“Teb Chaws Vam Meej” or “The Promise land” holds a different meaning, depending on who you talk. Hmong elders and first-generation Hmong-Americans see it as a Newfoundland, a country away from their previous war-torn country; another country if you follow the Hmong people’s history. It is the land where the Hmong can start again and embrace its inclusion no matter how many struggles we’ve had to go through to get there.
Remember the nomadic journeys and unfortunate bloodshed? Second-generation Hmong may see it as a land of opportunity. Growing up Hmong-American, I was taught that education was the key to success. Everything else was a privilege, not a right. Some of us took it seriously, and others are a disappointment for passing up these newfound opportunities.
Chances are that the young Hmong generation doesn't know the term “Teb Chaws Vam Meej” especially if they don't know their own culture and language (which is a pattern we continue to see more and more of). Statistics, anybody?
So what’s the point of all this? In just three generations, I see that we as a people went from escaping war to questioning our existence, and then immediately forgetting what it means to be grateful. While some continue to embrace their culture and pursue careers that better their community, many of our counterparts are choosing to escape and run as far as we can from cultural and community expectations. (We're immediately forgetting those who sacrificed or were lost in the Vietnam War.)
This isn’t a direct message for those who come from lines of “successful” Hmong and those who cared enough to continue teaching the younger generations the importance of life as a Hmong-American. It is, however, a cry out to the ones who have lost their way or refuse to acknowledge this movement of cultural adaptation, choosing one over the other instead of merging the two.
I don’t mean to put down anyone; whether those who follow the traditional route or those who refuse to even acknowledge they are Hmong. I do however want to know what motivates one to move forward in the culture they were raised in, or move forward in another culture. Is it the past that makes the difference? Or is it the future? I would like to meet in the middle.
Obviously, we have choices. Of course, it’s up to the individual to do what they will with their lives, whether it stays in their culture or find another culture to adapt to. We can build upon a history we choose to acknowledge or establish a new mix of cultures in this melting pot of America -- The Promised Land, right? After all, we’ve come from a long history of adapting.