#5. A Mother’s Day’s Symbol: A Rose for Your Pocket

How can one celebrate Mother’s Day? Perhaps it starts with a sudden notification from the phone’s Calendar. One awakes one early morning, rushing to work, and in between the commute, seeing that May 12th is Mother’s Day. The promotions come in. The planning phase starts with what gifts to buy, where to have a fantastic dinner with one’s mother, or perhaps a short vacation to a tropical island.

Then one realizes, the planning phase cannot move on to the implementation phase without a simple phone call. How long has it been since your last call to your mother? Or was it her who call you instead? It’s strange how one simple phone call stands there on your plan. It stares at you, questioning the validity of your love.

And you fumble with the touchscreen device, wondering, What should I say? What should the conversation be about?

As simple as the phone call is, the conversation can start with the stories of all mothers. From The-My, Pham’s “Bông Hồng Cài Áo” (T/N: “A Rose for Your Pocket”) to Tupac’s “Dear Mama,” this blog post will walk you through the stories of the love that transcends cultures from the beginning of time. As with all stories, they started with the gentle woman’s voice by your bedside in your childhood. Once there was a mother.

“A Rose for Your Pocket,” the Japanese Mother’s Day Practice

[L]ook at her for a long time, look at her deeply. Do this in order to see her, to realise that she is there, she is alive, beside you. Take her hand and ask her one short question to capture her attention, “Mother, do you know something?” She will be a little surprised and will probably smile when she asks you, “What, dear?” Keep looking into her eyes, smiling serenely, and say, “Do you know that I love you?” Ask this question without waiting for an answer. 

A Rose for Your Pocket, Thich Nhat Hanh (1962)

“Bông Hồng Cài Áo,” or “A Rose for Your Pocket,” is a beautifully poignant tradition in Japan. The tradition says that on Mother’s Day, a person whose mother is still alive will have a pink flower on his pocket. In contrast, the one who has lost his mother will bear a mourning white flower.

The simple flowers, only differentiated by their colors, are the unbearable thin lines guarding the immeasurable happiness. It is the happiness of having a tireless and inexhaustible source of tender love.

And in the night, as you lay there crying, the love says, Just turn around, I will always be there.

I do not know if the meticulous Japanese people still practice this pocket-flower tradition, like any other traditions they strive to keep. But before the tradition loses itself in modern human progress, the delicacy of the practice has inspired a song in time to save its eternal beauty.

And “Bông Hồng Cài Áo,” a Eulogy from an Old-Age Orphan

If a gift such as the presence of your own mother doesn’t satisfy you, even if you are president of a large corporation or king of the universe, you probably will not be satisfied. I know that the Creator is not happy, for the Creator arises spontaneously and does not have the good fortune to have a mother.

A Rose for Your Pocket, Thich Nhat Hanh (1962)

Composed by The-My, Pham in 1966 during a time of political instability, “Bông Hồng Cài Áo” single-handedly became the monumental song to praise the happiness of having a mother.

Inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh’s eulogy, the song uses the same simple, yet emotionally provoking words. They successfully reflect the beautifully poignant pain of an orphan who has lost his mother. He hands out pink flowers to anyone whose mother is still alive.

And amidst the crowded paradise of pink flower, the lonely white mourning flower on his pocket stands out like a throbbing reminder. Please be happy, it says, because the pink flower is on your pocket. Because you still have an ocean of love by your side.

Of course, you can choose to treasure that ocean. And as with all oceans, you can also choose to litter that ocean with non-dissolvable trash.

But every choice comes with its own suffering. The more trash you put into that ocean, the sooner it will dry up. Before you can save it, the ocean is gone. It leaves you alone with a festering wound, bandaged by the same kind of trash.

Then one evening, you come home

And look at your mother lovingly, tenderly

You says, “Mom, do you know it?”

“What, dear?,” your mother says.

“That I love you. I love you so much.”

“A Rose for Your Pocket,” The-My, Pham (1966)

Perhaps there is nothing that is more natural, more easy, and more obvious than loving a mother. Like the song heralds, you just come home one evening, look at your mother, and tell her how much you love her.

As simple as a pink flower on your pocket, loving a mother does not need much more than that declaration.

*You can find the English translation for the song here.

“Dear Mama”: A Song for the Unsung Heroines

On the other side of the world, sitting in a studio in the heart of the Harlem neighborhood, Tupac Shakur penned his love declaration for his mama. Bearing higher popularity to the English-speaking world, it was a love declaration that can top the Billboard chart for five weeks straight.

Despite the difference in the language and the cultural ideologies, Tupac’s “Dear Mama” has become a pink flower that he put on his pocket. Above the lyrical genius, Tupac has an immense yearning to compose an anthem for the unsung heroines of black children’s life.

Thus, his pocket rose – his love declaration – bears the pride of the hard-earned love and the unconditional sacrifice of mothers.

The mothers whose life is lost to the faults and mistakes they made. Yet, their inner bravery turns them to heroines, who swallow the bitter aftertaste and live on.

Their pain and suffering drizzle on the breakfast pancakes, which they wake up at 5 a.m. daily to make. The sweetness is all you can taste, but somewhere on the tip of your tongue, a choking saltiness lingers:

And even as a crack fiend, Mama
You always was a black queen, Mama

“Dear Mama,” Tupac Shakur (1995)

Keep A Rose for Your Pocket on Mother’s Day

From Thich Nhat Hanh’s eulogy, The-My, Pham’s song, to Tupac’s Platinum track “Dear Mama,” there is one universal truth.

As long as the rose is still on your pocket – as long as the pink color still fills your life with a simple blessing – you should be content and happy. Because no matter what cruise you are sailing, what storms and waves are ahead, you are safe in your mother’s ocean of love.

And as with every other universal truth, you should accept this simple gesture of having a rose on your pocket on this Mother’s Day – this declaration of love and ultimate happiness – unconditionally.

#Postscript 1: Some Positive Things to Snack On

Positive snacks to munch on. Because you are worth it.

In an attempt to combat plastic waste and pollution, Vietnamese and Thai’s supermarkets utilize banana leaves and biodegradable rope for their produce packaging.

a photo of Vietnamese green onion wrapped in banana leaves and biodegradable rope
The use of banana leaves and biodegradable ropes in produce packaging will reduce plastic consumption in Vietnam, a country ranked 4th in the amount of plastic waste. Photo credits: VnExpress.

On another positive note, Russian government says they will release almost 100 whales to the ocean.

a photo of two orcas whales swimming in the ocean
The whales are expecting their summer vacation and the long-awaited reunion with their friends and families. Photo credits: Pixabay.

The scientists are debating on the best way to release the captured whales back to their natural habitat, as well as to prepare the whales for their new environment.

A prominent solution is to release the whales right where they are captured.

One may expect to see the whales bring some of that famous Russian vodka back home from their short vacation. Does it taste good? Let’s wait for the whales’ thank you note, which is expected to arrive shortly after their release in the summer.

And of course, the most heart-warming positive snack: Belgium offers its apology towards the métis population for its cruel and brutal segregation policies during the Belgian colonization of Africa.

a photo of Belgian parliament architecture
After 60 years of silence, Belgium offers its apology to the victims of segregation policies, marking the start of the positive attitudes towards minority community. Photo credits: Pixabay.

After 60 years of avoiding the issues, leaving the victims devastated and traumatized, a skeptic may say that the apology comes far too late and is not a sufficient compensation.

Nevertheless, amidst the new age of segregation and discrimination against refugees and immigrants, the apology marks the start of a positive attitude and thus, a promise on doing the right thing for human rights protection.

And [the apology] is also, above all, human.

Mr. Budagwa, The New York Times.

Don’t give up on humanity yet, people, because there is always hope. And remember to be kind, always.

#2. Brunei Boycott, Immigrant Detention: Human Rights vs. Economic Interests

From the Brunei hotels boycott to the arrest of 280 undocumented employees in Texas: a battle between human rights and economic interests.

Brunei’s new penal code marks the country’s regression in human rights protection

The beginning of this week marks the start of a new oppressive penal code in Brunei, the wealthy oil exporter of South East Asia.

The new set of laws include harsh punishments such as amputation for thief, and most notable of all, stoning and flogging to death for gay sex and adultery.

You see, this is the negative effect associated with different time zone. Some countries are UTC + 7. Some countries are UTC – 8. Others, 1800s.

All jokes aside, Brunei’s new penal code instigates international outrage, with a call for the Brunei hotels boycott from notable Hollywood celebrities, among whom are George Clooney, Ellen Degeneres, and Elton John.

Of course, it would work, one may think. Placing an economic pressure on the oppressive monarch by not patronizing its luxurious hotels is an excellent move.

Except the numbers and the statistics dictate something different.

  • When the law was first phased out in 2014, there was (also) a call for the boycott.
  • However, since 2014, the Dorchester Collection – the Brunei’s Investment Agency-owned hotels – has prospered with a 30% increase in revenues.
  • The economic pressure from the hotel boycott is hardly effective as the hotels’ price point targets upper-class travelers, who may not pay attention to the country’s oppressive laws.

Ironically, to the dismay of protesters, the backlash and the Brunei boycott only ignite the Brunei Sultan’s passion for oppression further.

I want to see Islamic teachings in this country grow stronger and more visible.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah

The Sultan resembles the misbehaving child, whom we are reluctant to look after when his parents go on a vacation.

“Don’t do that,” one might say to the child, “your behaviors are violating human rights and basic humanity kindness.” To which the child replies, “Fuck that, watch me,” as he dives into exporting oil, collecting gold-coated Rolls-Royce, and destroy human rights as a side project.

As with every other human rights problems, the economic power that everyone needs – the influential parents that can stop the child from misbehaving – refuses to speak out.

Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia – Brunei’s largest oil importers – have no say in the prominent problem. The economic interest at stakes seems to be a heavy price to pay for the progress of human rights, perhaps?

Someone needs to turn on the time machine in Brunei and bring Brunei back to the presence, yo!

And while you are at that, please consider taking Texas with you.

In an attempt to combat illegal immigrants, immigration authorities in Texas proceeded to arrest 280 employees in a workplace raid – the largest immigrant detention since 2008.

The separation of the employees with the use of green wristband for authorized workers and yellow wristband for undocumented workers carries within itself a notion of segregation – a thing belongs to the past.

Businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens create an unfair advantage over their competing businesses.

Katrina W. Berger

The yellow wristbands draw a portrait of the fearsome illegal aliens. The aliens who are supposed to take the jobs out of the decent Americans. The aliens who create a mass market for labor exploitation.

The aliens who have a face, a name, and a family to take care of, like any of the decent Americans who they steal the jobs from.

These workers are now in the hands of an agency that is abusive and negligent towards the physical and mental well-being of the people they target.

United We Dream Texas

In contrast to Brunei, it seems no economic power has an economic interest in the illegal immigrant.

As the economic power lays asleep in its oil-wealth dreams, ICE agents brutally and happily bring nightmares to their targets with great efficiency, acting true to their hidden slogan: Deporting the aliens back to their home. With a stick. Because fuck human rights.

We sometimes focus too much on the “illegal” part, and forget that behind all of these fear-mongering policies and brutality, the “aliens” are also human.

All of us are human, first and foremost. And thus, we all have the right to stay.

Photo credits: Arab News