When she was little, my daughter loved a talking blue cat. This very special feline came from the future and his name was Doraemon. The cat lived with a little wimpy boy who had a habit of getting into sticky situations. So to rescue his master and save the day, Doraemon used amazing gadgets and inventions that he pulled from a magical pocket. To my daughter, Doraemon was a superhero. It didn't register in her mind that her hero was a robotic cat without ears or claws. My son was no different. He too idolised Doraemon.
I don't remember the exact moment when my children outgrew Doraemon. One day, they stopped watching the shows and reading the comic books. Slowly, their hero was replaced by something else. Given how much my kids were addicted to that cat, I was surprised at how easily they seemed to have forgotten him.
About a month ago, my daughter sent me an email with the subject line "hero". The message was a link to the New York Times story about Tammy Duckworth's victory in the US House of Representative election. I was pleasantly surprised since my daughter had given up sending me links to news long ago. "It's useless," she said. "Why would I send you links to the news when you make the news." Intrigued, I clicked on the link in her message.
Duckworth is half Thai and was born in Bangkok. While serving in the US army in Iraq, the helicopter that she piloted was struck by enemy fire. As a result, she lost both of her legs. Despite her injuries, she returned to military service and obtained the rank of lieutenant colonel in the US army reserves. Her electoral victory placed her among a handful of Asian Americans elected to Congress _ possibly the first congresswomen born in Thailand and the first double amputee.
The accomplishments achieved by the congresswoman are remarkable. To recover from such serious injuries and return to military service are momentous deeds. She was able to overcome doubts, anger, sadness and frustration while maintaining a steadfast conviction to her duty. My first impression after reading the story and her biography is that nothing can stop this woman. She will blast through all conventions and forge a new definition of determination.
I thought about the talking blue cat that my daughter loved. Solving life's problems by pulling gadgets from a magical pouch is simply too good to be true. It's fun and imaginative for little kids. But as they grow up and begin to live, they start to sense the difference between wishing for something and making it happen.
My son and daughter wanted the magical glasses that can help them remember their school lessons for tests. But they learned that hoping for such a thing does not earn them good grades. They must dedicate ample time to their studies to perform well on their tests.
Each of us is faced with sets of big and small life challenges every day. We know how painful perseverance can be and how frustrating setbacks can feel. I often chatted with my daughter about the difficulties that we encountered in the workplace.
She said in our last phone conversation that the adversity Congresswoman Duckworth surmounted could easily dwarf anything that she will need to overcome in her career. She said that it gave her a boost of encouragement to achieve and a different perspective on what "difficult" can truly be.
My niece's children live in Los Angeles. This year, they will turn 15 and 13 years old. It's amazing that these kids will grow up in a place where women are astronauts and prime ministers, amputees can run faster than people with limbs, cancer survival is a true possibility and global romance exists outside of novels. Though violence, discrimination and other ills still exist, what once seemed to be the exception in my time is now the standard in theirs.
Congresswoman Duckworth does not have super strength, X-ray vision or special reflexes. Superpowers or not, she is making a difference. She may not be an ideal hero to toddlers (that would require a flashy costume and possibly a cape). But she is one in the eyes of many people. I am happy that my daughter found the congresswoman inspirational.
I too, feel a bit more optimistic about the future and I like the new norm that she has set. It takes a hero to inspire a change. She, along with many others, is living proof that negativity and stereotypes can be broken.
And it is possible for people to push beyond their capacity to achieve their true potential _ certainly something that no talking cat from the future can ever do.
Prapai Kraisornkovit is the editor of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.
About the author
- Writer: Prapai Kraisornkovit
Position: Life Editor