A recent discussion got me to thinking about my seemingly conflicting compassions. Some might consider it a flaw that I can feel sadness for the loss of life, the waste of human potential on both sides of this awful war. Maybe it is a flaw, and like some would say, I’m destined to live my life conflicted. Well, this is what life has handed me, and I’m doing the best I can.
From the time my dad brought me from Saigon, I’ve been “the enemy”. I grew up the only “gook” in town, moved north as a redneck, returned to my Christian home as a Muslim, visited Lebanon as an American and the list continues. Suffice it to say that I’ve had my share of “she’s not one of us, we don’t like her” attitudes from many different faucets of humanity. I could be bitter. I could feel dejected and isolate myself. I could give up on people altogether. No, I couldn’t. It’s not in my nature.
I decided long ago this wasn’t the best way to go. My father, who I love and respect beyond words, fought in Vietnam. I am very much aware of the humanitarian crimes that were committed there by some. This has never tainted my view of my dad. We disagree strongly about almost everything, but we are very close and share an unquestionable friendship. I know him to be honorable and good in his heart, so it is this example from which I have modeled my attitudes.
This burly soldier with two sons of his own, took me from an orphanage and raised me as his own. At this point, in my eyes, he became the universal father. I have no doubt that he grew to love Vietnam and I consider myself the part he brought back with him. I must represent all the beauty and the ugliness he witnessed there. In return, his gift was the my ability to wear a different shoe. Unknowingly, he built a bridge between east and west by bringing me home. I could mourn the tragedies in Vietnam as well as mourn the many young men who wouldn’t come home to parents like mine. As I delved further into my Vietnamese heritage, this was only strengthened. The loss of life, the devasted families and the anger echoed through me from both directions. What was I to do, but let compassion take hold? How could I not see the common people, both east and west as torn by a war that both wanted to avoid? The only solution for me was to embrace them both; to become the universal daughter.
Once again I stand at the same place, but now, with children of my own. I am Muslim with an Arab husband. I am American with Christian parents. The enemy.
I have no choice but to stand again in the middle and embrace both halves of myself. I must mourn for the Iraqi mothers and their children. I must grieve with American mothers who’s children don’t come home alive. And I must share in the anger at the blatant murders and disrespect for humanity. I am carrying on my father’s legacy. In my heart, I must be a universal mother.
Am I conflicted? No, I don’t feel that way at all. I have merely learned to wear two different shoes.