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Wuss and ssuW.

August 25th, 2001

There But for God....
It may even be world news, but certainly national news, the Ukrainian immigrant Nikolay Soltys, who has killed his pregnant wife, three year old son, two young cousins and elderly aunt and uncle in Sacramento and is now on the run somewhere here in California.

Many thoughts come to mind on something like this, but the one that came to me this morning as I was reading the paper, a memory, really, was of a scene from a book read to us in school when I was seven or eight years old.

Understand we are all immigrants here, some more recent than others. We came for a lot ofOakland Korean Independence parade. reasons. In school they like to talk about religious and political freedom, but mostly is was food. Most of us back then were starving. They talk about the great Irish potato famine. All those Irish men and women streaming through the ports. They don't describe the scene in Ireland, the bodies, the old and the young: men, women, children dead in the ditches, whole towns deserted. I remember Korea and Mexico in the late sixties: one year in Korea, three months in Mexico. Annual income a few hundred dollars. A description of our old family farm in Iceland, now a pile of rubble, the land fallow. No one of us there said a word. No one of us there asked why we'd come to America, why we now found our well fed selves in Seattle. Say a prayer. We said a prayer for our forebearers.

The book I remember was called (I think) The Little House on the Prairie, a story (or was it a series of stories?) read to second and third graders, about an immigrant family from one of the Scandinavian countries, a land of fjords and ocean. They lived in a sod house on a prairie that was flat and hard to the far horizon and I think the book is used to introduce kids to the idea that their families hadn't lived here forever, how some of them had come, how they'd adapted. One of the characters (the mother, I think) couldn't handle the change and ended up hiding in her cedar chest in the bedroom closet, this new world of unlimited horizons closing in around her.

I remember that. I didn't dwell on it, but for me that was the most vivid memory from the series: the mother, eyes closed, hiding in the darkness. I knew without knowing this was a lesson. Shit happened. Maybe, I don't know, maybe that could happen to you, happen in your family, so keep your eyes straight and keep on walking. Worlds can change, horizons collapse and you could find yourself in trouble. Not everyone survives a journey from ocean fjord to the heart of America.

So his guy, this guy from Ukrainian wherever, crawled into his own cedar chest, pulled the top down tight and killed his wife and children. There but for God....

Wuss in the mirror and another photo from the Korean Independence Day parade here in Oakland. The quote is from the play, A Woman of No Importance, by Oscar Wilde.