I was born in a place that was the cradle of a civilization that has over 5,000
years of history and I was quite proud this. However, just as I was leaving my
own cradle, my parents left China for the land of opportunity, the United
States. I was only a couple of years old and this new place fascinated and
frightened me. There were more cars and the city lights in the distance seemed
like terrestrial stars. Only a small group of people around me spoke the same
language as me and there were a wide variety of different skin colors that I
had never seen before. I did not fit in. It became apparent when I started
school. I had to work twice as hard to learn a new language while trying to
keep up with the rest of the class. My elementary years passed by with few
problems. I was quiet and my intelligence was respected. I had few insults
thrown at me by some of my fellow peers but I ignored them. It was part not
knowing what the meanings of the words were and part too busy worrying about
not disappointing my parents.
was in middle school when things started going south. It was the first time I
brought home anything lower than an “A” and my parents were furious.
is this?” my mom said as both of my parents came into my room.
my report card,” I said meekly.
is this on it?” my mom’s voice was calm considering her rage.
a 79,” I said avoiding eye contact.
is that a good grade?” she asked as she raised her voice.
mom and dad were furious. They took a risk and moved to the U.S. for a better
life for me and then worked morning to night to get money to feed and house me
and this is how I repaid them. It was a betrayal in their eyes. After my beating I was deprived of any free
At school I learned that the name calling I experienced was bullying. In
middle school it was more prevalent and I understood it. I was being attacked
from both sides.
Most of the
insults were generic derogatory terms that were directed at Asians. They hurt
but they were not enough to truly anger me.
“You’re a chink.”
“Go eat your bowl
These were only
some the racist insults thrown at me and does not include the terms “geek,”
“nerd,” and “loser.”
One day we were
learning about Communism and the fact that China was a Communist nation came
up. One of the tall and preppy, white, blonde-haired kids, who harassed me
before, picked up on this and felt it was good enough to use it against me. He
called me a “fucking Commie” while wearing his sunglasses indoors and looking
down on me with his stupid smug face.
Normally this kid’s insult meant nothing,
but this term infuriated me.
I had lived in the United States for almost ten
years and I was well assimilated. I had been taught how great democracy was and
how great the United States was for being a democracy. The fact that my native
China was Communist troubled me. At that point I was taught that Communism was
a terrible form of government and was generally associated with Stalin, the
Soviet Union, North Korea, and other distasteful things in history. I was
bothered by this and my oppressor seemed to pick up on this and continued to
call me a “Commie” for most of middle school. His friends joined in and the
insults that I normally was able to ignore also began to infuriate me. I didn’t
want to go to school and home provided little solace. It was not until I was
banned from the only thing that provided me with a haven, video games, did I
I was trapped. I was fighting a war on two fronts. I was losing on both. Now with
my only haven ripped away from me, I didn’t know how much longer I could hold
out. It was during the 8th grade when the public school system
believed that we were indoctrinated enough for them to teach more advanced history.
I learned of hypocrisy. I learned of failure. I learned that there were
fallacies in what we were taught.
Democracy no longer seemed to be the ideal to
me any longer
A maelstrom of ideas appeared before me. It thrashed about in my
head for some time and that was when it happened. My mind was at its calmest in
a long time. The storm had passed. There was only one idea left. The reason why
they called me a Communist was because they wanted to make it look like
Communism was just as bad as democracy so I wouldn’t become a Communist. They
feared Communism. They feared the Reds. They feared those godless people to the
So if they feared me becoming a Communist, then I was obligated to
fulfill those fears as vengeance. When it was time for my oppressors to attack
me, I lashed out at them. Not with fists, but with words. No longer was I that
awkward, quiet Asian kid who sat in the front row of the class by choice. They
were disturbed and the feeling I got from that was pure ecstasy. They no longer
could attack me with their weapons, because their ammunition had long run dry,
but I had weapons known as logic and words stockpiled for years. Only now I knew
how to use them and I gave these bullets purpose.
With this moment of clarity,
I finally felt strong enough to break out of the shackles of inferiority. The
self that was bound inside finally emerged. The me that was locked away in the
dark for so many years finally took its first step into the light. I was free.
The real “I” was free.
Victory was mine and now all I had to do was consolidate this. I used the freedom I
gained to reinforce my new found persona. It leaked out everywhere and
everything about my life became dyed in red, the color of Communism. I
addressed people differently, I was not as quiet, and my interests shifted.
Even my wardrobe changed. No longer did I wear bright colors and name brands
like some bourgeois scum flaunting his undeserved wealth. All was replaced by
bland and dark colors that were fitting of a good proletariat. What I
originally saw as bullying became nothing more than a dying gasp from preachers
whose faith was proven to be false. They no longer could attack me and if they
tried, I was capable of defending myself.
Nothing was sacred. I attacked everything they believed. I attacked their faith, their
habits, and their parents’ ability to raise them. I told them why they were
failures. I attacked their very core.
“Your god is
false,” these words echoed through the halls. “As Karl Marx said religion is
the opiate of the masses created by bourgeois to keep them enslaved.”
I sowed the seeds
of discord. If religion is the liquid that people drink to quench their need
for purpose then I poisoned the well. The frustration I felt in the past was
now spreading to those who caused it. I felt as if the world was already mine.
one really questioned me, because even though my grades were not up to par with
an honor student, I was still considered incredibly intelligent. My former
oppressors informed a teacher about my behavior in hopes that an adult would be
able to stop my madness. This backfired. The teacher saw my fanatical fervor as
enthusiasm for the class. On that day, I learned that most adults were easy to
manipulate. I took advantage of this, and my grades quickly showed improvement.
Seeing this, my parents also eased their pressure.
History has shown that those who
fight two front wars almost never win. I, however, was able to overcome my
ordeal and I was able to usher in a new era in my life. It was an era where I
do not have to fear anyone or anything. It was the era where I felt I could subjugate
the world around me and turn it into a twisted haven from myself.
No one really knew how far I was
going to take this character. I didn’t know. In high school, it evolved and it manifested
into a monstrosity. In high school it became worse and nicknames began to
surface. No longer was I called by the name my mother gave me. Even one of my
history teachers called me “The Communist”
“Does anyone know when the Nazis invaded Poland?” my history teacher
would ask. “Does the Communist know?”
“Of course I do,” proud that even
the adults have acknowledged what I was.
Somewhere along the line I became “Dictator Quinn” after my name was
butchered by a substitute teacher. I was the face of Communism, narcissism,
atheism, totalitarianism, sarcasm, and a hint of cynicism all rolled up in a
tiny, chubby Asian package.
If I were a fruit, I would be bitter and probably
toxic as well.
This all culminated in one single
event. It was my senior year and those who had classes with me knew how vocal I
was about me being right and you being wrong. The class I had was called “World
Governments.” It was a required course for graduation. The first question that
was asked in this class was what we believed was the ideal government. The
teacher, who had me before in one of her classes, looked at me and I could feel
some eyes of my peers shift to me. I slouched back into my chair and leaned to
the right and propped my head up with my arm and smirked. That was when I heard
the most beautiful sound I could hear at that time. It was sound that would
make any siren sound tone-deaf. It was the sound of justice. It was the sound
of my victory. It was sound of my ascendancy. It was a sound that you can only
hear in the vacuum of space.
This story originally appeared in the 2015 edition of Castings