Getting down on life in general?
Do you think the United States has seen its better days?
Are you of the belief America is an evil place?
You need to smile.
Go see a dentist.
Not just any dentist.
Dr. Kuy Ky is just who the proverbial doctor ordered for your blues of being an American citizen.
The Stockton dentist’s specialty is implants.
His forte is a massive dose of perspective.
Ky wakes up every day believing with his heart and soul he is in heaven.
What’s that? Grumblings of “of course he is” from one side that looks with disdain on the lifestyle his profession allows or others that might believe he may have had advantages handed to him because he was an immigrant.
People who whip up instantaneous analysis like that 24/7 don’t need to be pumped full of Novocain for relief from the world’s pain as they have hardened hearts and souls ravaged with cavities spurred by excessive consumption of acid-laden cynicism.
For the rest of us, let’s take a journey.
It starts with a 5-year-old in Cambodia, a nation that has been “liberated” by a far left-leaning movement dubbed the Khmer Rouge or Red Cambodia. They were communists and anti-capitalism, anti-gun rights, and enforced political correctness that would have made the far right-leaning Adolph Hitler proud.
Starting in 1975 until shortly after the dawn of 1979, the young Kuy got a real-life lesson in intolerance combined with complete government control.
Major cities were emptied of their population. Modern technology from cars to scooters to radios was banned. Everything was “free” because any wealth you had — even if it were one pig — belonged to the state. You worked for the state, almost exclusively on rural farms. There was no currency. There was no tolerance.
If you were of a minority, you were the enemy.
If you were a pilot or an engineer, you were the enemy.
If you were a doctor or a dentist, you were the enemy.
If you were a journalist or a teacher, you were the enemy.
If you wore eye glasses, you were the enemy as it was a sign you could read.
As the enemy you got a bullet in the head, were decapitated or killed in some other fashion.
You can come up with a lot of ways to kill people when the body count is in excess of 1.5 million people over 3.5 years.
Creating a politically correct state as the dashing Pol Pot did is a messy endeavor given the need to cleanse the country of dissent or simply those who do not think like you or resist the government knows best attitude of the regime.
The young Kuy was separated from his family for government indoctrination in the Mao mode. Kuy recalls seeing an 8-year-old boy kill his father for committing a sin — not against a deity — but a far-left government.
Kuy saw a grieving mother who lost her young son to government created — and forced — starvation that was actually happy to a degree because she knew her son who had been reduced to skin and bones was no longer suffering. Keep in mind he had not been declared an enemy of the state. He was collateral damage of the government’s successful campaign to kill the twins of capitalism and individualism that threaten the existence of bureaucratic central planners that are self-proclaimed experts that have reduced the cost of goods and services by making them free and in doing so are empowered with life and death decisions to ration what is available.
Pol Pot who embraced atheism with a vengeance strove for a pure Cambodia forged with genocide, executions, starvation, and the rampant spread of disease.
Liberation day came Jan. 7, 1979. That’s when Vietnamese soldiers fighting the Pol Pot regime created in training camps led by the Viet Cong let it be known those that wanted to flee Cambodia had a few days to do so before the border with Thailand was sealed.
So Kuy’s father gathered up his family and headed into the jungle with little food and water. He carried a daughter who had been crippled since birth on his back. Older boys such as Kuy who was 8 years old at the time, carried younger relatives on their backs as they headed into the jungle walking barefoot. They were told to stay on trails as the best way to avoid stepping on poisonous bamboo or setting of a land mine.
They soon ran out of food and water. Their guide — hired by a trace amount of gold the family had concealed from the regime — about midway left them to collect more paying customers. Before he left, he pointed in the general direction that they should go.
At one point they found themselves walking around in circles in the jungle.
They made it to Thailand and a refugee camp.
It was there after a month or so Kuy’s father was asked if there was anyone he knew who could sponsor his family. Desperate he gave them a name of a man who did not know him who had made it to Texas. For whatever reason when he got the call, the man hesitated for a moment and then told relief workers that indeed he knew the family that were actually absolute and complete strangers.
That brought the Ky family to Texas and an opportunity to start a new life.
Like immigrants and refugees from a century before, they heard about California.
What you are about to read fits into the narrative that more than a few of us hang on to about welfare based on those that abuse it. His father — not knowing the cost of living was higher in California — heard that the state was more generous with food stamps. They were a critical supplement for the wages menial jobs he had to support his family. California also had plenty of work in the fields.
“I picked everything you ate as a child,” Kuy recalled Thursday in a talk before the Manteca Rotary Club at Ernie’s Rendezvous Room. “Grapes, cherries, onions — you name it.”
But the Ky family did not survive the notorious killing fields of Cambodia and travel halfway around the world to rely on the government for the rest of their lives.
They used the hand up to get themselves established and no longer needed it.
Kuy started school in Stockton as a third grader who could not speak English. Between working the fields he graduated from Stagg High, Delta College, the University of the Pacific, and the University of Southern California.
The 5-year-old boy who had a 1.8 in 8 chance of dying during the Khmer Rouge era today is a dentist in Stockton as well as a past president of the Stockton Rotary Club.
“The United States is heaven,” Kuy tells anyone who will listen. “I wake up every day happy to be in America.”
Kuy’s vocation may be putting a smile on a patient’s face but his life is about much more than that.
He is a walking, breathing example of why the democratic republic experiment built on the theory of free markets, individualism, the right to dissent, and personal liberty launched 243 years ago when all is said and done and judged against the long-haul course of history is still the elixir for what ails much of humanity.
The American birthright of those born on this soil is arguably more valuable than the world’s supply of gold, silver and platinum.
If you doubt that, ask Kuy.
He knows heaven when he sees it.