Chapters 13 & 14

Chapter 13 discusses the end of Lia’s time in the hospital. At this point she is comatose and the doctors believe that she is dying. It is interesting that now that Lia is dying, they are allowing the Lee’s to perform spiritual healing rituals because her wellbeing is essentially out of their hands. The shaman performed a ritual, the family put an herbal remedy down Lia’s nasogastric tube, and they dressed Lia in her funeral clothing despite the doctors telling them not to. However, when her family wanted to take her home to die, even dying had to be done in a “medically acceptable manner”. Western doctors decide what is acceptable and what is not, even when the matter is out of their hands and there is little they can do.

Chapter 14 continues to show just how unaccepting and unsympathetic Americans are of otherness. Conquergood calls it “uneasiness”, but that word doesn’t seem strong enough. The chapter provided many infuriating examples, but the most striking to me was when they named the Hmong “the most primitive refugee group in America”, to which a Hmong computer specialist replied, “Evidently, we were not too primitive to fight as proxies for the United States troops in the war in Laos” (pg. 188). The Hmong feel like they deserve the public assistance money after fighting and giving their lives for Americans. They expected a hero’s welcome. I cannot imagine how unfair it must feel as a Hmong refugee to be treated like nothing by Americans again and again. Timothy Dunnigan makes a really good point that, “the kinds of metaphorical language that we use to describe the Hmong say far more about us, and our attachment to our own frame of reference, than they do about the Hmong” (pg. 189). The doctors at MCMC show how attached we are to our frame of reference. Even as readers, how we judge the Hmong for not understanding things that we deem obvious shows how attached we are.

It is also interesting to get insight about how the Hmong deal with trauma. It was reported that on average, Hmong refugees experience 15 major trauma events. The talk by Dr. Coleman last Friday talked about including other cultural views and experiences of PTSD, as well as what to do when people experience traumas throughout life. Looking at PTSD in the Hmong would be fascinating. Their perspective on trauma is much different that what we might expect. For example, to them, Lia going to Fresno and getting sick was sadder than everything that happened to them postwar. I would be curious to find out how the Hmong experience would fit into the Western DSM definition of PTSD.

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