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Wet Sand and Unrealized Hope for America (Sa-I-Gu, Part 6)

June 25, 2012

In my attempt to present a realistic picture, I may be guilty of painting a dark picture–so dark that there seems to be no light or hope anywhere. But I will be guiltier if I left these essays without sharing the hope I see.

It is true that many victims shared their unrealized hope for America. Even some of those pessimistic ones and others around them refused to abandon hope, but their hopes were sober and realistic. More and more African Americans, other minorities and even whites who lament the fundamental wrongs of society learn not to rely on politicians but to instigate grass-roots movements to push politicians.  Rather than move out from worsening neighborhoods, they remain and take action to improve them.

A lot of us know and believe in the need of communities coming together to prevent the fire next time and fight for the “unrealized hope, America.”

The premiere of Sa-I-Gu was held at the Smithsonian Institute in late 1992. I invited Mrs. Jung Hee Lee and Mrs. Young Soon Han. I remember going up to the podium with Mrs. Lee to translate her remarks. I stood by her. She began, “Koreans bury their parents in the graves when they die but when their children die, they bury them in their chests.” Mrs. Lee spoke in Korean, her voice shaking, oblivious of the tears flowing down her cheeks. Smitten with her sorrow, and blinded with my own tears, I could hardly speak but I did translate how she buried her son in her chest, word by word. The soulful sorrow of this mother who lost her only son to the riot made the audience immobile, as if cold water had been thrown on them.

Mrs. Lee’s narrative is not racial or particular—it is universal—DEPTH OF MOTHER’S SORROW! Mothers in different cultures might express their sorrow and pain differently, but the sorrow is universal.

If we allow ourselves to feel the sorrow of mothers who lost their children to senseless wars, riots, poverty and crimes, we would feel and know the need to hold tight the wet sand and add all of our lumps together to make it as big as we can, no matter how frail the lump is. We need to make lumps of wet sand tirelessly and constantly, no matter how fast and often the sand dries and slips through our fingers.


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