For the New Year of 2003
Face the past, so we can face the future
By: Lee Siu Hin
Los Angeles, CA USA
January 1, 2003
Today, January 1st, 2003 I went to my favorite coffeehouse across from my house in South Pasadena (a small community outside of Los Angeles) for reading and writing. Suddenly, I saw a middle-age woman sit next to me, she looks like one of my best and passed away activist friend Francis K.'s daughter Valerie, who now lives in Wisconsin. I am surprised and fear to see her because what if she still angry with me? After all, her father had been gone for 3 years, I should break the ice and talk to her and face the past, so we can move on and face the future. I fear to open my mouth because my painful past and missing puzzles always hunting me, a 3-feet distance between me and her became a long, tall, dark wall. For over half-hours I just sitting still and silent to fight my inside: should I ask or not to ask? And finally after 45 minutes, I put all my courage to walk this 3-feet distance to ask her: "Hi, sorry to border you, but are you Francis' daughter?" "No, I am not." She replies, "you really look like her." I answered.
Francis was my best activist friend in Los Angeles, until he passed away at early 2000, he helped me and introduced me to many local activists circles, and he was the person who enlighten me to became media activists after many people treat me disrespectfully during the antiwar movement and LA labor campaigns in early 1990's. He even helped me some good contacts in Europe and donated me $300 so I can raise enough money to go to former Yugoslavia/Former Soviet Union/Bosnia for fact finding missions and radio report assignments for Pacifica Radio KPFK-Los Angeles during the summer of 1992.
When Francis became very ill and stays in the hospital on late 1999, it was also the same time when I became so disillusion about activism and want to move on. I met Valerie at the hospital; I praised to her about his father kindness whose inspire and help me for a decade, and even gave me $300 for the 92 trip. She didn't felt impressed, she told me her father never did such nice thing to her when she was still young and lives with him in LA. She complains that he treats his activist friends far nicer then his ex-wife and the kids, she need to work at early age but he never gave her any college funds. "The facts that he (Francis) gave you (me) some money, but never financially support us, it's not fair to me and my mom!" I always remember her words. I felt so embarrassed, pain and never able to face and talk to her after her father passed away, because I felt guilty for taking away a piece of bread from her plate so he can support my "pat projects".
And I felt very pain because I naïvely believe that if I can do something good for the people, I will be rewarded for my good work and receive a happy ending. After near death experience, homeless, arrest warrant against me during my 92 - 94 trips to Russia, central Asia, Serbia, Bosnia and war-torn Salajavo. I found strong evidence on CIA-Mafia-Saudi Money-covert illegal weapons smuggling to Bosnia and Croatia during the bloody former Yugoslav civil war. I thought with this important information, we can expose the dirty secret and naming people who behind these senseless killings, maybe we can stop the war and arrests the war criminals to the international criminal court. Instead, my story was never went published (It was later confirm and report by New York Times in 1996), war continues for few more years with more killings; while some had been arrested for war crime tribunal, but most pro-Western pro-US war lords and their war profiteers were out of hook from the justice.
I need to always ask myself: am I doing form my heart, or I am doing for wrong reasons? It's a very important question. I need to truth to myself--the ego satisfactions and fantasy of being first self-funded Chinese war correspondent, and hope it will lead me to a reporting job in the media; a name recognition; maybe a girl friend who'll respect my job and later get marry, a house with two cars on the garage--to enjoy a middle class life by the end of the Century…
It never happens. More I want to make it happen, more I lost, after all my antiwar activism and media work, I never got job on the activism or media industry, it forced me no choice but need to work on the sweatshops. But most important of all--after all these works, I never able to save any innocent life from the wars, and Valerie never forget about the money his father gave me.
My godmother who lives in Victorville, California always tells me that I am too hard to myself, "because, all these are just irrational thinking." she said "If you really believes these garbage, then you should not being an activist." She explains I am different because "other people, sooner or later they will freak out and show their real faces if they cannot get what they want, people comes and go, only people with true heart stays."
For many years, I had been seeing many people making their own power Pyramid out of antiwar, anti-sweatshop, anti-globalization and immigrant rights movements. Or making careers out of "activism" or "community projects" over other people's pain and struggles, but no money left for helping other people because all the funding had been use to pay their wages.
I especially disturb to see people who had been destroying the activist movements over their own political agendas and ego-trips, because we never able to "agree to disagree" but we are busy fighting within ourselves rather working together. Or a organizer will do anything to exclude others so they can protect their own "turf"--the "ownership" of the campaign, while calling for "outreach to the community". It was how we'd destroyed the anti-war movements during the Gulf War, the Yugoslav civil war, the Kosovo bombing, and most anti-sweatshop/labor movements.
But most important of all, we never face the reality that most American public do not support our cause. Sure, we can organize ten thousand even hundred thousand people to protest, but out of 260 million U.S. populations? It just a peanuts. An antiwar protest in US is still far smaller then hundreds of thousands of people who sleep on the street last night to see today's Pasadena New Year Rose Parade, or tens of thousands of people came to see Pasadena "Rose Bowl" football games this afternoon, both events are just few miles sways from my house.
Why? Because we never put our efforts to appeal and organize the people lives in suburb, hart land America or Sunbelt cities, we always accuse other people are the cause of the problems but never ask ourselves if we ARE also part of the problems, or even if we could offer solutions to ANY problems. We are happy to appeals to the "usual suspects" because it's much easier and painless. It's much difficult to talk to different immigrant communities who skeptical about white middle-class liberals, or inner-city activists goes to talk to white middle-class suburb communities. We just lie and fooling ourselves that we can ignore these at least 60 percents of American populations, assume that they are not exists and we can win the struggle without them.
It's not just a jokes but also insulting the people of the global south, because I never recall American activism able to stop one demm war, one brutal killing, arresting any US government officials and send to Internal War Crime Tribunal, or stop any major companies from keep using sweatshop workers.
Then why I am still doing activism work? At my most difficult time of late 1999, I was remind from my godmother, she said: "If you believes in your heart, never let hope goes, one of these days it will be happen."
It's true, because I am a sweatshop worker from the community of oppressed, these struggles are not "other" people's problem but these are my struggles too, therefore, the antiwar/anti-sweatshop movements are not only solving other people's problems but ALSO solving my own problems as well.
Why is hope important? Because it would be naïve for us to believe we can change our life and destiny overnight. If I don't believes in hope I as well give up and continue being oppressed. I recalled a story from "The Shawshank Redemption", it's the last favorite movie Francis and I saw before he passed away at early 2000. When "Rad" (wrongfully accused for double murders and put in to life-in-prison) and his prison buddy "Andy" (life in prison for a murder he committed when he was "young and stupid") debate about hope for life after prison…
Red: What are you talkin' about?
Red: Let me tell you something, my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. It's got no use on the inside (the prison). Better get used to that idea. (And Red angrily walks away)
Later, when Andy escapes from jail, and Red finds Andy's letter after he got probation and released from the prison, he reads:
"Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies. I will be hoping that this letter finds you, and finds you well.
Your friend, Andy".
Looking back: I made many mistakes, and I made many naïve judgements.
Looking back: we made many mistakes, and we made many naïve judgements.
Looking today: we are still making the same mistakes, and we are still making the same naïve judgements.
We might never win the struggles, we might never learn, and continue lying to ourselves just like "Emperor's New Cloths."
But we should never stop!
Because if we stop, then we will loose all our hopes.
But if we are doing from our heart, be true to ourselves, one of these days we will win!
Because we have hopes.
Every New Year's eve, I made a same list of New Year wishes, people said I am too ambitious or just being a dreamer, but I am still making the same wishes every year:
1) Peace on Earth
2) End all hungers
3) Justice for all
4) One true love
I know I might be a dreamer, but I hope I am not the only one.
And for the New Year 2003, I promise myself that I will contact Valerie and talk to her.
Lee Siu Hin
Action for World Liberation Everyday!
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