Fmr President George W. Bush: “Not the America I know”

I never thought I would be quoting former President Bush, Jr. Like many of you, I am with Aziz Ansari in a weird position, wistfully watching old speeches by President George W. Bush, wishing that our current president could show that level of empathy and understanding to reach out to and speak at an Islamic center. To be president of all of us, not to divide us.

I’m in this weird position because in college and after, I was convinced that President George W. Bush was the worst US president ever. That the PATRIOT Act, special registration, and the Iraq War were disastrous measures. I still believe this. And then I watch this simple act of unity and community, and wish that we currently had a president this eloquent. Who understands “that America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens . . . who make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. And they must be treated with respect…That’s not the America I know, that’s not the America I value.” No, really. How our standards were lifted by President Obama, and how far they’ve fallen.

It turns out that the W administration had principles and certain bright lines they weren’t willing to cross. After 9/11, President Bush reassured his Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta, that they wouldn’t repeat internment.

In the uncertain days after the 2001 attacks, when Arab-Americans feared hate crimes and government overreaction, President Bush turned toward Mineta at a Cabinet meeting.

“We know what happened to Norm Mineta in the 1940s, and we’re not going to let that happen again,” Bush vowed. (McClatchy DC)

Right now, it’s not clear that the Trump administration has any such scruples or limits.


Silence, memory, and endurance: a personal family history

China kleptocracy

Sometimes I look at the abyss we’re headed into and I shiver. We are going to have unqualified kleptocrats running this country, which has thus far survived because of a strange mix of democracy, special interests, and forward thinking by our nation’s leaders.

Then I remember what my family has been through on both sides, and I know that we have been through worse and survived. Over the past few months, I have been collecting the oral history of my 92 year old grandmother, who was born in 1916 (Chinese years start at 1 – East Asian counting of ages.) I regret that I started so late, for she is the only one whose memory of these years is intact.

Consider the chances: on both sides, my grandparents fled China for Taiwan, and then decades later, my parents migrated to America. This dual migration has led to many silences that ring through our family’s history and the loss of important historical documents. My paternal grandma, or Nai Nai, was the only one from her village who was able to leave China before the Cultural Revolution. My paternal grandfather, or Ye Ye, manned the flight controls on a plane for the Kuomingdang (Nationalist) Army, and was even sent to the United States to train for a period. Which I guess places him in this era of Taiwanese pilots who trained in America from 1937-1945, as my grandma cannot recall the exact years.

They had been placed into an arranged marriage at an early age, and knew each other growing up. Nonetheless, the fact that my grandpa still called for her to come and join him was a rare opportunity. When my grandmother arrived at the departure point, it was a month before her name was called to go on one of the few planes leaving for Taiwan. When I asked if she was scared, grandma laughed and said, “No, I always had a lot of courage. Even when my siblings didn’t want to go outside, I wanted to explore.”

For a young woman, Nai Nai was able to attain a certain level of education and even studied accounting. As a child, she and her sisters had managed to escape the traditional footbinding because they were set to start school, and had to walk there, so her mom opted not to begin. Over the years, Nai Nai kept in touch with her family in China – parents, brothers, and sisters – through letters. Through missives, she learned that her parents, and her brothers all died, mostly due to starvation. One younger sister, or mei mei, remained by the first time she was able to return to China in the 1980s. She had never expected the war and the distance to last for so long. While grandma was heartbroken she didn’t get to see her family altogether again, she is grateful for the life that she has lived, and for all the experiences she has enjoyed. My grandpa Ye Ye was one of three sons, one of whom was sickly and passed early. His eldest brother passed when he was in his 30s. So Ye Ye became the only one to go to Taiwan, and then America.

My father and mother were both born on the emerald isle of Formosa, also known as Taiwan. On my mom’s side, my Gong Gong and Poa Poa were set to give her up for adoption as she was the 4th child born into the family, it was wartime, and there wasn’t enough food. The elderly neighbors were looking forward to taking my mother into their family, but when she was born, my Grandma decided my mom was too cute, and our biological family kept her. In the time that they grew up, Taiwan was subject to the longest stretch of martial law that any nation has ever had.

She would meet my dad in elementary school, and then they would go on to date as young adults. After college, my dad’s professor needed help with research in the United States, and asked him to assist. Much like my grandfather did, my father came to the US and then called for my mother to join him. It was in the United States that they settled and raised one child.

Three generations, spanning three different countries. If it had been for any of these experiences being different, or chance intruding, my life wouldn’t be what it is. So I am grateful to the generations that come before – to their strength and resilience, and I seek to preserve these memories for the generations that come after. In recognition that they survived when so many didn’t, and of the nimble and enduring spirit that sustained them, I vow to remain resolute and strong. The things that I have seen and experienced are dwarfed by the alignment of luck that it took for generations on both sides to come across three countries to America.

Like most Asian American families, we came here after the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, and now there are three generations of us living in the United States. We are here by law and by policy, as teachers and doctors, as professionals and creatives, as people of faith and people on a journey, giving back to the country of our birth and adoption. To know history is to know yourself. We are here as free citizens, whose ancestors fought wars in search of freedom. No one can take that from us unless we let them.

Obama pledges doubled funding for Laos bomb removal

Yesterday, President Obama pledged $90 million in funding to help remove unexploded bombs leftover from the Vietnam War and the secret war in Laos. This was after ASEAN and the G20 had met in Laos to discuss diplomacy and trade.

Throughout his visit to Laos, Obama has lamented that most Americans know little about the country or the devastating secret nine-year war the U.S. waged there half a century ago. He sought to use his presence and the spotlight that follows him to bring attention to an unfamiliar corner of the world. (The Star)

AAAFund previously published a very pertinent blog post by Monica on why she supports Hillary Clinton, including a thorough discussion of this issue in Laos. Reposted below in full:

After the fall of Saigon, my parents’ families were forced to flee from Laos because they were Hmong, the hated enemies of the Communist regime. Laos was just one of the many theaters of clandestine warfare that occurred in the shadow of the Vietnam War of what is called, the “Secret War,’ just one of many forgotten battlefields of our fight against communism. Like most refugee families, my parents didn’t arrive in America until after 10 years of surviving in refugee camps waiting for resettlement processes to be completed. It’s been 41 years since the first Hmong family settled in America and the War is still a sensitive topic for some to discuss. While my parents were open when asked about the war and hardships they endured, I was never able to understand the extent of the devastation of the war until I got older. It wasn’t until I read books and watched documentaries about the war that I truly understood what my parents, and what many other Southeast Asian families faced.

During the Secret War, America dropped over 2 million tons of ordnance over Laos in 580,000 bombing missions, totaling at least 270 million cluster bomblets. Approximately 80 million of these bombs failed to detonate and can still maim, kill, and injure. This means that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger thought bombing Laos the equivalent of one planeload of bombs was dropped every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years, would help stop the rise of communism. Refugees like my parents who were marooned in Laos after the wars were left not only fleeing from communist armies, but also attempting to avoid the American bombs haphazardly strewn along the countryside.

Though my family is safe today, the people of Laos continue to face danger from these relics of the war as they navigate their homeland filled with millions of unexploded bombs and landmines, known as Unexploded Ordnance (UXO).

I first learned about UXO when I was a junior in college at a fundraiser hosted by Legacies of War. Legacies of War is a non-profit organization, founded by fearless advocate Channapha Khamvongsa, which seeks to raise awareness about the history of the Vietnam War-era bombing in Laos, and advocates for the clearance of UXO. A study conducted in Laos back in 2009, indicates more than 70,000 civilians have been killed or maimed in Laos since the war, with a majority of accidents taking place immediately after the war when people were not yet aware of the danger. Today, there is still a wide gap in knowledge about UXO in Laos, and how it has dangerously impacted people who I share a common culture and history with, even some being my family members. Still today, about 60% of accidents result in death, and 40% of victims are children.

After learning all of this, I felt guilty and upset because as a Hmong American, I had never known the full extent of the destruction. No one else – Southeast Asian or not – was talking about all the bombs left over in Laos; likely because many people are not aware. This is not a topic taught in schools, or a part of the mainstream account of the conflict in Laos.

That is why after I saw the clip of Hillary Clinton answering a question about UXO in Laos, I knew she was my candidate. No other presidential candidate in this election had spoken about UXO in Laos, and no other candidate has since. Hillary was the first Secretary of State to visit Laos in 57 years and she acknowledges and understands that clearing leftover munitions in Laos is an American-made tragedy that requires a solution from our government. She acknowledged that, “this is a humanitarian disaster that we created,” and said she would push our government to sign the Land Mine [Ban] Treaty and increase funds to clear UXO. She answered clearly and knowledgeably, something that impressed me because I felt like no one knew or cared about the UXO in Laos. Hillary won my support by showing her command over an issue that almost everyone else has forgot, or chooses to ignore.

I firmly believe Hillary is the only candidate who will be able to adequately respond to issues important to me, like UXO in Laos, once elected. In addition to this, she has an extensive list of plans addressing other issues that the Southeast Asian community cares about, like lack of affordable higher education and immigration reform. But hearing Hillary speak about the need to help Laos clear more UXO particularly resonated with me because she cares about the people who still die everyday because of unexploded bombs.

President Obama will be the first U.S. President to visit Laos later this year. I’m hopeful that Hillary will be the second and that she will bring about the change necessary to atone for the sins of our nation’s past.

– Pajouablai Monica Lee

Calling Out CNN

Editor’s Note: The below is a repost of Erica Jung’s post in the hopes of keeping minds and hearts open. Ms. Jung is the founder of and an instructor at Trepta Toga in Far Hills, NJ. Her piece supports our organizational mission to increase AAPI political involvement.

In light of the crazy that has hit Germany in the last few days, I’ve got a serious bone to pick with American media and a wake up call to my fellow humans. Media has always steered towards sensationalism and what sells or in this day and age, gets the most clicks. Unfortunately fear and the Kardashians seem to be what the general public respond in fervor over, so in light of economics, there is appeal in fueling that profitability. Great, if you are some fluff magazine or site, but not great if you are thought to be a reputable news outlet.

Here’s my bone to pick with you @cnn. Being that I’m actually IN Germany experiencing these events in live time. You used to be a source that I considered as one of the “good guys”, but ever since you headlined Kim Kardashian over a major world event a couple years back and then explained your shift in target because of the readers and the clicks they make, I knew that trust in accuracy and integrity was going to be gone quickly. In a time like this where fear, reaction, and broad generalizations are being fueled over logic, prudence, and understanding, it’s important, more than ever to be unbiased and factual in what you feed our nation.

Too often are we looking to shift the blame and point the finger. Too often are we looking for our fears to be validated when we step into a space of unknown so we can retreat back to our walled up holes and scream, ” I told you so!!!” Now more than ever we need people’s who’s job it is to tell the NEWS, to do that in a manner that keeps the average American informed as objectively as possible so that YOU aren’t making up the minds of the people, without them even knowing.

When the McDonald shooting happened, German outlets were posting video of the troubled teen yelling out against Turks and saying he was German, despite you HIGHLY pushing his Iranian DESCENT. I’m sorry, but when cop shootings happen, why are you not posting if they are of Irish or Jamaican descent in that case?? Tell EVERYONES heritage then. Because the truth is he was a troubled German teen that’s got nothing to do with Muslim extremists. You posted an “eyewitness” claiming there were three masked men screaming “Ahllu Ahbkar” while German outlets said they still didn’t know anything and there seemed to be one shooter. At quick glance of the posted bullet points, the teen seems related to the Muslim based terror fear. Not only till you read much further down do you hear that he was a bullied kid that was obsessed with teen mass shooting, violent video games, and had been in and out of mental health systems. I’m sorry, I thought I was reading about Columbine for a second.

When white Christian kids commit mass killings, do you go on or bullet point their heritage or religion? No, you speak about how they were troubled kids with a history of mental health issues. Same goes for your bullet-pointing of the recent bombing and machete killing. ALL not related, but by your reporting, seriously suggesting they are because they are Muslim or Syrian, that must mean it has terror ties. ONE out of four COULD be Isis related, but again, look like it’s yet another troubled and disgruntled teen.


Stop trying to be the first to report and spit out none sourced facts. Don’t be quick to feed an already hot topic because it sells. Be prudent to not cause divide or prejudice where there is NO link. Do your job for the American people and drop the fluff and insinuations. It’s dangerous to our nations and the worlds well being. Have INTEGRITY. And for us readers, demand it. If money is what they respond to and you don’t want to live in a world of perceived fear and limitation, then start taking responsibility in the people who say they deliver the truth.

Start demanding, with your LACK of clicks that news become something we can rely and trust again. Stop making the world, a race, a religion worse then it is, and stop fueling the pitch forked mobs just LOOKING for someone to blame for their racist tendencies that need an outlet to come out and play and be accepted. Three of the four incidents were by well documented mentality unwell, and suicidal individuals. Another, most likely a crime of passion between a bi-racial couple. CNN wants you to believe that terrorism is taking hold in Germany with their suggestive reporting.

I want you to wake up, get out, meet new people and different cultures, and realize that we will collapse as the race of humanity if we don’t take responsibility in breaking the walls that divide so that ignorance and fear can not and will not survive in the name of getting “clicks”.

And for the love of God, get your butt to a yoga studio so you can have the space to drop the BS, connect, and be love.

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