Last night I was sitting around with my friend who we all call the Monk and I call him Teacher. Its a joke because his daughter is about 7 years younger than me, and he always helps me study my chinese textbook, and quiz me on my new words. He’s a very sweet man, and has always been really nice to me, which is why last night when he started talking about the Korean War I was kind of surprised.
He told me that his father had been a soldier (on the North Korean side, mind you) and his father had told him, his whole life, all about Americans in a very hateful way. Teacher grew up hating americans, not knowing much about them, but really believing that they were pretty much violent scum. He told me that once he got older, and he could read for himself some outside information, he tried to kind of question his father more closely about things, but his father couldn’t hear it. Then Teacher told me another story about his grandfather. When his grandfather was 6 years old the Japanese invaded China, and at that time most of his family was based in Anhui province, which is along the east coast. His grandfather’s town was invaded, and his grandfather fled to Xiangfan all by himself at 6 years old by train and over roads. Once he got here his grandfather stayed for 6 years living with various relatives until he was 12 and the Japanese retreated out. Only then could he return to Anhui to help his family re-stabilize. His grandfather also carried a legacy of hate against the Japanese as a natural result of his experience with this war.
After Teacher told me these two stories it reminded me of America’s invasive war strategies in Pakistan… I remembered Sadaf, who I’ve been thinking about a lot these days. She was so kind to me and downright loving and look at all the terrors that America has literally rained down upon her country. She is such a remarkable human being, so graceful. I can understand why the pains of war make one group of people hate another group of people. Really, Teacher’s story is the most natural chain of racism out of the the ashes of war that has ever existed. But looking at Sadaf, I think that this kind of hatred belongs to the small minded… not judging Teacher’s father or grandfather, but look. their progeny is my teacher, even though his father hated americans…
I’m not sure what conclusion I want to draw here, and I don’t want to sound trite. It just got me thinking that basically, I am not defined by my country nor my country’s history, and neither are Sadaf or Teacher. Some people would prefer to be identified by their country, and actively choose to burden themselves with that country’s history. War brings nationality to a forefront in your identity, because your leaders have positioned you against another by virtue of your national allegiance. Individuals must chose each for him or herself how they want to be identified, and also, how they are willing to identify with others.