CPAC - Friday, May 24, 2024 - 03:00 p.m. (ET) - Segment #16

because they were not carried out in the american tradition. In orders, they were an aberration from the way that the united states would normally conduct itself. And the way that americans-- one of the ways that americans had been able to argue that the wars in vietnam, laos and cambodia had been exceptions, is to reduce the scale of the war that took place. One example. Jimmy carter, president, democrat, 1977 said that the destruction was mutual in the war. That is quantifiably false. 58,000 plus americans died in the war which was a tragedy. 3 million vietnamese died in the war. Several hundred thousand laotians, cambodians and mung died in the war. In the immediate aftermath of the war hundreds of thousands more would die fleeing as refugees, being returned in re-education camps and in the case of cambodia, 1.7 million cambodians dying in the cam rouge genocide partly enabled by the U.S. mass bombing of cambodia. So the destruction was not mutual. The temptation to call it mutual is a justification for colonization and genocide. Colonization and genocide are by intention, asymmetrical. But the retrospective theiration, the memory of colonization and genocide is cast as symmetrical by the former colonizers. Because it's of interest to cast that history as a both and conflict where everyone was equal on both sides. And that is simply not true. So-- myself as a writer, I believe in the power of stories to save and to destroy. And I recognize that literature is engaged also in an asymmetrical conflict. On the one hand, in this battle, we have books, and we have words. On another hand, we have military industrial complexes. And we have ministries of propaganda. And in this asymmetrical conflict, I side with the human animals. Whoever they are. Thank you. [ applause ] >> Great speech, thank you. Um, happy birthday. >> Thank you so much. Yes. Woo. >> This was-- I just attended chris's seminar. The first time I had a seminar where someone gave me a birthday cake. >> We sang happy birthday. Which I won't force everyone here to do it. Also welcome to sunny vancouver, it's always like this. If you move here, you won't ever regret it, trust me. Nobody does. It's not a thing. But I wanted to begin with where you were ending. And you wrote this amazing piece on the nation on expansive solidarity. Which I don't think was a term-- it's a bit hard to hear from the green room. But I don't think was one that you are using very much in this talk. And I think that's specific maybe to asian american studies and writers. But I'm curious about how you as somebody who takes that position and as an author, saw yourself-- you know, taking on I guess you could say embroiled in a lot of the controversies in october. And why it's important for asian americans and asian canadians perhaps to speak out about these issues. >> Ewell I don't know if it's just asian americans or asian canadians but it's an obligation for all of us. But specifically from this asian american or asian canadian point of view, I became an asian american at berkeley through a moment of radicalation through an exposure to some of the history that I described in this talk. And understanding the place of asians in north america gave me an identity. On the one hand we'd been miscast as orientals and our response to that was to call ourselves asian americans instead. And this logic of being othered and claiming our own othered is thens a very common experience. Not just for asian americans or asian canadians. It's very powerful. But also potentially very limiting to construct our politics around an identity.

because then what we become invested in is the identity when what drove me to become an asian american in the first place was not just identity. It was principle. It was this idea racism is wrong and dehumanization is wrong and othering people is wrong. And so what happens when we ourselves do it. Whether as asians or asian americans or as citizens in a country that does it. We should therefore be opposed to that process of discrimination. Of violence and othering no matter where it takes place. The power of ideology is so strong that it prevents us from seeing our own implications so often. So the book the man of two faces there's a moment where I reflect upon the fact that these parents-- my parents whom I love and think are incredible people and who sacrificed so much and lived the american dream and all that stuff. They fled as refugees in 1954 from the north to the south in an operation that was organized by the cia. And they along with 800,000 vietnamese catholics were brought to bolster the south vietnamese president under the catholic president. And the south vietnamese government deliberately put a lot of these vietnamese catholics into the land of indigenous people. And so when I think about that that is a version of settler colonialism that my own family was involved in. And that I also benefitted from. And if you go talk to vietnamese people. Visit neat ma'am for example and you talk about vietnamese history. Lit probably come up in the tour book somehow. But the chinese colonized us for a thousand years. Vietnamese people will never forget chinese colonized us for a thousand years. But I don't think I've heard any vietnamese bring up the possibility that we've kol niedz people as well. And it's that contradiction between identity and principle that expansive solidarity ruptures. Instead our solidarity may begin an identity but it has to end in principle. [ applause ] >>. >> It was very inspiring to see you active at that time. I think in the halls of academia, there was a lot of conversation but not as much speaking out at the time. As someone who is asian american-ist. Asian american studies christian I guess. There was a lot of disappointment I guess in people that we had idolized who were marxist. Who were part of the cold war. Genocide massacres who not only were silent, but were also giving very familiar excuses for that silence. And then huh this trickster. Like speaking out inspiring us at a time when we really needed that. And I'm wondering as someone who has a foot in academia and a foot in writing. How do you see those two kind of forms of censorship that were happening at the time? And still today. Like how have you seen those being weighed off each other. And there's long histories of this right with bbs and so on. >> I'm-- I signed onto bds several years ago. And that had a cost as well. The sympathizer was published in israel and nothing since because I know my publisher was not happy with my signing onto bds. And my fan-- has remained. Bds is not violent. If you engage with that we wouldn't have to engage or have the violent back and forth of the violent of colonization. I came into academia as an idealist. 21 years old and literally my application statement was-- I believe that literary criticism can change the world. I was rapidly disabused of that. And one of the things that I've learned. Academia produces great ideas. No doubt I learned a lot of academic theorys from onwards and before. But the human reality of academia is that academic beings are petty, vein and conformist. They have orthodoxes no matter their politics. And that is true by the way of the literary world and honey wood as well. I'm a cynic. I believe there is a distinction between what it is that we produce as writers and as int lek churls and artists and the actual conduct of ourselves in our human relationships. And so I just thought it was a test obviously. When I saw myself as a writer. I didn't think of myself as

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