Monday, December 31, 2007

Can't Go Home Again

The Philly Inquirer runs an interesting piece on Cambodian kids whose families fled to the U.S. after the communist takeover, grew up and took to a life of crime and thuggery, then got deported back to one of the poorest places on earth because they never bothered to get citizenships.

The writer, I think, works the sympathy angle pretty hard. We're told that the destabilization of Cambodia was because of the U.S. war in Vietnam (as though, had we just let the communists take over Vietnam, they would never have noticed Cambodia), or that the thugs are helpless products of the mean streets of Philadelphia (where the vast majority of Hmong and Cambodian kids nonetheless grow up to be decent enough citizens).

Compared to this, the thugs themselves are refreshingly straightforward about their lives and their situations. Even though the reporter condescendingly dismisses a lot of it as bravado. I think the Cambodians -- the ones who always have been there -- got it right when they sized up the returnees and their attitudes: "They say, 'These guys went to heaven, but they didn't know how to act in heaven, so they got sent back to hell.' "