I’ve been trying to write each weekday morning this year. Things started off well, but now I’m finding it hard to find the time to write and even harder to find the topics to write about.
One thing that I’ve though I should write about is the recent reporting about anti-Asian violence in America. I thought that the words would flow. But they don’t.
I think the reason they don’t flow on such an emotive and current topic is because of the emotion it evokes. The violence is the cherry on top of the compost heap as one former Australian prime minister called the incumbent. There’s much more to unpack about the Asian experience in America and Australia.
My Greek grandfather
My Greek grandfather, Jacabo Antonion “Jack” Kootsookos, went to Australia from his home in Kastellorizo, a little island off the Turkish coast. The story goes that he brought his mother with him, she hated Australia, so the first thing he had to do was to earn enough money to send her home again.
Jack was literate, as many from Kastellorizo are because of the many different languages swirling around that end of the Mediterranean. One thing that I found a few years ago in the Australian archive Trove is a series of letters to the editor that Jack wrote in conversation with a James Williams. The letters are interesting because James was insistent that Greeks were Asiatics“** and Jack wanted to disabuse him of this idea because of the negative connotations that this seems to have.
Jack passed away in 1944 or 1945, so I never met him. I only heard some things about him from my father, Anthony Kootsookos.
Jack Kootsookos's letter to the editor.
My Australian grandfather
My Australian grandfather, Robert “Bob” Simpson, was born in country New South Wales near Fifield and Parkes. Bob fought in World War II, and spent time in the Middle East and Papua New Guinea / Bougainville. It is because of this time in PNG, I believe, that he had a bad opinion of the Japanese. The only time I can recall this coming out was when Holden (the General Motors brand in Australia) decided to start using Japanese engines in its larger cars: Bob decided he wasn’t going to buy Holden again.
Bob passed away in about 1989, and it was only after this that I found out other things about my Australian grandfather.
Mum’s and Dad’s wedding pictures show them both, as well as my grandmother (Henriette Eliza “Et” Higgs), but Bob is nowhere to be seen. Apparently, my mother wasn’t marrying someone of her race, so Bob avoided the wedding.
It wasn’t until I was born, a blond-haired (yes, my hair has darkened), blue-eyed baby, that Bob started talking to my parents again.
Bigotry is rife
Given this background, I think I see now why it’s hard for me to write about the bigotry on display today. It’s hard for me to disentangle myself from it.