Fluidity in Identity: Linh Phan Chats about the US, Freedom and Vietnam – My Life in China Series Episode 3

Before we sat down for this interview, I braced Linh that I wanted to talk about what it felt like for him to be a majority in China compared to a minority in the US. Watch the video to hear his thoughts about identity. Read more to here my thoughts on treasuring diversity and identities.  

Linh Phan is a very cool guy. He’s one of my favorite coworkers, because I never leave our conversations upset.  We’ve talked about serious issues before, racism being one of them.  He has the rare skill to disagree in a respectful way without shutting down a conversation. I have to confess, I could learn several pointers from him.

He’s the type of teacher we need in schools, especially in the US where groups become so divided more often than united because of the inability to treasure diversity. Treasuring diversity does not mean all issues that could cause disagreements are shoved under the surface and never talked about. That’s social censorship, also known as grown-up-pants peer pressure.

Treasuring diversity means we’re encouraged to talk about our beliefs, (related to faith or not) in respectful ways. Treasuring diversity means we understand no one has reached a full knowledge of truth, but that we are all striving toward that truth. Treasuring diversity enjoys informed debates rather than seeing them as conflict.

Treasuring diversity is academic and based on knowledge and facts, not on baseless opinions and offhanded, biting remarks. Treasuring diversity lets us look into our own identities and cultures to examine what is cultural, what is harmful in our culture, and what still needs improvement.

Linh and my conversation took a turn into a topic that many Americans might find offensive or ludicrous. Is China freer than the United States? Linh and I definitely agree that there’s a different type of freedom in China unavailable in the US. This post talks about this a bit more. For those of you sensitive to strong language, the basic sum of the article is that China thinks the freedom in the US has lead to Trump. They point out that Hitler and Mussolini were both elected through democratic elections.

But really, if an American hasn’t traveled, what can he or she compare American freedom to? I thought living in China would be dangerous and stifling as a Christian based on media reports, but I feel safe in Beijing.

I don’t remember what we were expecting when we first moved here, but I remember Bethany (a family friend living in Beijing) assuring me that I would have access to all necessary living essentials. Beijing really is a wonderful place to live.

Beijing has become part of my identity, just like it’s become a part of the identities of other expats who live here.
As I thought over this great conversation with Linh, I also thought about how my identity was ungrounded as a young child and teen. The fluidity of my identity has not changed, even though my identity has found a solid foundation in Christ.

Linh Phan Photography Vietnam
I love Linh’s photography. This specific picture wast taken in Phong Nha Ke Bang, Vietnam. Please check out his photography and poetry on his tumblr, Teachernomad.

Linh’s identity is fascinating to me, especially how it’s been formed by trips to Vietnam. During the interview, I was wiped out – so I missed the opportunity to ask on video about the stories he learned while in Vietnam. He graciously sent me a few short tidbits to include for you here.

“I found out I had an older sister who died when she was 3. This was in the 70s. She was my parents’ first kid.

I can’t imagine how Linh would have felt finding out he had an older sister!

“My dad went to prison after the war ended for 10 years. They had me and my sisters after he got out.”

I’m sure Linh’s mother is a remarkable woman, having suffered the loss of a child and then the loss of her husband to prison. Then waiting for him for ten years to restart life with a man who was separated from her, at least through prison bars.

“My parents used to make peanut candies together for a living.”

If you have any questions for Linh, feel free to ask on my Facebook page where I’m sure he’d be happy to answer questions.

Don’t forget to check out Linh’s tumblr!


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