Monday, June 15, 2015
Why I write --6-15-2015 by Kyi May Kaung (Ph.D.)
Contrary to what a friend thinks, "What are you wishing for, you who chooses to live in a condo in a sophisticated city?"
I am not yearning for a return to the land--except when dead, and even then I might ask to be cremated.
I am not a Christian and don't believe things have to be preserved for the Judgement Day.
But what reading Stephen Ambrose's Crazy Horse and Custer, Michael Blake's Dances with Wolves and now Dee Brown's Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee, has done to me is, I feel a great sense of injustice at what was done to the Native American, and I thought it might be better now, but it is not with the fracking in N. Dakota on reservation land.
Now I do not even know how to get myself to a reservation to see for myself, or to the Black Hills or just Pine Ridge Reservation.
This same friend about ten years or fifteen years ago, accused me to "being in love with danger" for going to Thailand and the Burma-Thai Border (never got there because no one wanted to take me),
but that is not it either.
Only Sebastian Junger is "in love with danger."
I am as scaredy cat as anybody else.
I asked famous National Geographic photographer Reza in 2011 at an NEIU photo session--how he dealt with the constant threat of death and the fact that like all or most of us, he has a family too.
His reply--"Well, I suppose somewhere out there, there is a bullet with my name on it. But I have been dodging it for so long,"
here he made zigzag motions in the air with his hands and his body
and he does have, I think, a very good sense of direction, for when a whole carload of us was lost from trying to follow the directions from the GPS at the same time as we followed what we thought was the other car
we got hopelessly lost in Chicago.
I recognized the fake leaning tower of Pisa that I had seen on my way in from O'Hare to the campus.
Finally, R. took charge and walked us in on the telephone with our host.
What I mean to say is, he did not say he would stop going on these dangerous assignments.
He did not say he would retire and cut down on work.
I can't say I will stop reading, thinking, writing and painting either.
But I do feel more needs to be done for Native Americans.
And all I know how to do is to write and paint, so I will write about this and paint their portraits.
Surprisingly, except for Toshunka Uitco who refused to have his photo taken, there are photos of almost all the main leaders of the Tribes.
I don't think one "stumbles on one's subject matter" by accident.
It may not be preordained as I don't believe in god or destiny, but there is a logical progression.
In 2011 I stopped writing about Burmese issues because I felt the wave of "Burma is changing rhetoric" was too much.
So I moved back to an emphasis on fiction.
I am naturally drawn to rebels.
My novel Wolf was originally called Burmese Rebel.
Then I picked up again my Genghis reading which I started in Philadelphia about 1994 when I lived in a rental upstairs of this same friend.
How I got to reading again of the Native Americans (I read Ambrose in about 2001) is there are certain similarities between Plains Indians and the grassland Mongols.
And I just wanted to read all these books that I had heard so much about.
No, I don't want to return to the wild, I don't even want to return to Birama--
but I do want to see some kind of justice done, and the only way is through fiction.
People may not know this, but writers are motivated by a lot of things.
In the case of Dominique Dunne, he wrote that the man (boyfriend?) who strangled and killed his daughter got away with a very light sentence.
For a while Dominique and his son stalked this man--then he decided to do it another way.
He started his TV program on killers who got away.
He has even written one novel he calls fiction as memoir, in which he describes his role in covering the OJ Simpson trial.
He also wrote about a murder in the extended JFK family.
He said that "fiction has a way of shaking free fact"
and while he was promoting this book, he was approached by many people who knew the murderer.
I follow his philosophy of writing.
I think few people know what makes me tick, except for one person whose name I do not recognize at all, who very perceptively analyzed my Goose poem.
I did not even think in such depth when I saw the geese flying and wrote it.
I am afraid to say it, but sometimes friends and relatives, even close relatives are amazingly twisted in their thinking, and very personalized.
And strangers too.
One classmate thought I wrote about a Hispanic woman presdt. of the USA during 9/11 (in my story Saving the World Bit by Bit) because I wanted to be presdt. of the USA myself.
Ha ha--that is not possible for the foreign-born, even for The Philanthropist.
And how I "chose to live in a condo in a sophisticated city" was I came here for a job broadcasting to Burma, bc I thought I would give it three years.
I bought my own place bc I took one month's leave without pay in 1999 to write, and I decided if the turkeys at work could buy their own place, so could I.
Nien Cheng told us in person she had --$$ in blue chip funds when she came to the USA, and wrote Life and Death in Shanghai in a condo.
What's so bad about a small condo?
I don't get it.
I don't say "You who choose to live in an elegant townhouse in an equally sophisticated city."
I have millionaire friends, but I am just happy if they choose to do some social justice work.
In Boulder, CO, one musician told me "Everyone is a liberal here, but it all stops at private property."
and my Burmese-Muslim friend said,
"Well, except for the Native Americans, everyone came from somewhere else."
It still does not change the fact that this nation was based on a planned and systemic mass genocide.
My City Planning professor called it--Righting Ancient Wrongs.
Photos from 2011
Candle is sacred fire I brought from Chicago, from a Native American Teacher.
Posted by Kyi May at 2:12 PM