Uncontained Rants...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Many things make me damn proud to be Vietnamese-American...while other things/people...make me flinch.

‘I’m a Complete Intellectual Fraud’
Viet Dinh reveals the truth about himself—and the USA Patriot Act—in UC Irvine Speech


Thursday, January 13, 2005


-pictures courtesy of Catherine Karnow

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

To another year...

It’s 2005. Last year was 2004. Next year will be 2006.

My point: Every year, we look back at the 365 days behind us and proclaim, “Man, what a year!” Friends made and lost, falling in and out of love, lessons learned, tears shed and (hopefully) many more moments of laughter remembered. These all-too real encounters remind us that we are human—created to experience and live. But, as we wallow in our sorrows or revel in our accomplishments at the end of each year, what often becomes forgotten is how closely our individual lives run along the threads of history. By history I don’t just mean the events read about in classroom textbooks, but also the aggregate of past events or human affairs. Perhaps coming to this realization will have a direct impact on the kinds of lives we live, and live for, in this upcoming year. Let me explain.

When I think about how incredibly blessed I am to have followed the path I did in college—moving from the medically infused route of Psychobiology (I know, not sure how I got into that one either) to a desire to work towards social justice through the study of Sociology and Asian American Studies—I always think of one particular class, Asian American Social Movements with Professor Glen Omatsu. One of my very first assignments was a reflective essay in response to the insights of the late activist and historian Professor Yuji Ichioka, who was influenced by the ideas of sociologist C. Wright Mills. Mills wrote in the 1950’s and emphasized the importance of connecting our lives to history and turning "personal problems into social issues." According to Mills, when each person gains insight into their life’s intersection with history, this discovery is "in many ways a terrible lesson; in many ways a magnificent one." So, with this discovery, each person can become an active agent to create social change. According to Mills, the U.S. educational system robs people of this understanding by separating the study of history from deepening insight into their lives – i.e., in most classrooms, the study of "history" is isolated from each student’s autobiography. As a result, most Americans see history as something that is outside of them rather than as something entrenched in their lives. Prof. Ichioka then put a spin to Mills thoughts, coining the term "Asian American" to represent a new political and historical consciousness—actively responding to racism, asserting our rights and uniting with others to promote democracy and justice.

So, how does history intersect with autobiographies? In the aftermath of the recent devastations in South Asia, I’ve found that all I can do is swallow the lumps in my throat again and again, find my breathe, try to push aside the feelings of despair and pray that God’s provision will instill peace and renew hope in the lives of the survivors. It’s crazy to think that lives have been forever changed as people slowly begin to rebuild their homes, their livelihoods, and their identities. When our lives are disrupted, whether by tsunamis, war, budget cuts, whatever, it is sobering to think of the direct intersection with history that occurs—like Mills says, this discovery is both a terrible lesson and a magnificent one. How does your life intersect with history? So preoccupied with our individual survival strategies, it’s easy to forget that our actions or inactions don’t occur in a vacuum or an alternate dimension then everyone else. Perhaps widening our life scopes will help us understand why we should take our histories—Vietnamese, Vietnamese-American, American—personal.

With all that said, I'm looking forward to 2005, to its continued challenges, to the failures and successes, the delightful fluttering of my heart, experiencing deep compassion for those I don’t even know, laughing until I’m sore, and making marks in my own personal history on a daily basis. To that, I raise my glass and say what I say every year, “This year's gonna be a good one”.