This weekend, Lao American artist Nor Sanavongsay shared his update of a classic Captain America cover. This year marks the 75th anniversary of Captain America, and I'm reminded of a point in time when our writers and artists weren't driven by an urge to present what was strictly "profitable" or "popular" but were willing to put their convictions on the line in their art.
For Lao Americans with roots in the refugee experience and our post-war diaspora, I've often argued that we have a responsibility to remember the importance of freedom, free expression and civic engagement as part of a participatory democracy. And there must always be vigilance against those who would use their freedom to the disadvantage and exploitation of others. This is hard for many. There's an impulse to not rock the boat. But we can and MUST reach for the better nature within ourselves, even when it seems contrary to our own self-interests.
Quoting W. Somerset Maugham: "If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too."
For the Lao American artists and writers of today, we have a responsibility to challenge ourselves and our community to imagine what it might be like to live fully within our freedoms to the benefit of all. Even if there are those in our society who undermine and abuse those privileges, how might we nurture the best practices, the highest ideals so many fought for for this generation and the next yet to come? What might our heroes look like, if we cannot find them among us today?