Breaking The Mold: The Patrick Lew Story

My friend Patrick Lew is not the stereotypical Asian American guy people think of. He decidedto go on his own path to pursue his dreams of being a musician and being happy. This paper is using deconstruction to explain his difficulties dealing with his culture, disabilities, and his dreams. I picked him because his story is like a lot people who are children of immigrants but it is also not like themeither. He still struggles with his family’s expectations and disappointments with him. This still hurts him which makes him sometimes hate his own ethnic identity.

The first sign is being the child of immigrant parents from China and Taiwan. They came to the United States in the early nineteen-eighties. They worked in hotels and restaurants to make ends meet. They expected their two sons to have a hard work ethic and strive to have a successful career. Patrick with all his problems does work hard at his job and his manager has taken notice too. On the other hand, he likes to go out and have friends and sometimes slack off and listen or play his music instead of working. This by his parents has been seen as being lazy and does not want to do anything to better his life. His love of music and wanting to be a musician has been the biggest rift between him, his father and his father’s side of the family. They want him to just work and have a career without following hispassions. Being a musician is looked down upon because it is seen as a crazy dream. It is also seen again as lazy, not normal and will not make enough money to support him and take care of his father. His dad made sure to tell him there was no such thing as an Asian rock star. The other signifier is having a good job could mean good status for his family in their community. From Patrick’s experience and what he told me “having a high social status is everything to many Asian Americans.” For his dad, he wanted Patrick to be married, a career, a car and his own place, He does have his car but got help from the family to pay it off. This signifies that Patrick is not responsible and does not have a good enough  job. He is also seen as not being able to fully take care of himself financially. Patrick does have a full time retail job but it is minimum wage. This is seen to many of his peers as having no direction and does not have any drive.  This also breaks down the idea that he would not be able to support his elders. In his culture, his duty is to his elders. He and his brother did not go get a big career and actually his brother dropped out of high school. The other sign is competition that does go on in the family. This is signified between he and his brother moneywise. His brother does pay for the home and his own car. He works at the same place that their father did and makes more than Patrick. His economic status makes him look more responsible and desirable.

The next sign that makes Patrick not seen like his fellow Asian male peers is that he has multiple disabilities. He has learning and mental disabilities that have been making his life not easy. This is seen as not only something wrong with him but makes him looked down upon. By having a disability, he’s also seen as a burden on his family. The family then feels shame because the disabled person wouldlikely not be able to move up in society on their own. Another thing Patrick has to deal with because of having a disability, was being bullied. This was how we became friends because I stuck up for him in high school when not many people did. Oddly enough, he was mostly bullied by his fellow Asianclassmates. The favorite insult at the time was calling him “retarded”. Retarded is another signifier that shows that having a disability makes a person undesirable in a culture and it seems especially with Asian American students. This shows another problem of having a disability means that a person isunintelligent and not capable of being able to do anything. As being a son of immigrants, they did not know how to handle his problems very well. They believed the best thing was just let him sink or swim even though they needed help. His parents thought that was the acceptable way of dealing with his issues because this was how they dealt with them in China and Taiwan. They would also blame him for their problems either financially or emotionally. This is something many disabled children face in their upbringing and I know from my experience plus Patrick’s. Again, this is showing the signifier of being a burden to the family. The other problem is he had a problem with academics. As an Asian American, people automatically think that an Asian is good academically. In many cultures like Asian, academic progress is a big deal status. Patrick was a “C” student through high school and college with little help at home. He did beat the odds and got his BA in philosophy. When it comes to career many believedisabled people cannot work or only can do the bare minimum. He works a full time job in a highshopping area in San Francisco. He may not move up at his job but again he is happy.

Another sign of breaking from the mold is his love of music and dreams of being a full-time musician. On the outside, people especially her Asian peers would laugh at him for his dreams. This idea also signifies rebellion against his family, traditions, values and their culture. His dad sometimes has said to give up his music because it goes against what they want for him. The other part of rebellion is not wanting to follow the path that is expected of him. Rebellion is also seen as shaming the family and the Asian culture. He told me that shaming the family is probably one of the worst offenses you can do to the family. Another signifier when it comes to music is that the person has their heads in the clouds. Which also can also signify laziness or someone without discipline which discipline is a big thing he preached about with his upbringing. Lack of discipline is also seen as a form of shaming the family. Then the other hand another signifier is that the person is creative. Creativity when broken down is also another form of intelligence oddly enough. Some of the most intelligent people are the ones who are creative. Which include director Akira Kurosawa who was considered one of the geniuses of cinema not only of the Japanese genre.

           

The big picture is that everyone is an individual like Patrick is and still maintain their cultural identity. He always says I am an Asian American before saying anything else even before saying he is a musician. Being disabled should also be brought up in ethnic politics because each group seems to treat their disabled children and family members differently. They do all see them as burdens and sometimes as not human. In the past in China, children who have been disabled have been killed just like female children. There is now a disparity between the sexes with more males and sometimes the girls just put up for adoption. The other part of the picture is that many children of immigrants have an extra pressure on themselves to do well to get their parents approval because they have been told about their sacrifices that the parents made. If a child decides not to do the path that was expected, it is considered a slap in the face to all those sacrifices that were made to make ends meet in the new country. In ethnic politics in America, this topic comes about which is immigrant parent and child versus the Americanized child and family of that certain ethnic group. Patrick is an example of the Americanized Asian male in the United States who believes in the liberalism ideals of the individual. He does not go with group mentality that his fellow peers do and even his family who came from a communist country. Where money was not really available to them. The other thing is usually the Americanized children end up becoming home owners, having careers and getting married. Many actually marry outside of their ethnic group which brings more of the melting pot theory of the United States. The Americanized children many of themend up with a college degree like Patrick did and does contribute to society.

          

  Patrick is one of the most resilient people I know and thought his story was the real ethnicAmerican story.  Ethnic politics in America is about breaking down the stereotypes to help peopleunderstand other cultures and ethnicities and how they may vote, have power or contribute to the United States. Each ethnicity and culture has something to contribute to our society in the United States and people like Patrick show this. Unfortunately, there are stereotypes of any ethnicity is still being used on judging people in this country. We still see this every day and people like Patrick is trying to break the stereotypes.

 

           

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Nadia Nehme