When Modern Meets Tradition

As I look at my pictures from the trip I took back to my birth place in 2014, this picture speaks so many things to me and about me. I am of two worlds or more like of three worlds. I can not live with or without the other…I am in a never ending battle being pull in so many different directions. I yet still have to find my peace and learn to balance….IMG_8077

And the war played on…

Many years ago there was a song by an American band and the lyrics went something like this, “War, war! What is it good for? Huh. Absolutely nothing! Say it again.” War has many faces. And all of the faces of war are fearsome, gruesome and beyond anything resembling a humanity which touts itself as evolved.

For many refugees like myself war doesn’t magically stop when you leave a war torn country. The disarrayed fragments of your demolished homeland stay with you. The horrific images painted upon your mind like a unrelenting nightmare. The smell of too much blood and decaying bodies, the rotting and disheveled dreams lay within a wasteland where nothing good co-exists alongside such surreal evil. Yes, you may take the person out of the war but you can’t so easily take the trauma of war out of the person.

War has a dismaying way of staying with you like a mendicant cloud overshadowing everything like a fine dust impossible to clean. It clings to you like a heavy weight too, and if one isn’t careful it can drag you down into darkness.

It is troubling beyond measure how warmongers seldom give a thought to the complete horror of the wars they wage. How war can rip the very soul out of a nation: brother against brother, father against son and tribesmen against tribesmen. War kill dreams like a plague of locusts devouring a once thriving and verdant landscape. Because of greed, pride or some other unknowable selfish motives men are willing to risk countless lives to obtain the reigns of power, riches and status.

Who suffers? In reality we all do.

However, it is the women, children and elderly who bear the brunt of such egocentric brutality. The very people, the women, who are the mothers, lovers and wives of a nation are cut down without a care. The children. Those who are willing to risk the lives of children are among the most barbaric evildoers ever to roam the earth, for killing children is the equivalent of damning the future of a nation into oblivion. Finally, there are the elders to consider. If men are possessed of such madness which enables them to throw away a countries’ wise then how can they ever hope to obtain wisdom in the bargain? They only fool themselves into thinking they can gain the upper hand on wisdom by perpetrating such unwise acts of violence.

“Every time we lose an elder we lose a library and our very heritage falls by the wayside.” 

Refugees Must Do Amazing Things

If you are of the opinion that political refugees have it easy, then I am here to inform you of your misguided thinking. I would like to know how the average American would fare if they too were uprooted from all they knew, got flown to a host country in which the citizenry speaks a foreign language, and on top of all of that find gainful employment within 90-days. Are you up for the challenge? Being a refugee isn’t an easy thing, not even close. Because while you are doing all of these amazing things you must still do them with the memory of war fresh and raw in your mind. One does not sit still long enough (or they sit in a refugee camp too long, for years) while they are going through the resettlement process, for there are visas to apply for and reams upon reams of documents which have to be completed. There are medical screenings (all physical exams, nothing psychological) and once you pass those, you must simply wait. Like I said, it can take years. In our case we only had to wait four-years and we were among the lucky ones. Some families (or what remained of a family) languished for over a decade to get processed. Some new refugees are still waiting in limbo.

Mental Health? What Is That?

Depression, as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is common throughout the political refugee community, however treating it, not so much. And to date there is no treatment readily available to combat this ongoing problem. I get it, treatment costs money, but if you are going to offer refuge it must be offered for the mind as well as the body. Currently, there are no (or vastly limited) mental health outreach programs for political refugees and this must change.

And while we’re having this conversation we might as well talk about the stigma of one’s unstable and often times eroding mental health. Most cultures, American culture notwithstanding, are reticent when it comes to acknowledging and seeking out mental health treatment. If you think mental health issues are polarizing in American culture it is doubly and tripling so for most foreign cultures as well. I have watched firsthand how family and friends bend and eventually break under the stress of depression, cultural shock, societal alienation and PTSD . It is not a pretty picture.

Humanitarian Situation in South Sudan from Hye Jung Han on Vimeo.

I still suffer from anxiety and depression, which stems directly from the reverberations of the ongoing war in South Sudan. I have lost many family members and there are friends I will never see again. I lost my father to the war and many aunts, uncles and cousins too many to count are still currently languishing in refugee camps located in Ethiopia.