"Half-Crazy, "Not Rich' and 'Half-Asian' Story of PTSD felt by Japanese-American Woman

If you are hoping to read a juicy, mouth-watering assault on the blockbuster movie "Crazy, Rich Asians" . . . you have come to the wrong place. 

Rather . . . in my 'Half-Asian' Journalist-humble-half-breed-Americanized opinion . . . the Film is not even worthy of any deep-spirited words I may choose to write.

Instead, I shall offer anyone who cares to read it-- a thoughtful and Deep essay about "what it really feels like to be Asian" growing up in America- who can admit only to being:

1)  "Half-Crazy". . . "

2)  Not even "Half-Rich"-  as my Jewish boyfriend is the one with the money

3)  And not "Asian" enough by anyone's standards, especially by other Asians

Now, you can read the following at your own risk.

By the way Mom, don't be mad at me. You're the pure Japanese woman who married my White Father, 

 . . . . . . hmmmmm . . .

As a 'Japanese-American' girl growing up in Los Angeles, California, I naturally presumed that ‘queer sideways-looks’ from other kids and racial taunts were just normal childhood experience, even desirable—  in an emotionally sick, unbeknownst  victim-mentality kind of way.

The Brady Bunch was my favorite show, and I identified as an All-American girl next door, complete with shiny Mary Jane shoes bought from our local Sears and pig tails that swung back and forth during endless games of hop scotch and dodge ball played after school, making my skin quickly tan, while other kids revealed shades of red.

My constant push was for peaceful and unabashed assimilation, no matter how many times I was told “I did not belong” or that I was some sort of ethnic scientific accident or experiment, poised to mark X in the box “Other” for eternity.

At about nine-years old, on weirdly hot September afternoon- a boy I will refer to as “Billy” told me that I did not exist.

“There is no such thing as a Japanese American,” he yelled—  as he hung upside down from an ancient set of monkey bars.

“Well I am,” I yelled back. “Just ask my parents.”

It turned out that he didn’t ask my parents, and neither did I.

Maybe I was afraid to hear what the answer might me.

Maybe what I feared most what that I really was “as different” as I had felt.

Or maybe, I was just a coward- worried that I may embody Jack Nicolson’s character in ‘A Few Good Men’ when he yelled, “You Can’t Handle The Truth.”

Realistically, and to forgive myself a little for so much self-hatred- something that most Bi-Racial people understand— race and identity were like four-letter words “back in the day”, and especially at home, behind our hidden fortress of assumed safety.

But as all stories hushed up about in families, the scariest and most ‘hidden ones’ are eventually heard the loudest and with the most vitriol, and our story- 

Was about a fear of being captured, interned, locked up, forgotten, as we were once considered to “less than” simply because we were Japanese.

As a well-known social construct, the very culture and essence of being Japanese is to be proud, or at least to ‘act proud’ and fake humility and a  humble manner at all times while doing so.

To a large degree, I believe this is why my family has never talked openly about what happened to them after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

Picture this:

It may have been humid, or maybe it wasn’t, on a day that seemed to begin like so many other days. My ancestors made their way to Hawaii from Japan a generation  before, forging their new homeland across the fertile farmlands by planting and picking coffee beans, as they also set up small store-fronts as they unknowingly becoming pioneers of a new frontier.

My mother was much younger than her two older brothers and brother-in -aw. They were already hard-working young boys, and by today’s standards, would not even be considered old enough to be called “men.”

Tirelessly working in the fields from pre-Dawn through Dusk, fishing for community meals, and building homes, hand-carved ‘panel by wood panel’- these 17 and 18 year-old men “only knew” how to be brave and fearless; only knew how to work hard, and did anything they could to see their families fed, housed and even festive on occasion.

And the women too— they worked each day as if it seemed to be both their first and last. Farming alongside the men and boys, cooking all meals, opening up shops, and raising children often without fathers— a “good day” was a long, hard-working one.

But after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, everything that was once quiet and happily understated for my family suddenly turned horribly chaotic, frightening and worst of all— a future of ‘an unknown kind.’

What could males in Hawaii do ?  What choice did they have?  Sit back and watch their kin from the states locked up while they continued to farm, awaiting a possible internment for their family themselves?

Historically, the 442nd Battalion is the most highly decorated unit in American History. And yet what they did know- that anyone of Japanese ancestry on the mainland were herded like cattle and forced into camps and locked hot houses, children and crippled grandfathers included, invited fear to infect the once laid-back and mellow communities of Hawaii.

My Uncles joined The 442nd Battalion. This was an Army Unit comprised 100 percent of Japanese-Americans.

My 98 year-old Uncle, a decorated solider of the 442nd, today says, There is nothing to talk about.

Takeshi is his name, and he still resides in the same house he bought after the War, a large white colonial style charmer framed by flanks of Hawaiian Birds of Paradise, as well as cabbage roses of every hue and hard-to-imagine color.

At the top of a staircase sits a quiet Buddhist alter to his late wife, who just passed away this November. She was my mother’s older sister who owned and operated more than five successful business during and after the war.

“We did what we had to do,” he says in a spitted fashion, under his breath.

“We were as American as any other boys. The least we could do is go and fight for our country.”

After he and my uncles made it back home, all in one piece, with a few stories here and there about carrying tall Italian and German wounded soldiers on their backs to safety- over wild streams and amidst the halo of gunfire- they somehow settled back unabashedly into Hawaiian life. . . . the one they knew and loved so well.

But "the fear of becoming locked up", caged like an animal, and ‘possibly’ separated from their own families ‘“simply due” to their ethnic breed— never leaves a family, never departs from the morrow, the breath or the lining of the soul. 

And it never forgets to nudge you awake in the middle of the night. . . never.

Always in a hushed kind of whisper spoken in broken English and Japanese, as a young child I could still understand the raw emotions of my aunts and uncles as , although I did not understand the words.

That’s the thing about the language of fear.

You only need look into someone’s eyes, witness the heavy or shallow breathing that is more than a little nervous, feel the raw well of reasoned paranoia in their hesitant walk or stance, and always, a kind of violent unspoken  conversation about racism and the ugly current that shivers below the surface like a traveling fever . . . continually.

My family is no different.

While we seem entirely ‘normal’ by stereotypical modern Japanese-American standards: conservatively dressed, mostly gainfully employed, soft spoken in public at least, educated of course, and always thankful to be invited to the party . . . we all share the same story of fear.

When I was a young girl, too young to understand anything at all- I overheard a lot of things I knew I was not supposed to, “let alone ever repeat out loud.”

Sometimes the whispering heard as a child can be the scariest of all sounds, for it often speaks of things that are ‘perhaps’ too horrible to ever say out loud in a normal chime or decibel, even alluding to every child’s worst fear—

That the sentences hushed over and told in secret circles might just be about them, and worse . . .  something embarrassing and shameful that must kept a secret.

It turns out that as children, we can feel the pain of our parents, our grandparents, and even of ancestors that we know nothing about.

Just as the color of one’s skin, eyes, function of the heart and kidneys- one’s random mannerisms can be hereditary- as well as emotional trauma, and the familial anguish of stories too often both saved and savored for ’moments of whispering.’

As a an Asian-American, some questions and comments I often hear include:

“Where did you come from, anyway?”

“There is no such thing as a Japanese-American person.”

“Why do your eyes look like that?”

“Is your Boat coming back for you soon?”

And my very favorite question heard even today . . .

“Will you give me a Happy Ending?”

As of right now, I will have to answer a profound and assertive “No.”

As long as a Trump-tonian wrath continues to belittle and ravage whole segments of people because they are not cut from the cloth of “The Acceptable Creed and Political language” deemed fit for citizenship —

I, for one, cannot promise you a Happy Ending, at least not for now.

While most of my Japanese family members who suffered through fears of internment have long passed . . . down deep and back into the dust they both settled and fought for, I am here to remember.

A familial brand of P.T.S.D. hardens my heart a little as I ache for better memories they might have experienced as young Americans, and yet this is somehow a welcome sort of trauma . . .

A terse reminder “to never allow myself” to forget what my family risked their lives to keep-  the freedom of autonomy, patriotism and cultural courage in the face of sheer evil.

As in the words of Takeshi, my nearly 100-year-old Uncle who survived discrimination and still fights the good fight today . . “I would do it all over again if I was asked.”

And to him I answered with sure footing . . .

“And I would as well.”

*This is an essay written with pure heart and determination for my family of the past, and well as for my children and future grandchildren, who will look to us all today and ask “What we did during this horrible and frightening time of our Nation’s History.”

As a woman who is also of Jewish descent on my Father’s side, with great grandparents who faced systematic racism and hatred, I proclaim . . .

“Never Again”, with a profound call for emotional, psychological and political movement.

Views: 112

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on August 30, 2018 at 3:16pm

Thank you!  

Comment by koshersalaami on August 30, 2018 at 4:05pm
Welcome back, Francesca, and thank you
Comment by Doc Vega on August 31, 2018 at 6:19am

I'm sorry Francesca but we can't turn the clock back 70 years so that you can quantify your justification of victim politics! I was married to a woman from Taiwan who ran her own business and was accepted into an industry that only men excel in and yes she did run into the occasional asshole, but America represents opportunity to all and does a better job of it then any other nation on the face of the earth! I'm tired of people talking about what America somehow didn't do for them! I could tell you how the police and red necks used to single me out for having long hair! And I could go into a long dissertation about how countrymen of my own race could be so abusive over simply the length of my hair! So fucking what! Life isn't fair and it never will be! 

Comment by Doc Vega on August 31, 2018 at 6:24am

I want to add that most Asians come to America to work hard and earn a place in society. I think one mistake they make is forming their own communities and isolating themselves, but any community they do develop or renovate is a plus to the local neighborhoods such is the case with Monterrey Park in Los Angeles which reminds me very much of Taipei, the Capital of Taiwan. In Richardson, Texas once again Chinese investors took a dilapidated shopping center and crime ridden area and transformed it into a thriving center of upscale restaurants and shops.  

Comment by Doc Vega on August 31, 2018 at 9:39am

Francesca I am almost convinced due to your crafted and typical narratives that you are a creation of a writer's agenda when you say that Trump has caused some kind of racist undercurrent within our society when he hires and empowers women, minorities, and we have the highest levels of Black and Latino workforce in US history so once again your statements don't seem logical at all.

Comment by koshersalaami on August 31, 2018 at 10:58am

Doc,
Francesca in the past has tended toward comedic writing, and all of the writing I’ve seen from her predates Trump, so no. Also understand that you always had the option of getting a haircut. You didn’t fit in because you didn’t want to. She wanted to fit in and couldn’t. The problem isn’t Victim Politics, in the case of Trump the problem is Victimize Politics. Defending Nazis with torches in Charlottesville says way too much. So did saying that a judge was unqualified to judge him based solely on the judge’s ethnicity. Actually, in his case it’s Victim Politics with the majority in power playing the role of victim. That doesn’t fly with anyone observant and honest. 

Comment by Doc Vega on September 1, 2018 at 6:38am

Kosher as usual your wrap up is full of stale leftist rationalization once again! No Trump is not a racist! In 1999 he was even given an award for being a positive figure in uplifting the black community and you are absolutely full of shit! Just like all the other brainless dolts who rely upon the Deep State driven mainstream media for their corrupted interpretations of events you continually horse chatter! 

By the way I did want to fit in, I ran my own business, and raised a family eventually becoming a single parent raising 4 kids by myself for 10 years! Point is all we ever hear are the same old allegations of bigotry used by the left for decades to divide and politically manipulate the slipper landscape of victimization narratives that's why assholes like Al Sharpton, louis Farracon, and Jesse Jackson are irrelevant!  What I like about Asians is they work hard they don't portray themselves as victims and they are glad to be in America! They also know the difference between socialism and our free enterprise system unlike the idiots here who march to the bullshit drum of the Democrats and their nonexistent blue wave and I predict more Democrat defeats as they descend further into irrelevancy and idiotic talking points!

Comment by Steel Breeze on September 1, 2018 at 7:02am

the term PTSD is thrown around and used far too loosely...

Comment by Doc Vega on September 1, 2018 at 1:22pm

Steel Breeze I agree totally! PTSD has just become another convenient term to bolster moot talking points of the left, but here's my own definition of PTSD for you Francesca because I doubt you have a clue as to what the word really means!

Francesca, have you ever been engaged in a firefight watching your fellow country men getting their asses shot off in some stinking foreign land? Have you ever had to endure a bivouac in hot desert conditions or freezing temperate climate winters clinging to a rifle just in case some Communist asshole or Jihadist wants to pop a new hole in your head? I seriously doubt it! How about trying to compress a severed artery in your buddy who just got plugged by an AK-47 who is coughing blood and going into shock? I didn't think so. When you use that term try using it where it reflects the true horror that causes the condition!

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on September 1, 2018 at 2:58pm

If you two "manly men" are trying to say that PTSD can only come from combat (and excuse me SB if that is not what you are saying) then both I and the entire medical & psychiatric communities think you are full of shit.  PTSD can come from ANYPLACE and the vast majority of the people who suffer from it have not been in combat. 

BTW, Doc...  try getting raped or repeatedly beaten by a spouse some time and Ima betting you would see things differently. 

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