The documentary starts out with reports of a severe bombing attack on a Buddhist Laos temple, the second of its occurrence. We hear the background of the history of people escaping as refugees from Laos, then immigrating to Rockford Country largely. We get an insight on the significance of Buddhists in the Laos culture.
We hear harsh criticizing by white, dominant people in Rockford country, expressing discontent and reproducing stereotypes about the Laos people. Some excerpts include “they don’t know English, they eat dogs, they live off the government,” etc. Allegedly, they’re living better than the locals, with frustrations expressed by individual struggles of the locals, contrary to the lavish lifestyle the locals perceive the Laos people pertain. In addition, there are criticism they are even transcended the opportunity as the more popular minority in America, the African Americans.
The documentary spends great time emphasizing the collective support and interdependency between the primarily Swedish immigrants and the locals before the depression. However, the current shift to Asian, mixed neighborhoods is a subject of contempt.
We hear the story of a Laos immigrant express his regret and remorse being forced to shift from his passion for painting art to being resorted to building furniture to simply try to make a living with the little education and opportunity they have. However, we hear the difficult experience to escape to the United States despite racial notions connected to the Vietnam War, pressured by the torments of the war in Laos, pushing emigrants.
In the period of economic failure/depression in the 1970’s in Rockford country, characterized by wildly high unemployment, lack of jobs, and business closings. This even furthered the segregation and feelings of distancing tension between the locals and Laotians. Some say they blend in with their quiet behavior, but others, such as soldiers from the Vietnam War, have strong feelings they should be deported. Generally, we see culture shock from the locals in their observations and interactions of the Laotians. The monk in the example expresses how the unfamiliarity possessed by Americans, the ignorance against their culture, makes their integration and comfort in the process difficult. Overall, he wishes for the Americans to positively and open-mindedly understand the Laotians intentions of immigrations and be willing to see their true character rather than respond with prejudice immediately. In fact, attacks on the temple are normalized after national holidays.
The clergymen were shocked the investigations by the sheriff’s department did not materialize results. The clergymen accused the department of bureaucratic laziness as they didn’t make an effort t find a translator. The sheriff instead reports feelings of unfamiliarity and discomfort in bridging a relationship between law enforcement and the Laotians with so many cultural barriers. The police department nearly accepts and condones the troubles the Laotian minorities experiences, exclaiming they have to prove themselves to be accepted. However, this choice by the majority group to marginalize the Laotians discounts the strenuous, involuntary move experienced by the Laotians, then their constant effort to prove themselves in their hard work in their residing enclaved location(s). A law advisor suggests these refugees must be treated differently than immigrants because their move was forced without a choice, and they have much less than the immigrants can bring. The Goodwill manager actually affirms their hard work is much more long-term, focused, and high-quality than the local American employees. Money is the material, competitive resources the locals feel inclined to depend, but the Laotians describe the intentions to go beyond wealth but extends to wanting a general better life that they are working for. Laotians want to dismiss the misunderstood notions that Laotians’ deliberations are to steal jobs, just reap government resources, and take the reallocated wealth.
We get insight on the cultural Laotian celebration, including food and money, but primarily food to ground their related spirits with happiness. It’s very interesting the Laotians are eating for two: monks and spirits. Similarly, the water is poured to satisfy the spirits as well, and strings are tied to protect the people with illness, strengthened by the spirits. Similarly, to Christian culture, we view the ritual of praying, but to ask for forgiveness from their parental spirits, and uniquely, fire is conducted to burn the evils they perceive. It’s touching when we see these ethnicities collide in the Lutheran church ministry, baptizing across cultures, building bridging programs. It was comical when the Lutheran priest had to adapt to cultural dilemmas experienced. It was enlightening that the Asian cultures disregard religious differences without any single-choice pressures, and some Laotians even identified as both Christian and Buddhist. For some Laotians, Americanizing naturally includes involvement with the majority Christian religion. In addition, churches often offer resources and gifts for Laotian refugees, and at least for the Laotian immigrant priest, promoting Christianity, it was this relief which connected him to Christianity.
The value of family is highlighted in the Laotian culture. In their culture, a large family is maintaining and in contrast to Americans who put their parents in nursing homes, but the Laotians choose to take care of their parents just as their parents had taken care of them in their childhood. Interestingly, Laotian men often refer to becoming Monks because they believe it better equips them to take care of their families. This concept is a little foggy to me personally because I didn’t catch the context. I was very interested In the ceremonies in which these becoming-monks were purified and granted new duties with the temple.
The Laotians find pride in maintaining their culture even in their harshened immigration to Rockford, especially those who upheld their dedication in the role of monks. This demonstrates the challenge so great; it could be conceived to shake the foundations of identity for these immigrations, pressuring acculturation rather than inviting mere assimilation.
The part of the documentary during which the white citizens from Rockford, IL expressed their concern towards the Laotian refugees quite honestly disgusted me from the perspective of a 2020 viewer; we now understand the damaging effects of stereotypes placed upon various cultures, and it is evident that in this case the assumptions are glaringly incorrect. The Laotian refugees worked exponentially harder to provide for their family, which you pointed out was essential within their culture, whereas Americans believe they deserve the work that Laotians earn through their mere presence alone. I think your observation was insightful, and that the racial slur quotes you included especially highlighted the ignorance within Rockford.
I agree with your connections between Laotians and religion (both Christianity and Buddhism), while they continued to practice Buddhism they also welcomed Christianity into their homes and they were very grateful for the help that they received from the churches. As one of the immigrants mentioned that she could not forgot Buddhism because she was raised in it, however, she also said that she could not just ignore Christianity because it helped and provided for her when she came to America.
Nice summation. Any major takeaways?