Being Kind to Our Own Kind

Photo by Brittani Burns on Unsplash

Sans papiers, written by Vietnamese poet, Lê Thị Diễm Thúy, left me bewildered at first read; I had no idea what it meant. On a hunch, I searched up what “sans papiers” meant. Google told me that it was French for illegal immigrants. It came to me all at once as I read the poem once more.

The lines “feel the past course through you and then fall” and “weigh the seas you swallowed to swim here” hit me the most. Since she was from Vietnam, I wondered if she wrote this poem about the Vietnamese refugees who fled on boat and if she herself was also a refugee. I watched her TED Talk where she revealed to the audience that she escaped Vietnam on April 30th, 1978. This hit very close to home since my dad also escaped on boat 2 years after her.

Feel the past course through you and then fall. My dad had to leave his brother behind, who was imprisoned by North Vietnam at the time, similar to how Lê Thị Diễm Thúy left without her mom. I can’t imagine how hard it was to leave your native land and not having the rest of your family with you.

Weigh the seas you swallowed to swim here. The Vietnamese refugees faced many hardships trying to get to America. And even in America, hardships were inevitable and it was not easy to adapt to the new environment. Since we were all immigrants before, we need to be compassionate to immigrants who just arrived in America. That used to be us. It’s time for us to weigh their seas that they swallowed to swim here.

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Doris Nguyen

Doris Nguyen

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