Tribute Post

“First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the socialists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.” ~ Pastor Martin Niemölle (inscription from Holocaust Memorial Museum)

This is not my usual post on things that make me happy, but it is one I have to write about. I am dedicating this post to Pa Nhia Vue, who was murdered by her cultural husband (married traditionally but not legally) in June and was laid to rest this afternoon.

Today, I attended the funeral service held for Pa Nhia Vue at Peace Lutheran Church. I did not know Pa Nhia. I attended her service to honor her because of our shared status as a woman, daughter, and wife who have been marginalized by our culture merely because of our gender. I also went to show my support for a woman who was a victim of domestic violence, and who continued to be a victim posthumously. With both sides in disagreement over who should bury her, Pa Nhia’s body was turned over to a local women’s shelter  for a proper memorial service and burial. Read more at http://shrdo.com/index.php/suabhmong-news/hmong-news/1919-the-hmong-18-clan-council-of-wisconsin-solution-for-the-body-of-panhia-vue.

It is hard for me to understand and process why her family refused to have a funeral for her when her husband’s clan declined responsibility. Tradition or not, the right thing to do would have been to bury her, give her the honor and respect due. Instead, an agency took responsibility.  Why is that? As a mother of a daughter, I know in my heart I would do everything in my power to honor her memory if this happened to her and tradition can take a backseat.

I find it very disheartening that her life was not celebrated at the memorial service, and I am in no way placing blame at the women’s shelter, but rather questioning the motives of those who spoke. I agreed with what was said by a couple of the speakers, who were rightfully emotional, but thought that a memorial service was not the venue to discuss issues they brought up. It was a time to hear about this young woman who died far too young, what her accomplishments were, and how she affected the lives of those around her.

I learned more about Pa Nhia Vue from the xeroxed paper detailing her birth, education, and family life. I learned she left behind seven children, that she held a doctorate in Clinical Psychology, that she owned her own home and ran her own business, that she was a devout Christian and was “relentless in helping those around her.”

Let the murder of Pa Nhia be a lesson for all of us. As a community, we need to band together and stand up against domestic violence instead of sweeping it under the rug.  We (and by “we” I mean the clan elders) need to listen with an open mind and hear what is really going on instead of asking the victim to give him a second chance, and a third chance and then blaming her for the actions of her batterer. The Hmong community need to change their stance on domestic violence and have a no tolerance policy. I would hope that if I were a victim of domestic violence, that my family would come to my aide without fear of being ostracized for protecting me. Hmong men need to change their mentality before anything significant will be done. Do not wait for others to act on this. Stand and fight, or do nothing. It is a choice we all have.

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