Friday, December 02, 2005

30 years ago on this day, communist forces seized power in Laos. Thousands of civil servants, officials and officers would be arrested in the following days and weeks and sent to reeducation camps in the jungles of Saravane or Viengxay. Some would remain there for months or a few years; others would emerge like ghosts 14 years later. Many died, some from sickness, others from a blow to the head. It was not a killing fields, but it was brutal all the same. Today, despite an encouraging pattern of economic liberalization, watchdog groups consider the Lao People's Democratic Republic one of the most repressive regimes in the world. The communists tolerate no dissent whatsoever, and they persecute Christians.

I note this day, because while it's a bleak day in world history--a day a nation lost its freedom, it also marks the beginning of the migration of hundreds of Lao families into the Elgin area. It marks, in a sense, the birth of thousands of Americans, Elginites among them. But why did they come here? Of all places, why did these people fleeing misery, humiliation, hopelessness and starvation find in Elgin the key to the white city and the promise of America?


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