Monday, October 19, 2009

What Might Cambodia & America
Have In Common?

History is useful, but one downside is that is that it passes down the legacy of tribalism, aka prejudice, to the young. I was reminded of this today after reading an email from a relative about his travels in Southeast Asia.

One summer 30 years ago, I dated a Cambodian guy while taking classes at a local community college. We took algebra together, and he loved to help me in the Math Library. It was there he first asked me out. His name was DaVu. He was taller than your average Asian, darker of skin, very handsome, and don't laugh, but he was a helluva good disco dancer.

DaVu lived in a small apartment with his parents and at least one brother. He said his mother cried all the time. His family had owned a manufacturing business of some sort, and fled the country barely before all hell broke loose. He described the Khmer Rouge as being ignorant thugs who were so jealous of the middle class that they would kill anyone who wore eye glasses, which to them was a sign of being able to read. That gave me chills since started wearing glasses in 4th grade. I'd have been murdered!

I had the impression then that this was a class war taken to an extreme, but now that I'm older, I also understand that hate begets hate: it is generally the most literate of any society who uses propaganda disguised as information as a tool of greed and contempt, to take advantage of the uneducated and poor.

In my way of thinking, in a more ideal society, nearly all members are of the same class and education, so the wealthiest do not have the power to oppress and abuse, and the poor and illiterate do not revolt and send the country back into the Dark Ages of Ignorance and Superstition.

The odd thing was that DaVu's father did not take long in learning how to dislike America's identified lowest class of people - black folks. He did not condone our relationship, and this was very unsettling and surprising to DaVu. Not to me, having grown up in this nation where interracial dating was scorned.

DaVu and I hadn't progressed beyond kissing - we were so young, and back then couples were comfortable in taking things slow. There was a nice innocence to our otherwise passionate relationship.

His dad wasn't the only one who didn't like our dating. I was living with my mom that summer and fall, and when he'd pick me up, the brothas standing by the corner stop sign would see us together in the car. They just had to yell out something nasty to him, every time. Once we got to whatever DC club or eating place we were going to, however, we had no problems.

His father decided to move the family to Seattle. I asked DaVu if wanted to write, but he said his father would be very upset if we continued a relationship.

"Am I the reason you all are moving?", I asked.

He looked away. "I'm not sure," he finally answered. He looked sad.

I left it at that. In 1984, the movie titled The Killing Fields came out. It was then that I learned that millions of Cambodians were slaughtered by their own people, and visually I could see what DaVu and his family escaped.

Cambodia's Killing Fields, 1970s

Every once in awhile I wonder how his life turned out. I imagine he followed his father's wishes and married a nice Cambodian or Asian girl. It would not surprise me if he has some black friends, and I wonder if he had children. Is so, did he walk the walk his father did, and condemn serious interracial relationships, or did the irony of his dad's prejudice free him from prejudice?

Call it racism, classism or tribalism, it's the Achilles Heel of the human race. The adults attempt to pass along history and values as they understand it, and with that, the prejudices about "those" people - whoever "they" are - who either are deemed of having no social value or cannot be trusted.

Sometimes I think the US will descend into the kind of chaos the Cambodians and other groups have experienced due to the deliberate attempts of the Far Right. They've more than effectively misused the media to promote a virulent hate since Obama came on the scene.

We are teetering at the edge of a Great Depression and contemplating starting a war with Iran, and by extent, other world powers. Desperate people and countries do desperate things, and the US is unnervingly close to losing US dollar hegemony over oil and other goods on the world market.

It might only take one American city being nuked for our thin veneer of civilization to vanish, and it wouldn't matter if white Russian bears did it. There are too many good 'ole boys, armed to the teeth with their fingers itching on the trigger, ready for any excuse to replay the Civil War.

We can be certain that the likes of fixed news - and those who hire them and pay their salaries - will lead the way.

These people, along with the Far Right, religious fanatics and the more aggressive bigots, are not terribly different from Pol Pot's regime in the '70s or the ones 700 years ago who destroyed Angkor.

Angkor is "the region of Cambodia that served as the seat of the Kymer Empire which flourished from the 9th to 13th centuries." Below is a pic of one of many temples built before the loonies took over. Given their lack of technology and what they accomplished, that's remarkable. Angkor was also the largest pre-industrial city in the world, thought to be able to support one million people.

Should the circumstances become ripe for an excuse to our return to total barbarism, hopefully there will be enough decent people of all races to neutralize the efforts of the haters and zealots.

If not, somewhere in the future, in another country, perhaps China or India or the Netherlands, their citizens will watch the equivalent of The Killing Fields II, but it will be about America's descent.

I wonder which pictures their bloggers will use.


  1. Good food for thought, thank you Kit.

    I have scary thoughts like this part too:

    We are teetering at the edge of a Great Depression and contemplating starting a war with Iran, and by extent, other world powers. Desperate people and countries do desperate things, and the US is unnervingly close to losing US dollar hegemony over oil and other goods on the world market.

  2. Glad you caught that, Macon. I've been toying with the idea of doing yet another post on this topic (except for the dubious gator story, read them under Kit's Worse Case Scenario articles), but hell, things are too far gone.

    When the trustworthy journalist, Robert Fisk, writes about it, I take it as a signal we are, as I said, teetering at the edge. Here's the link again to his article, and be sure to read his last paragraph.

  3. I'm white, we can see it but sometimes not so proud of it. But I can imagine if I were another race there would be plenty to hold my head in shame for.

    Living in "appalachia" I have met my fair share of "good 'ol boys." But I also see the next generation heading in a much more positive an open minded society and one can only hope that trend will continue.

    Prejudice will always be with the human race. It is a judgement and we are a judgemental people. I don't care if it's about color or the skanky dude who doesn't brush his teeth and wears dirty sneakers. I am guilty of some form of prejudice. I am however, by far not racist. At least that is what I hope to convey to others with my actions.

    My parents were not "thrilled" in my choice of husbands but their beliefs were not my own and I believe we are seeing more and more of this same example everyday.

    Hatred is a total waste of my time. Life is too short to be constantly irritated and pissed off.

    Love the post!


  4. TriState, Thanks for your input and sharing what you've experienced thru family and marriage. Just when so many of us thought things would get better due to Obama's election, fixed news is agitating to make it worse. Will good will triumph evil? We'll see.

  5. KIT, that last paragraph really sent chills up my spine. I was thinking just the other day about Rwanda and how normal people can change so drastically because of economic pressures and the media. It's almost too easy for any country to turn into a killing field if the conditions are right. We often like to think these things can only happen "over there" but I remember that brother that was trampled to death last year by folks trying to get into Walmart for a deal. If a deal will make you disregard one life, I shudder to imagine what a real crisis combined with far-right rhetoric will do. Makes me all the more determined to get centered so that I can handle whatever is coming. And it's coming.

  6. Chi-Chi, I feel it coming too. What you said about the attitude of the Wal-Mart stampeders reminded me of a post I wrote last November, One Nation Under Greed, and how my own daughter's reaction to the stampede was thinking it was funny. *shakes head* That's a wild-azz post, BTW.

    You spoke of preparation for a SHTF scenario here. I highly recommend anyone reading the blog by Wildflower, at She's a survivalist-minded sistah, and her current and back articles have much to teach.


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