believe in their capabilities.
History repeats itself and power corrupts. You can be sure that if there is finally a Hmong country, these same leaders, using the divine right of kinds as an excuse to govern us, will turn this new "country" into the Liberia of Asia in which only a certain group of people control and dominate everything. There could very well be a separation of classes between those who lived in the U.S. and spoke English and those who don't. Already I see a separation in high school between ESL and mainstream students. I have also seen how the more gullible and less educated Hmong people have been manipulated by those they revered and looked up to. Would you want to be governed by the same people who left your family to suffer and to be slaughtered while they transported their families to safety in the United States?
I am asking the Hmong people, especially our leaders, to reexamine their values. What is more important: gaining a Hmong homeland through more senseless bloodshed or building a new homeland for the Hmong in American and caring for those still in Southeast Asia?
I am not saying that we should totally forsake our relatives in Laos and Thailand. I firmly believe they would benefit more if the money we so eagerly send to the resistance was used to feed them, clothe them, educate them, give them medical supplies, buy materials to build homes for them, etc. The time has come for us to let go of some of the bitterness of the war and to start thinking about our people and their need for food, shelter, medicine, peace, and life.
I am not heartless towards the Hmong dream. I just feel that we should stop wasting our time waiting for a country that was never ours to begin with. I am pleading with the Hmong people to stop investing money on a war that will not result in a country of our own; it will only result in the termination of our people.
My dream is that one day, the rugged highlands of Laos will stop bleeding the blood of our people. I have a dream that the Hmong will prosper and become a united people, leaving a rich legacy in this new homeland called America through hard work and dedication. I have a dream that I would be able to hold the aunts and uncles who used to carry me on their backs again before they are killed for being innocent bystanders. I have a dream... one of peace for my people.