Saturday, March 13, 2010

Passing, Part 2

I was editing last night's post so much I decided to just make a new one for today.

If I embodied any one of the seven classical sins of antiquity, I think it would be Greed. There's a strong argument for Pride -- I certainly am not in the running for the 'most humble man in the world' competition -- but ultimately, I think there's a better argument for Greed.

I want it all. I want to have a 2:30 marathon time with a 600 lb. bench press. I want to climb Everest unassisted and then do the Tour De France the week after. I want to speak 7 languages, write a novel in at least 3, and that's just for starters. I'm sure once I reach those benchmarks, I'll want even more. I do not understand what it means to have 'enough.' I have one heritage. And now I want the world. One is simply not 'enough.'

But it's more than just a personal preference. In my heart, I believe that the lines are shifting, the world is changing. Sometimes there are terrible results. Consider Africa as an example. After carving up their colonies and drawing up a map without any African representatives, the continent has been plagued with violence with neither end nor reasonable hope for ending. When majorities became minorities, when the oppressed became oppressors, violence and hatred festered. And then there are other moments, much more beautiful moments. I remember when at Urbana they shared the story of how at tearful prayer meetings, Indians reconciled with Pakistanis, Palestinians with Israelis, Koreans with the Japanese. I know the emotions that pull in my heart when I read about a world leader who said that he will "never, never, never" shake hands with a Jew, finally shake hands with a Jew. Beyond oppression, beyond reconciliation, the interactions of these groups left each group changed.

But is this mixing new? History has always been on the move. Whether it's out of a valley in Eastern Africa or from a Garden in the Fertile Crescent, humanity has constantly migrated. The diasporas and captivities of the Jews, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, African diasporas to Cuba, Haiti, Brazil, Georgia, Virginia, new diasporas, people moving because of jobs, because of trafficking, because of violence... Even the categories that seem the most privileged, the most entrenched, are products of mixture. Let's take the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, this exemplar of privilege, tradition and history for a moment. Even the name speaks of movement, of a historicity, of revolution. 'White', the use of a color to denote a vast swath of people transcending nationality only became wide-spread in the 19th century. Anglo-Saxon makes this person a mixture of two ethnic groups: the Angles and the Saxons. The Norse Saxons came and mixed with the Norse Angles, who themselves displaced the Romans (who assimilated the Celts) before them. Those mixtures were certainly not peaceful. And Protestant points to a tradition that broke away from tradition. Any thought that anything, or any group is 'pure' in the sense of unmixed, from one stock, is complete illusion.

What does it mean to be Chinese? 90% of Chinese are of the Han ethnic group. Does that make the other 10% not Chinese? Is the girl on the left what comes to mind when one thinks 'Chinese'? Does being Ugyhr and not Han make her any less Chinese?

Or what of the Taiwanese aborigines? The Emishi or the Ainu? The Basque people?

The world is a wide, wide place. The more I see, the more I want to see. The more I see, the more I'm driven to prayer for its brokenness. This is the reality of living after the Fall and before the New Heavens and the New Earth.

WIth such a vast variety of human experience, I have trouble understanding why anyone would desire to limit their identity through nationality, geography or perceived genetic purity. My parents grew up in China and they raised me here in America. But calling me Chinese-American feels so constricting. I acknowledge the roots without adopting the identity. You can identify me by my job, "Paralegal" but I don't acknowledge that as my identity. There's so much more to me than work. There's so much more to me than naming where my parents grew up and where I grew up. It's a big influence sure, but I have lots of big influences. Stringing them all along, and even attempting to order them by priority seems eminently foolish. I have no desire to call myself a Chinese-American Christian Foucaultian Randian with a Murakamite aesthetic and strong Romantic themes. It sounds so God-awful pretentious that even I get nauseated thinking about that phrase coming out of my mouth.

I am the person you have before you, and I exult in my 'self-ness' because this person, this 'me' has seen what seems to be a whole lot of the world, but in truth he knows it's only the barest sliver of the big picture. Everything I know about the world, about the God who made it, only tells me how much more remains to be discovered. I know next to nothing about France and everything Francophone, but wow does it seem rich and exciting. South-East Asia also remains largely a mystery to me. Eastern Africa and the Balkans. God, the world you made is so big! How many lifetimes of man would I need to explore it all?

I want it all.

In Baruch Intervarsity, I discovered that my deepest kinship came not from fellowshipping with the Chinese, wonderful though they were (and let me not belittle the fact that they were incredibly kind, supportive and generous in the way they accomodated our needs despite the small space we shared), but with those who had similar experiences from the places I named in the previous post. It was there that I grew a taste for this whole world, where I became dissatisfied with only being Asian.

I voted for Barack Obama because I was in love with the idea of beginning a post-racial epoch in world history. And also, I just didn't like McCain as a human being. There was that too. But I'm no less in love with the idea of a post-racial, Bennetton world. The table is that much richer when you bring your own dish to share, and I come hungry.

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