Hammering Out Sparks from the Anvil…

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I’ve been meaning to blog on this for quite some time, ever since Dennis Prager brought this New York Times article to my attention over 2 years ago.

Take a look at the photo at the top. Is there anything strikingly odd about the photo? What do you see? I see a “ridiculous” little Asian boy pretending to be a cowboy, and proud of wearing the get-up. I say “ridiculous”, because, of course, there weren’t really any Asian cowboys out in the Wild West. If anything, I should be playing the part of an Injun. But back then, at the time, I didn’t feel ridiculous. I thought I looked like Robert Conrad.

I was born in 1968, Phoenix, Arizona. My ethnicity? Thai. Beyond that, I have no knowledge of my birth heritage and biological parents, as I was given up for adoption. I do know that whatever the circumstances around my birth mother’s pregnancy, she loved me enough to carry me through 9 months to be delivered right away into the loving home of a young Air Force fighter pilot, wed to a Japanese woman in 1964 while stationed overseas. I couldn’t have been blessed with a more stable home or asked for more loving parents.

My parents never kept my adoption a secret from me. I’ve known all my life that I was adopted, so it never seemed strange to me. I do admit, however, that in college, it did begin to occur to me what a unique experience mine might be; and earlier in my pre-teens, I know I was self-conscious when visiting relatives (on my dad’s side….which consequently also affected my feelings when around my relatives from my mom’s side) in California of the fact that I was not blood-related to people who seemed to offer me unconditional acceptance and love. Still, it couldn’t erase the feeling that in a “skin-deep” sense, I didn’t belong. And it had nothing to do with how my relatives treated me. One of the experiences that really meant a lot to me was when my grandpa introduced me to his nurse as his grandson. My Dad and I had flown out to visit him in the hospital, because he didn’t have much longer to live. My grandfather was a short thin man; a fisherman and a cusser who was known as “Firpy” (my dad inherented the nickname) because in his youth he was scrappy (I believe there was a boxer named “Firpo”). He was not the kind of grandfather you felt comfortable to be bounced upon, on his knee, and run up to for hugs.

The reason why it was a healing experience to hear him tell the nurse that I was his grandson, was that a few years earlier, my mom in a moment of bitterness, told me the story of how Grandpa Phirpy apparently said to my Dad before he shipped to Japan, “I don’t care what you do over there, but don’t you dare marry a Japanese lady. If you do, I’ll disown you.” My dad said, “Alright”. But of course, things turned out different. And no, apparently he didn’t get disowned. But it was another experience in my maturation toward dealing with racism on a personal level.

My earliest memory of being race-conscious, was one day when I was about 4 or 5 living in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. My mom took me to check out Tinkerbell Kindergarten. It must have been an open-house or something. I went out on the playground where two boys were playing on the monkey bars. They basically told me to go away and I couldn’t play there with them; they used racial slurs to reject me. Back then, children used to take their thumbs to stretch the corners out to mock those with “slant eyes”. I don’t see kids doing that these days. It was one of those experiences that began to shape my consciousness that there was something physically different about me from other “Americans”; that I didn’t physically resemble Robert Conrad. And I began to take a closer look in the mirror, to see what others were seeing that I had failed to see.

As a footnote, one of the two boys, Richard, became my best friend and neighbor when we moved into the house across the street. Subsequently, because of that, the other kid, Butch, grew to accept me, too. They were the first ones to teach me a rhyme involving the “N” word. In a moment of ignorant innocence and stupidity, I asked Dad, “Do you want to hear something funny?” And I told him the rhyme. He asked me to repeat it. I think even then, even without the incredulous tone of disbelief in his voice, I knew that I had said something bad. And as young as I was, 5 maybe, I am sure I was conscious of what that word was related to. Richard and I had sang it, while sitting in a car, watching an elderly black man getting into his car. I was ignorant of what I was saying, and yet, part of me I think was consciously aware, and not so blissfully ignorant.  My dad told me to never, ever say those words again.  I didn’t get spanked, but the verbal berating and the gravity in his tone of voice really made me feel ashamed.

My first girlfriend was in kindergarten. She was the only other Asian at Tinkerbell. Basically, she gave me no say in the matter of our relationship, and simply said, “You’re mine. I own you.” And I went along with it. Every recess, I had to pretend I was Little Joe (Michael Landon) from Bonanza. I still wanted to be James West, though.

I have a vague recollection of Bruce Lee from when I was really, really little. He must have been big, for me to have known about him without having actually seen any of his movies. Back then, and later when the Kung Fu TV series came out, if you were Oriental, you were expected to know karate chops and kung fu. The only Asian hero I remember who “looked like me” when I was young, was Ultraman‘s alter ego, Science Patrol member Hayata. It came on in South Carolina, translated from the Japanese series, during the afternoon, hosted by a pretty woman called “Happy Rain”, dressed like an Indian. Other than Hayata, all of my heroes and role models growing up, the G.I. doll toys I played with, the T.V. and movie stars, were white male figures. When Star Trek was on, I didn’t want to be Lt. Sulu. I wanted to be Captain James T. Kirk, dammit.

Multiculturalists would tell the four year-old boy in the photo that he was being white-washed. They would tell the 40 year old blogger hammering this post out on his keyboard, that he is a twinkie: White on the inside, yellow on the out. If I were black, maybe I’d be an Uncle Tom and a sellout. I spent 6 years of my college time living with two of my teammates, who were brothers. They also happened to be middle-class black, from Alburqurque. One day, a student asked Greg, the younger brother, if he had been to any ASU meetings, lately. He replied that, “Yeah, we’ve been out there; we compete there sometimes.” (My roommates and I were on the gymnastics team- the older brother, Chainey, eventually making the ’96 U.S. Olympic Team). The guy who asked Greg the question just shook his head and thought my roommate was so out of touch because Greg thought he meant had he been to Arizona State University; but what he really was asking is, had Greg attended any African Student Union group meetings.

UCLA is heralded as diverse and multicultural. That might be. But rather than a melting pot, half of what I saw were self-segregationists. On my way to class, down Bruin Walk, I could see the Chinese Student Union members mingling at the steps of Kerkhoff Hall; on the other side, ASU members hung out together. I attended one Pilipino student group meeting, and found myself turned off by the rhetoric of activism, which had an “Us vs. Them” mentality of persecution. I, as a non-Filipino, felt alienated because I didn’t identify myself through my skin-color. They didn’t know this, and probably thought I fit right in, due to my shared Malay heritage.

In college, I largely slept-walked (is that even a phrase? Does it matter? It is one now…) through student political activism and consciousness. That is probably a good thing, because even though my father always voted Republican, I was not “overtly” raised on conservative values and principles. My dad is not particularly political. He never really told me “You should think this way, you should not think that way” when it came to political thought. So, really, I was pretty ripe pickings for liberal indoctrination. It happened to some degree. Being an English major, I read a number of modern American literature focused on issues of multiculturalism and racism, with teachers to match. My poly sci professor came to class in tie-dye and Grateful Dead concert t-shirts, jeans, and sandals. He was a Marxist.

Liberalism was all around me, and somehow I was innoculated from much of the “damaging”, “brainwashing” effects, even without understanding and being exposed to conservative ideology.

It was only after 9/11, that my political conservative gene was activated. The events of 9/11 shaped my political identity and forced me to exercise a voice in the political direction that this country heads into. Responsibility for the future rests with each of us. I realize now, that there are no sidelines. No fence-sitting. Politics is vital to shaping our values, upholding our traditions, and steering the direction that our country heads into, in a post-9/11 world.

Going back to the NYTimes article….

My opinion is strictly my own and I do not pretend to speak for every person adopted by parents of a different ethnicity. That being said, I strongly disagree with the parents who feel it is necessary to force cultural heritage studies upon a child, based upon the child’s ethnic makeup and native culture. Especially if the child expresses non-interest. The Chinese adopted girls do not need to be raised to know intimately, Chinese culture. What they do need to be raised on, are American heritage, American values, American traditions. The adoptive parents are misguided if they feel obligated to give their child a Chinese name and raise a Chinese kid. What they need to do, is they need to raise an American kid and impart the knowledge, traditions, heritage, family history, religious beliefs, that they are familiar with.

My college roommates are now both doctors. They did not embrace Afrocentrism and black separatist nationalism. Nor have they been white-washed simply because they speak perfectly good English, have kept their “slave names”, and embrace and contribute to mainstream American society. That is not being “a sell out”. It’s participating in the American dream. It is enjoying the fruits of their labor in the land of golden opportunities. A country where any citizen regardless of race, gender, or class can grow up to become president.

Diversity is our strength; assimiliation, the glue that binds us all together. E(x) pluribus unum. Out of many, one.

Multiculturalism, as it is preached today, is not about celebrating the beauties of other cultures and appreciating mixed heritages. In the hands of leftists, it is about separatism and narcissism. It is the selfish need to replace already established American values and traditions with one’s native values and traditions. All cultures are not equal, when it comes to the historical shaping and founding of America. I am neither Jew, nor Christian; but I fully acknowledge and appreciate that it is what is commonly referred to as our Judeo-Christian values that enables us to tolerate, welcome, and embrace all other cultural heritages. That is at the core of America. When immigrating to this country, the core must be adopted. It is up to immigrants who wish to be American to adapt to American customs and values; not the other way around. Otherwise, we will dissolve into a nation of many nations and many people. Not one nation and one people. I am all for adding one’s unique cultural flavor to the mix; but I am not for replacing the established American “core” culture with one’s own.

So, who do you now see when you look at the photo at the top?

I see a young boy who will grow up secure in his own identity; who acknowledges his ethnic roots, but is not bound to it by the divisiveness of race and skin color. I see my past which came to shape my present.

And here I am, a proud and grateful American.

Happy Independence Day, my fellow Americans!

47 Responses to “Hammering Out Sparks from the Anvil…”

  1. 27

    Erika

    Wordsmith,

    I think your story is great. My family is very diverse, I guess that’s why I am sensitive to racism. I like you, you seem very kind, and open to talk to people with different views. I like how you can reason, and see what someone might be saying, even if you don’t agree. You should be in politics, you would do well. Have a nice day and again it was nice debating with you.

  2. 28

    Wordsmith

    editor

    Thanks for taking the time to read, BukerStreet.

    Erika,

    I think some of the regulars around here just have itchy trigger fingers for tearing into liberal moonbats. They sometimes over-react. Just think of me as the “good cop” around these parts. I respect some of the concerns and issues you raised in the other thread. They’re valid. I’d love to be able to persuade you into seeing Senator McCain as being the right person at the right time for the job. I know it’s unlikely to happen; but resorting to name-calling and being derisive toward another’s viewpoints is a sure-fire way of not winning over hearts and minds. And at this point, I’d rather win over voters than alienate more fellow Americans from even a remote possibility of voting for “my guy”.

  3. 29

    Skookum

    author

    From one cowboy to another, thanks.

    Tom Mix was one of my favorites, he always was careful to straighten his hair after knocking someone out, showed class and pride in appearance. My hair has always looked like a haystack.

    I never quit wearing my western duds, but I don’t pack a rifle unless I am in the mountains.

    A great story, thanks again.

  4. 31

    ilovebeeswarzone

    Wordsmith
    fabulous for 2008 summer,
    I wonder if you are better today, after the today last POST,
    also fabulous,
    the only change FROM THE LITTLE COWBOY is the MUSCLES on your arms,
    GEEZ I’M GLAD someone drive me in 2008 so I could read this POST OF YOU.
    I like you because of those two POSTS,
    BEFORE I thought you where against HOMOPHOBIA, and not making the difference between it and common sense,
    but I understand now, AND I LIKE YOU. and your POSTS

  5. 33

    Skookum

    Word, when I am feeling low, I will sometimes read this article. It lifts me up for some reason.

    My son was a gymnast, for a few years.

    He started late, it was because my family came down from BC to be with me for the winter months, while I worked Southern California. We took the kids to an intra-mural gymnastics class to keep them occupied. During his first class, the instructors were testing the students and one of the exercises was to stand on your hands.

    He stood up, walked around the basketball court they were on and proceeded to walk up the stairs of the gym and back down. The instructors came over to me and said he needed to be tested by a real coach, because he displayed unusual abilities.

    When we were back home, I looked for gymnastics coaches, there were none. I ended up taking him to Calgary.

    They wanted him in their program immediately. I sold out and bought a small ranch South of Calgary, to give my son the advantages he deserved.

    A few years later, he cracked his heels and had to quit, but that is why my children are urbanites instead of hicks like me. I cringed while watching him compete; I could feel my shoulders wanting to dislocate when he did the Iron Cross and other moves, but I never mentioned my fears.

    After gymnastics he became a boxer; again, I had apprehensions from knowing what can go wrong. I prayed he wouldn’t go pro.

    A divorce, money, and international tax issues plagued me for years, but now at the end, I just want to go back to my roots. In my heart, I am still like the kid in the plaid trousers, only I never grew up.

  6. 34

    ilovebeeswarzone

    WORDSMITH ONE THOUGHT JUST CAME WHILE READING AGAIN THIS Post
    one thought came while reading again your POST AND THE COMMENTS, it is to me extraordinary, that we find out we are all only the group of HUMAN OF GOOD WILL EXCHANGING NOTE AND KNOWLEDGE,
    AT DEGREES SO DIFERENTS FROM EACH ONE , at knowledge so diferents from each other,
    at life experiences so diferents from each other, at ages so diferents from each other,
    and yet we are in a happy time here at FLOPPING ACES, FORGETTING OUR PERSONAL LIVES,
    AND INTEREST, FOR A TIME WE ALL FEEL IS PRECIOUS, EVEN IF IT DOESN’T REQUIRE
    THE NEED TO BE SEEING EACH OTHER,
    YES TO ME IT WAS A DISCOVERY, A FANTASTIC ONE, AND TO SAY NOW THAT THIS BLOG WAS DONE BEFORE I JOINED FLOPPING ACES A BIT LATER IN THE YEAR, AND STILL CAN ENJOY IT TODAY
    AS IF IT IS A BLOG ETERNALLY LIVING.
    BYE

  7. 35

    ilovebeeswarzone

    SKOOKUM
    my friends farmer just came back from THE NORTH WEST TERRITORY,
    where they married their 2 daughters, they went by plane and horse back for quite many miles,
    and while the marriage was in progress outdoor in their favorite place they had wish on to marry,
    who showed up? yes a grizzly bear, they watch him going around, and he left and came back 3 more times,
    I think he was eyeing the many horses, which are usualy on a few miles down.
    and to add to it, there was a moose on my front door yesterday evening, he came from the woods in the back,
    bye

  8. 37

    ilovebeeswarzone

    stix1972
    hi,
    wow am I impress by your comment,
    a true AMERICAN YOU ARE FOR SURE, YOUR LOVE OF YOUR country is right out to see,
    and I admire you very much even for that only one comment in 2008,
    I am in your future here, when do you plan to visit us again,
    we , at FLOPPING ACES, would be bless by your love of THE BEAUTIFUL AMERICA,
    WHICH NOW SO MANY WANT IT TO CHANGE IT FOR A GLOBAL COUNTRY,
    STEPPING ON THE CONSTITUTION WHICH IS RESPONSIBLE FOR HAVING TRUE AMERICANS LIKE YOU. WE SURE HOPE YOU COME IN THIS FUTURE OF 2013 , WHICH IS IN GREAT NEEDS OF PATRIOTS LIKE YOU. SO TO JOIN THE ONE HERE STRUGGLING TO GIVE THEIR MESSAG TO THIS
    TROUBLED WHITE HOUSE,

  9. 38

    ilovebeeswarzone

    2008, 2009, SHUT, I MET ALL THESE NICE PEOPLE,
    I LOST THEM NOW IN 2014, WHERE ARE YOU ALL,
    WORDSMITH BROUGHT ME BACK HERE, AND I DUNNO HOW TO GO BACK TO HIS 2014 POST,
    I’M LOST IN LIMBO
    GOODBYE ALL WHOM I LIKED HERE, YOU HELP ME TO LEARN ENGLISH,
    I OWE YOU FOR HOW GOOD I AM TODAY,
    grow up to 2014 NOW, i”ll be there showing you around, MY FRIENDS,

  10. 40

    Skook

    author

    It was that time again, a little over a year. Things are piling up, but your pureness of spirit will help me through another night.

    Of all the mean things that have been fired at me in verbal assaults, your correction of the word Jap was the most memorable. I grew up listening to the word and using it freely; oh, I was duly embarrassed at the time, and your correction will stay with me forever. You my have forgotten, but not me.

    Thanks

  11. 41

    Wordsmith

    editor

    Geez….I’m so sorry, guys. I just now checked into my email account where all my FA comment alerts go. I’ve been derelict and negligent in responding. My apologies. I’ll address starting with the older comments.

    @Skookum July 9, 2013 wrote:

    Word, when I am feeling low, I will sometimes read this article. It lifts me up for some reason.

    Thanks, Skook. Glad I’m not the only one. 🙂

    My son was a gymnast, for a few years.

    Awesome! I wish male gymnastics enjoyed better popularity.

    I don’t see how anyone can watch this and not have respect for men’s gymnastics.

    He started late, it was because my family came down from BC to be with me for the winter months, while I worked Southern California. We took the kids to an intra-mural gymnastics class to keep them occupied. During his first class, the instructors were testing the students and one of the exercises was to stand on your hands.

    He stood up, walked around the basketball court they were on and proceeded to walk up the stairs of the gym and back down. The instructors came over to me and said he needed to be tested by a real coach, because he displayed unusual abilities.

    When we were back home, I looked for gymnastics coaches, there were none. I ended up taking him to Calgary.

    They wanted him in their program immediately. I sold out and bought a small ranch South of Calgary, to give my son the advantages he deserved.

    A few years later, he cracked his heels and had to quit, but that is why my children are urbanites instead of hicks like me. I cringed while watching him compete; I could feel my shoulders wanting to dislocate when he did the Iron Cross and other moves, but I never mentioned my fears.

    So glad to read about this side of your family history, Skook. How old is your son, now?

    After gymnastics he became a boxer; again, I had apprehensions from knowing what can go wrong. I prayed he wouldn’t go pro.

    As a sport, boxing is absolutely brutal on the ‘noggin. In many ways, I think MA is safer. The sport of boxing is designed in such a way that you will take a pounding. Boxing gloves have made it possible for you to hit with all the force you can generate- and hit indiscriminately/indistinctly without breaking your fists. That is bad news for the brain cells.

    I take it your son didn’t go pro?

    A divorce, money, and international tax issues plagued me for years, but now at the end, I just want to go back to my roots. In my heart, I am still like the kid in the plaid trousers, only I never grew up.

    Nothing wrong with revisiting your roots, hanging on to part of who you once were, growing up, when the world was still fresh.

    Sometimes I fear having lost something of who I once was that might have been good to have retained. Life experiences can and do change us; and we always hope, for the better. But sometimes life experiences feel like they kill a little something inside that I wish I could have hung onto.

    Just the other day I was thinking of all the viciousness and meanness out in the world and imagined all the killers, all the jihadis, all the rapists, all the politicians running the world, as children.

    @ilovebeeswarzone July 9, 2013:

    WORDSMITH ONE THOUGHT JUST CAME WHILE READING AGAIN THIS Post
    one thought came while reading again your POST AND THE COMMENTS, it is to me extraordinary, that we find out we are all only the group of HUMAN OF GOOD WILL EXCHANGING NOTE AND KNOWLEDGE,
    AT DEGREES SO DIFERENTS FROM EACH ONE , at knowledge so diferents from each other,
    at life experiences so diferents from each other, at ages so diferents from each other,
    and yet we are in a happy time here at FLOPPING ACES, FORGETTING OUR PERSONAL LIVES,
    AND INTEREST, FOR A TIME WE ALL FEEL IS PRECIOUS, EVEN IF IT DOESN’T REQUIRE
    THE NEED TO BE SEEING EACH OTHER,
    YES TO ME IT WAS A DISCOVERY, A FANTASTIC ONE, AND TO SAY NOW THAT THIS BLOG WAS DONE BEFORE I JOINED FLOPPING ACES A BIT LATER IN THE YEAR, AND STILL CAN ENJOY IT TODAY
    AS IF IT IS A BLOG ETERNALLY LIVING.
    BYE

    My Dear, Dear Bees,

    Bless your heart. I am sorry I never responded to this and to some of your other comments toward me. I hope you are reading this from Heaven. Thank you for your uplifting spirit and good nature. I am glad you enjoyed your visits to this blog. I find myself missing seeing your comments, CAPSLOCKS and all. 😉

    @ilovebeeswarzone July 28, 2014:

    2008, 2009, SHUT, I MET ALL THESE NICE PEOPLE,
    I LOST THEM NOW IN 2014, WHERE ARE YOU ALL,
    WORDSMITH BROUGHT ME BACK HERE, AND I DUNNO HOW TO GO BACK TO HIS 2014 POST,
    I’M LOST IN LIMBO
    GOODBYE ALL WHOM I LIKED HERE, YOU HELP ME TO LEARN ENGLISH,
    I OWE YOU FOR HOW GOOD I AM TODAY,
    grow up to 2014 NOW, i”ll be there showing you around, MY FRIENDS,

    Oh, bees….am sorely missing comments like this one!

    It’s like opening a time capsule….I’m teary-eyed that I had missed this and not given you a response. God bless you! Rest in peace.

    @Randy: Thank you for visiting this personal story of mine.

    @Skook:

    Of all the mean things that have been fired at me in verbal assaults, your correction of the word Jap was the most memorable. I grew up listening to the word and using it freely; oh, I was duly embarrassed at the time, and your correction will stay with me forever. You my have forgotten, but not me.

    Is this directed at me?

    If it is, I have no recollection. Wait…are you extrapolating from my post in regards to my experience with racism when I was a child?

    Haha…even if someone were to use that slang today, it doesn’t sound bad to me- just a shortcut for “Japanese”. “Nip” might make me raise an eyebrow; but even if I heard someone use that word, I’d just shrug, thinking it antiquated but probably wouldn’t feel offended (and just to reiterated for those who may not know, I am not Japanese, but do feel a kinship with Japanese/Japanese-American culture/community due to my adoptive mom who is Japanese).

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