My father defends to survive, but they are invisible by design. For more than two decades, he watched the halls of a shopping plaza as a security guard in Koerstown in Los Angeles. Three stories of salmon-colored walls with signature glass skylights, the plaza is a community milestone for Korean migrants who have faced financial uncertainty, language barriers and other trials to make new ground in a foreign place . In 1997, my father went there in search of a job. Our family had just arrived from the Philippines, and needed to anchor our landing with a steady income. An electrician who has no history of security work was hired on the spot. Over time, he found meaning in securing his new life, his family and his shopping plaza.
As a child, I enjoyed walking around the plaza to see the exotic stuff that made me feel at home: the copper bowls that the kew-ke-pop melodies on the imported speakers, the look of the clouds Can hold red bean pastry plump. Most of all, I loved seeing my father during his patrol. It was a rare glimpse into the full manifestation of the self, temporarily immoral from paternity. He followed the shopkeepers several times a year. Once, he rescued a shop owner, who was shaken after his stall was closed after being struck by a faulty metal slab. My father played the role of a peacekeeper, moderating the rivalries of the business he barely understood. But as he grew in his job, it made him younger. They made minimum wages with great difficulty. The shopkeepers, unaffected by her appearance, saw her past. As I grew older, I ached to see that I treat her as my own silhouette.
Like her, I worked on the profession beforehand for safety, but a huge moat divided her work and mine. I researched one of the most violent forms of destruction invented by human hands: nuclear weapons. I armed myself with the power of speech and text – persuading governments to secure nuclear facilities and pursue arms control – for books, policy memos, and conventions. I envisioned my work to help stop an imaginary terrorist from making a dirty bomb or an erratic politician threatening nuclear war. There has been a tricky patchwork of security policies and diplomatic agreements that would, theoretically, protect everyone from nuclear destruction. “Everyone” is vaguely defined, but it looks impressive.
I felt my father’s pride in my career, but we lacked the language to express the depth of our working lives. We remained silent for years, convinced that if we spoke we would talk to each other. It does not connect with me as to what I do with my father’s work, or his.