Well folksies, I had this great little story wrote up but then realized I forgot to save it, and when I restarted my computer I lost it. It was actually a somewhat difficult story to write and to tell because it involved death, and those stories are always so vivid and delicate. Anyways, I will try to reconstruct what I remember writing although it was a while ago already.
Sometimes, life has a way of just throwing everything you think you know in your face. Right now, my seemingly simple English lesson was staring me in the face flaunting its naivety. I was trying to teach my students family words like, mother, father, brother, sister... I thought it was a good idea to use questions to help them remember their new vocabulary. So, in bright blue ink across the whiteboard was written, "Do you have a father?. Yes, I have a father. No, I do not have a father.".
"No, I do not have a father. He was killed by the Burmese soldiers. I was only two at the time. The soldiers came to my village and everyone ran into the jungle. The soldiers threw me into the river. I could not swim. Someone found me. My father stayed behind to face to the soldiers because he was a Karen leader. Later my mother went back to the village to find him. She found him dead. They had cut off his hands, and arms..."
The Burmese soldiers, well, literally cut off anything that could be cut off. His ears, his nose... even his heart had been cut out and then stuffed into his mouth. This person's father had been mutilated in death. Its a gross story really, and very demoralizing. Sometimes, I meet someone and he/she tries to convince me that people are basically good but, then I hear a story like this and I am not convinced that as humans we are somehow just good. No, we only live in a good way when we consciously choose to do so. In the same way, the soldiers that committed this atrocity knowingly carried out their dirty deed. It was a choice for them. They didn't have to do that. Just as his father didn't have to be brave, but he made a choose to face the soldiers even though he most likely knew how it would end.
My student's only memory of his father is of his death. He remembers his death all too well. He speaks to me in frustration and anger, and with a vindictive attitude. "I am not afraid of death. I will become a soldier in the KNLA (KAren National Liberation Army) I want to fight them." But, what about his own son? Because this student of mine is married already and has a little boy. What will his own child remember about him?
I ask him, "Will you feel better after you kill someone?". But, my translator refuses to translate that. She wants him to be a soldier and fight too. What the Karen don't realize is that the game has already changed in Burma. That the country is opening up, so that soon the Karen won't need to fight anymore but, they keep living in their memories of the past and the wrongs they have experienced.
The past is gone and the present has come, so I want to say to them, let go of the past and be a part of the change now. Even if the country is opening up mostly for economic development and profit. It might not be what the people of Burma have been dreaming of. A free Burma, independent and with a democracy, but if the ruling elite finally decides to open up the country and let some of its power go, take that opportunity and run with it because it might be the only chance you get.
The change that is coming to Burma, in my opinion, is like a flooding river. It cannot be stopped. The waters of change have been accumulating and growing over a long period of time added to slowly by drop after drop. Once the flood waters of change starts to flow over the banks of society and people, it spreads over the low ground first slowly filling up all the spaces and then rising even more. For Burma, lets hope its a good change and work towards that. Its up to the Karen, and all the others in Burma who have been killed, attacked, and oppressed to stand up now and say that they won't allow that to happen again. Ideally, the elite, its propaganda, and those who supported the ruling military junta in the past, also need to acknowledge the wrongs of its past and the atrocities it committed. But, eventually, no one will remember what happened there anyways. It will only be a past recorded and found in history books, and not a living reality anymore. Perhaps, thats how it should be because if we live in the past, in our memories, and in the wrongs we have experienced, we won't truly be living now, in the present. We will be a prisoner of the past. In order to be a true survivor we must be living in the present. The same goes for all those who have suffered wrongs and oppression around the world. Let go of it, and live the life you have right now.