mia loves henry miller
Letter 16 – The Death of Kim Jong Il, My Korean Heritage, and My Life as a Liberated Woman Living in America
12/19/01 – 9:17 a.m.
“I have said over and over again that I can understand a man committing murder in passion; if I were a judge I would condone such crimes. But I cannot bring myself to believe that killing indiscriminately in cold blood, which is what war entails, is justifiable. As for killing an idea by killing the man who cherishes it, that to me is simply too preposterous for words.” –Henry Miller, Remember to Remember
Dear Henry Miller,
(I’m sorry – this letter is not laced with kinky, sexual stuff – but, it’s essential to my story)
I have a bitter taste of great dislike in my mouth for North Korea’s president, Kim Jong IL, who passed away yesterday from a heart attack, age 69. I am an American citizen. I’m grateful that I do not have to live in the outrageous conditions of control, or the same state of fear Kim Jong IL and North Korea has instilled inside so many people, for so many decades. But, I have extreme gratitude for my Korean ancestors and mother, who changed all of that for me and my present freedoms.
The information which I have on my mother’s family history is vague, but, I will tell you what I know – what I’ve been told. My maternal grandfather was once a very important man in North Korea, long ago, before the war – before communism over-ruled North Korea. He was once a high North Korean official and renowned orchard owner – one of the richest men in the country. My mother and her family lived a lavish life, pampered with servants until she was five – until the bombings occurred. Soon, after the outbreak of the war, and her family began their escape to the south, they had nothing, but the clothes on their backs.
My grandfather was a rebel, a poet, head of a resistance, and a writer against communism. He was a passionate man – a hero – leading so many North Koreans into the South. My mother has told me many stories about her dangerous journey – some of the stories stick like nightmares in my mind, as if chewing gum stuck amongst strands of long, thick hair. She told me how her mother sternly spoke to her, before their escape down the Yellow River, “Do not cry,” She warned, before getting on the boat, “or you will die.” My mother made no sound – not even when she witnessed a small infant being drowned by its mother, inside a boat behind them, because it was crying. My mother also told me of their family suffering from starvation, due to their long journey and low food supply. Her kidneys had failed during this time, due to malnutrition. A Shaman in the mountains healed her with medicinal herbs. She once observed an emaciated Korean Soldier killing another for the last bit of wooden bark on a tree, because it was edible. She told me about the horrifying rapes and pillaging of the small Korean villages she witnessed during their exhausting, foreboding travels into safety and freedom. My mother also told me about how my grandfather’s dangerous, underground endeavors had been revealed by an enemy, who pretended to befriend my grandfather for a long period of time, to the Chinese, who captured and severely tortured my grandfather. He died, still suffering from the severe torture he had cruelly endured years prior, when my mother was only seventeen.
My grandfather had nine wives. I’m unsure if he was married nine separate times, or had nine wives at one time – a concubine of wives??? My grandmother had been given to my grandfather, from someone who owed him a large sum of money, acquired from a gambling debt. My grandmother was to wipe out that debt with every inch of her soul. She must have been a very strong woman, to succumb to being treated like a piece of property, and given to a prominent man she didn’t even know or love. To me, that’s the ultimate form of submission and a heroic display of great strength. I don’t know how I would endure such an experience.
“I believe that the ideal condition for humanity would be to live in a state of peace, in brotherly love, but I must confess I know no way to bring such a condition about. I have accepted the fact, hard as it may be, that human beings are inclined to behave in a way that would make animals blush.” –Henry Miller, Sextet
Even though I have all of the liberties of being a strong, confident woman living in America, I still had many obstacles of racism to overcome. I was born during the end of the Viet Nam Conflict. The American population terrified of people with yellow skin and slanted eyes. The Japanese war didn’t help either. During then, Americans often ignorantly thought that people with slant eyes come from the same area – we were all the same. America wasn’t too friendly to my mother or her half breed children. I suppose her experience with racism is much like being a person from the Middle East in our present day, attempting to take a flight on vacation back to their homeland. Or, return from their homeland back to America. We are judged by the sins of others – regardless of who we are, due to the fear which rots and decays inside the minds of others.
My childhood as a half Korean and half American child departed painful wounds and scars. I was raised in a white suburban, neighborhood, just outside of Minneapolis. It didn’t matter that half of my heritage was European. I was still subjected to taunting, teasing, and cruelty by the pure white, European children in our school and neighborhood – which was a high majority. My skin was dark, my eyes slanted, my hair black and not blonde. I felt ridiculed, awkward, alienated, and separated from my peers. I found my refuge in many authors and books, which I read obsessively! I could easily disappear into a fictional world – a place where I always had good friends and a world where I always felt accepted.
My parents thought it would help, if my older brother, younger sister, and I, had more exposure to the Korean community in the Twin Cities area, either via a Korean church or school on Saturday or Sundays. I didn’t fit in there either. The racism for being a half breed girl was even more ridiculing than living in a white, suburban neighborhood. I didn’t fit anywhere! I didn’t realize how important, not fitting in, would be to me, until I matured as woman, appreciating my olive skin tone, my exotic appearance, and my dark brown, almond shaped eyes. (Side note: I think Anais Nin once wrote that she wanted to be reincarnated as an exotic, Asian woman – good choice!). Today, I’m glad that I don’t fit in with the norm. I’m comfortable to live in my own ethnic skin. I am finally okay with being who I am. It’s taken me many years to get to this point.
If I were living under the commanding, unfair living conditions of North Korea, today, I wouldn’t be such a strong, liberated woman, writing erotic letters to you via blog, Henry. I wouldn’t be a burlesque entertainer, exposing myself on the stage. I wouldn’t live the polyamorous life of an artist and writer. I would be afraid to live every second of my life, without the crazy dictatorship of a cruel, inhumane person, whose ugliness shows on his face, even in death. I would be weak, fearful, and a sheep, needing to be directed – told how to live my life.
Thank you mom for being so brave, granting me the freedoms which I have today, living in America. America has its faults – it’s not perfect – it’s often fucked up and dysfunctional – but, I’m grateful that I have this fucked up, dysfunctional America, where I can speak my mind, live freely, and find comfort in my safety. I do not fear bombs, killings, starvation, communism and control. I am free to be myself.
I must go Henry. I need to get some things done today.
“The world does not change, you change. And how do you change? By different attitudes.” –Henry Miller, This is Henry, Henry Miller from Brooklyn.