Friday, August 27, 2010

"Wide Awake in America"

The human need for acceptance is so strong that it can manifest itself into an addiction. Some people will go through any length to feel accepted. Once the pleasure of acceptance is felt, some people will do what they can to maintain this feeling despite any negative consequences.

This is a story of an American-Igorots’ struggle with finding acceptance in the totally Caucasian world he grew up in. Somehow, he has been given the opportunity to see himself as a boy growing up.  As he watches scenes of his youthful self growing up, a song finds its way into the picture. The name of the song is “Bad,” by the band U2. The lyrics come to life and magically become the man’s own words to his young-self:

“If you twist and turn away. If you tear yourself in two again. If I could, yes I would. If I could, I would. Let it go.”

The boy gets teased by white kids his age for having a flat and pudgy nose. They don’t know his ethnic background, but call him names like: chink, nip, pin head, zipper head, zero, gook and such. Pretty girls show no interest in him because he is different. This hurts him greatly.

“Surrender. Dislocate.”

He watches the boy do just that. He sees the boy abandoning his identity as an Igorot and before long, becomes disconnected from his true self. He continues to wish he could help the boy. . .

“If I could throw this lifeless lifeline to the wind. Leave this heart of clay. See you break, break away. Into the night. Through the rain. Into the half-light. Through the flame.”

Knowing the boy is about to take the wrong path in life, he wants so badly to steer the boy in the right direction . . .

“If I could through myself set your spirit free. I’d lead your heart away. See you break, break away. Into the light and to the day.”

The man wishes the boy knows what he knows. He knows not to be so influenced by society. He knows who he is. He is an Igorot, and most importantly a child of God. He knows real friends and loved ones will recognize this and false people will not. It took him many years to come to this discovery, and he doesn’t want the boy to wait so long to learn this. He wants the boy to wake up to this truth.

“To let it go! And so to find a way. I’m wide awake. I’m wide awake. Wide awake. I’m not sleeping, oh no, no, no.”

If only there were a way to get the boy to ask others who have gone through similar circumstances . . .

“If you should ask then maybe they’d tell you what I would say. True colors fly in blue and black. Blue silken sky and burning flag. Colors crash, collide in blood shot eyes.”

Oh, the man knows what he is going through. The boys’ struggles continue with him well into his young adult years. The plethora of feelings he sees rings a familiar bell . . .

“This desperation. Dislocation. Separation. Condemnation. Revelation. In temptation. Isolation. Desolation. Isolation.”

The man tries so hard to keep the wall of tears from collapsing. Again, the man wishes his young self will wake up . . .

“Let it go. And so find a way. To let it go, oh yeah. And so find a way. To let it go, oh No. And so fade away. I’m wide awake. I’m wide awake. Wide awake.”

U2 Bad (Wide Awake in America version) live in 1985 VIDEO

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  1. Very thoughtful and filled with emotion like the song itself. Do immigrant kids these day go through similar strugglings there in America?

  2. @ Justin . . . thank you. I am happy to say that things have dramatically changed for the better. The story mentioned took place in the 70's and into the 80's. Today, with the help of Japanese anime and opened global doors via the internet; being Asian can actually pretty "cool" for "many" kids. There is much less racial attacks & discrimmination (overall), but the need to conform to our society is even greater now and poses a greater challenge for the youth to say connected to their roots.

  3. Thank you for sharing this story of internalized oppression. Yes, Racism continues to exist in institutional fabric of America in white privilege, and in laws and attitudes that keep us down. However, today we have more options to build people through a positive claiming of their ethnic identity and certainly more freedom to roam the country then in previous generations.

    The biggest factor I find growing up an Igorot Filipino American is in how and what one's immediate family and their family system chooses to retain and pass down to the next generation. So often first generation immigrants get caught up in just trying to survive and in trying to live into some "American Dream" that they unconsciously choose assimilation without realizing this how much is lost in the midst of greater privilege. I like your parallels with U2. And I also know that have more Asian around does help, but even among Filipinos we are a minority, so the small things like family history - knowing where one's parents and grandparents come from and one's family lineage, dancing and playing the gangza regularly, not simply for performance at some ethnic dance festival or PCN but for everyday celebrations, visiting the homeland (if possible), and joining with fellow Igorots and their families can make a very positive impact on how one grows up to live into the world.

  4. @ Igorothighlander . . . Thanks for your comment. I agree with your perception of survival & the American Dream. People who come here from back home quickly realize how difficult life here in the US. Also, the word "assimilation" should've been added to the song along with the other "...tion" words.


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