I am writing this and acknowledging that while it might start again my life as someone working in Asia, selling to Asia, visiting Asia or selling writing about Asia has ended. This writing about a big set of subjects comes from the ending of one aspect of a life one personal career. Asia still surrounds me in my room. I still felt the Asian qualities of the Vietnamese-Americans beside me at mass in St. Mary Magdalene Church this morning. I still have many friends in and from Asia. But this bit of writing is inspired in part by the death of a personal set of Asianist American functions that shaped my life.
As I type this last post stories about the Ebola virus are playing a big role in the picture of American life and society created in the news. They are forming a part of the vision we face when we look out at the world. I discussed some of the meaning of Ebola for our American future in one of my most recent posts. But I did not discuss the individual patients that make up American Ebola. Those patients are missionaries and healthcare workers infected in Africa and a journalist who wrote about the epidemic and the relief efforts. The Liberian Thomas Duncan who brought disease here from Africa has died. Two of his nurses are certainly infected so far. One is Amber Vinson and the other is Nina Pham. Vinson is African-American. So far all of those returning from relief work in Africa are Caucasians but Nina Pham who provided early high risk care to Duncan is an Asian-American. She is a brave and optimistic critical care nurse whose biography has begun to more sought out by those following the cases of Ebola. But it also has been reported by some how real the sense of community among the Vietnamese-Americans of Fort Worth really is. That report can be read in one version right here. Asian Americans are a small part of the American population and a diverse portion as well. But Asian= Americans are very much part of our story as Americans every day and they have been part of that story for a while now.
Asian-Americans struggle to balance the ties they maintain to Asia, to preserve their specific ancestral heritage here and they struggle to be fully loyal and engaged Americans. I can relate to all of those troubles very well. My life has changed a good bit even in the time since I started writing this trilogy of posts. On July 24, 2014 there was a meeting about closing the Perry community U.S. Post Office or greatly restricting it. From that smallcountry Post Office where I have had my box correspondence has gone back and forth to China, Singapore, the Philippines and to many other places. Now that era is coming to an end. When I jotted down some notes to set down these ideas about Asian-American relations in this blog it was at a very sad time for me although that was not so very long ago I feel I have managed to change my perspective.
Not so many week ago I described this little project in my sort of temporary and informal diary in this way:
For me every day brings more bad news from associates around the world. For me what seems to reassure some people I do really care about is often very bad news as regards social change, it is another part of America becoming more of a hell for me and my life becoming more horrible. Nor am I happy in the opposition groups that take the same basic view I may take of one or two given issues. But despite that sense of alienation I am continuing to blog. I want to do a blog post series on Asian-American relations while I still have the time, energy and security to do such a thing — this must be an honest and thoughtful discussion — as such a series of posts could possibly be the last serious series I ever do. In comparing with some posts of friends, groups I have known and Lord Norton I am aware that recent years have been bad for the blog. My blog is much diminished from its peak but it had visitors from 72 countries in 2012. That number of countries is about 58% of Lord Norton’s haul for that year.
Many of the countries this blog reaches are in Asia. I have recently given some data about the reach of this blog in a post just here. In addition to Asia much of the rest of the world is represented. Staying in communication with Asia and the rest of the world is in itself a worthy aspiration. It takes plenty of work and focus just to do that. Besides my blog posts here about the performance and reach of this blog are not Exhaust my own efforts to understand how I am reaching the world in terms similar to those in my diary above I have commented about this on another blog named in the quote below where I compare our relative reach in a particular year not so long ago:
But because you are nearer the top than the middle of countries possible one would have to measure the difference form the total possible. The real measure then is from some number between 190 and two hundred which is the largest number Word Press could have in such a report. Thus you lack about 70 for total coverage and I lack about 125. These numbers are inverses of our contact numbers. However, your rate of views is much higher. All this indicates to me a high probability that The Norton View is at the high end of some thick part of a distribution curve. Progress upward from here may be disproportionately difficult to achieving the exposure already achieved. But perhaps this will be a completely “curve busting” phenomenon. If that is the case I am even more fortunate to be along for the ride as often as I am..
In the wake of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, I am more aware than usual of how all the regions of the world are connected. The way they interconnect is constantly changing. But the connections between Asia, Europe and America are constantly changing and usually increasing. My mother has followed my path to China and I am thinking of that trip as she is out tonight and has been a bit down. Who knows what all this and her recent talk to children about the Philippines has meant to me trying to finish this series of posts. It has made me thoughtful. I want somehow to be true to the Asia I share with my family. Those views and associations may differ from my won views.
I am writing this last post in this trilogy on Asian- American relations to discuss the significance of the Obama Presidency, to discuss Islam in East Asia and to relate all of this to the end of my own public life. Whether it is a permanent end I do not know. I do know that I am at a place of nearly complete current and situational failure at least as far as my ability to shape Asian-American relations. I also am at a place of really acknowledging that for me this society and my own many connections to it are utterly bankrupt. There is a sense of ever deepening alienation. But in Asia I always took pride in being an American.I may have been critical at times but always distinctly pro- American as well. That might be harder if this alienation continues to increase as it has in recent years. Obama’s views about Islam are doubtless part of my sense of being part of an increasingly alien country but there are many other problems as well.
The horror is all that begins to count as a struggle that preclude effective action in other struggles I have long known, the good of being an active citizen of this republic entirely eclipsed by the bad in my view of what there is ahead. But I have not always felt that way. For half a century I struggled against all odds to do the right and good and necessary. This is not a declaration that I will never do anything public again and far less is it a note declaring the proximate end of my own life. I have always had a fairly hellish existence in some ways. But I know there have been many blessings and joys as well.
I am writing this blog at a time when I am hoping that I can return from the depths of alienation in some aspects of my life to another place. Asia has long played an important role in the identity and role of both America as a whole and for me as an individual. The many crises in the world that are not closely related to the relations of the United States to Asia very directly remain in the news as such things always have. I know that America and Asia often simply share the common experience of dealing with global, European or African problems all though they may deal with them differently. In my family two of my brothers were born in the Philippines. One of my sisters was born in Colombia and the rest of us were born in the USA. But all of us have some Asian experience that is our own and different from that of other people in our family.
But for all the practicality of any position I may take toward Asia I also have a whole set of dreams and ideals. Inside my imagination, I cannot help imagining a set of circumstances much better than I have ever known. Yet the struggle for a day and a week and a month is still the struggle in which I have spent my life both in Asia and here thinking and praying about Asian-American concerns . Many memories of successes I do have but many of sorrow and trouble as well. How much different or better things could actually have turned out is one of those deep mysteries which nobody is granted to see clearly. I have got quite a few things to say about Asia and America as I wrote above. These things have a context of shared experience and internal reflections and aspirations.
One fact is that while I have had hundreds of experiences in Asia that involved Muslims or were in some way affected by Islam I have never lived in a really Muslim Asian context. Many of my family members have spent time in Malaysia but I have not. But in writing about Asian American relations it is vital to write something substantial Islam in Asia. So I have tried to weave it in here and there. I will deal with it a bit more below as well.
There is a lot I want to try to cover in this post and some of it is related to Islam throughout various parts of the region and across time only as the past affects the present very directly from the North and South and West . I am discussing in this trilogy of posts on Asian-American Relations. I have a few things left to do before the end of my own journey and I think that some of my attention will always be devoted to understanding conflict with and challenges from Islam. The United States of America confronted challenges from Islamic forces early in the Federal Union’s history. That was the North African Islamic challenge and not one directly from Asia. America fought the Barbary Pirates in the early 19th century and added the words “The shores of Tripoli” to the Marine Corps hymn to remember that great struggle.
My family and I have struggled together and separately to be true to all the challenges of Christianity and have found different ways of dealing with Muslim influences in the places we have ministered or worked, toured or taught. Asian Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Communists also face challenges similar to what I and others I care about face and what America faces. Surely not all of Islam nor all Muslims can be held to be the same. But we may all feel there are conflicts of destiny upon us with much of Islam. In the part of Asia nearest Europe we are able to feel horror at the beheadings, crucifixions and persecutions undertaken by Islamist in a new wave of terror and confrontation with the West. But East or West many of us may feel we are not ourselves if we do not confront the Islamist threat. Not all of us are actively doing what we may feel needs to be done. I or a Buddhist in China may feel I must do something against Islamist forces to be true to my inner sense of things. However, that is no certain assurance I will get those things done which I perceive to be somehow or other essential to my destiny.
This post and this series are in countless ways stopping rather than being finished. I let the set of stories lie. These articles in this blog provide a small window into a vast subject ending here beginning here and continuing here.