New Opera Immortalizes Tragedy of Chinese-American Soldier

New Opera Immortalizes Tragedy of Chinese-American Soldier

A Foreigner in His Own Country

“Why are Asian Americans disproportionately targeted for abuse?

A harmonic convergence of factors. There’s the perception — and in some cases, the reality — of the “nerd” stereotype. The trinity of social awkwardness, physical frailty and academic overachievement has always served as a magnet for bullies.

There’s the rising tide of animosity toward immigrants, particularly those from predominantly countries that are seen as emerging rivals of the United States, like China and India.

There’s the plain old fact that those who are “different” in obvious ways — appearance, name, faith, accent — are often the focus of unwanted attention in environments where fitting in is prized, like high school. Or the military.

And especially among immigrants and the children of immigrants, there’s the reality that cultural and familial expectations push them to submit to bullying rather than being “disruptive” or succumbing to “distraction.” from CNN

AngryAsianGrrlMN casual racism that Asian Americans face when she writes:

This is the kind of casual racism that isn’t talked about, but that Asian people deal with on a regular basis.  We are the invisible minority, and we rarely get the kind of attention that other minorities do.

New York Magazine has an extensive piece about Chen’s experience, including his letters home from the military.  Here’s some of what he wrote to his parents:

“Everyone knows me because I just noticed, I’m the only chinese guy in the platoon,” he wrote home. His fellow recruits called him Chen Chen, Jackie Chan, and Ling Ling. But, he added, “Don’t worry, no one picks on me … I’m the skinniest guy and weigh the least here but … people respect me for not quitting.”

Four weeks later, the Asian jokes hadn’t stopped. “They ask if I’m from China like a few times day,” he wrote. “They also call out my name (chen) in a goat like voice sometimes for no reason. No idea how it started but now it’s just best to ignore it. I still respond though to amuse them. People crack jokes about Chinese people all the time, I’m running out of jokes to come back at them.”

The eight men later charged in connection with his death are all white and range in age from 24 to 35; they include one lieutenant, two staff sergeants, three sergeants, and two specialists. Danny’s parents, of course, are inconsolable at the loss of their only child.

New Opera Immortalizes Tragedy of Chinese-American Soldier

“In October of 2011, a Chinese-American soldier serving in Afghanistan was found shot dead in an apparent suicide after weeks of abuse by his fellow servicemen. An investigation showed that 19-year-old Danny Chen had been the subject of racial slurs and abusive treatment, including excessive guard duty and torturous exercises, accompanied by beating and taunting by other soldiers. The tragedy of the young man is the subject of a new opera titled An American Soldier, which premiers in Washington, D.C. on June 13.

Opera director David Paul says the courtroom set is gradually dismantled until it hits a wall of graffiti typically found in war zones.

“One of the things we want to show in the piece is how American justice fails this man and essentially falls apart and we are trying to get at the bottom of why, but as the piece progresses, it – American justice – fails us and so one of the things we are showing is that this courtroom as foundation of the story essentially disintegrates,” he said.

Creators of An American Soldier say they hope the opera will contribute to a closer scrutiny of a dark undercurrent in the U.S. military culture, and society in general.

From Voice of America

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