Culture

America’s Forgotten Immigrants: The Victims of Socialism

Elizabeth Heng (Campaign ad image/YouTube)
The failed ideological rival to freedom is making a comeback.

A  red wave is coming to America’s shores. With the rise of politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Andrew Gillum, the future of the Democratic party is boldly and unapologetically socialist. The party of Harry Truman, FDR, and Bill Clinton is no longer, and the mainstream media has only fanned the flames, elevating young socialists as the brave new faces of the progressive movement.

This troubling trend marks a new internal threat to our nation’s great experiment. And amid all this, the voices of a small subgroup of Americans — the victims of socialism — are being drowned out and sometimes even silenced.

A blatant example of this censorship can be seen with congressional candidate Elizabeth Heng of California’s 16th district, the daughter of Cambodian refugees. One of her campaign advertisements detailed her family’s background of surviving the Killing Fields. This advertisement was censored on both Facebook and Twitter, with Facebook stating the “campaign ad was deemed to violate the site’s advertising policy against content that “shocks or scares.” But what Heng’s ad contained should “shock and scare.” The socialist Khmer Rouge was brutal, murdering close to a quarter of the population in just four years.

Elizabeth is a young, Ivy League–educated woman of color who has an important story to tell. Americans across this nation should be heeding stories like Elizabeth’s because the failure to do so would mean the undermining of our nation’s core values.

Like Elizabeth, I too am the child of Cambodian refugees. When Pol Pot seized power in 1975, my father and his family were forced into labor camps. My father witnessed horrors unimaginable. Starvation, executions, and hard labor were commonplace. He witnessed his best friend, a boy of just eleven years old, beheaded for attempting to escape. He was forced to memorize revolutionary slogans and songs that called for the elimination of private property, the dissolution of the family unit, and the destruction of capitalism.

My father dreamed of freedom, of running west to Thailand. When Vietnam invaded Cambodia, he made his escape. With the threat of death if captured and his traveling limited to the cover of night, he navigated through mine-infested jungles to get to the refugee camps at the Thai border. His only guides through the jungle were the animals ahead of him; he carefully placed his steps where they had walked. Just one misstep could mean stepping on a landmine.

Arriving at the refugee camps, my father learned English from Christian missionaries. The church eventually sponsored him and his family to come to the United States. In America, he took advantage of the opportunities afforded to him and worked hard in school. Having no prior formal education, he went on to finish high school, earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics, and then earned a master’s and a Ph.D. in mathematics as well. He worked with NASA as a scientist on the space shuttle Endeavor and to this day works as a contracted civilian adviser to the Department of Defense.

His story is the type of story the Left wants to block out. He overcame socialism abroad to pursue a life and career that can only happen in America. Today, with the rise of domestic socialism, stories like my father’s and Elizabeth Heng’s parents’ need to be reiterated.

And while Americans on both the Left and the Right have come to denounce the racism perpetuated by the alt-right and white-nationalists groups, the Left has failed to denounce the hateful rhetoric and connotations associated with emerging far-left groups. The Left’s failure to denounce socialism is a slap in the face to the many American immigrants who suffered under socialist regimes before escaping.

Ronald Reagan said it best: “If freedom is lost here there is no place to escape to.” The cold war ended in 1991, but less than 30 years later, the failed ideological rival to freedom is making a comeback. Socialism in today’s era will not come through the USSR, but through some of our very own: Americans. What we need today is principled Democratic and Republican leaders to thwart the emerging red wave coming to America’s shores. Nobody wins when socialism prevails.

 

Viraktep Ath is a graduate of University of California, Riverside. He just began working in the United States Senate, and was previously a development officer at the Young Americas Foundation.

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