Is it still a ‘happy’ Lunar New Year?

By Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The weekend was dampened by news of another mass shooting that killed 11 people and injured 9 more on a Saturday night at Monterey Park, California, when Lunar New Year (LNY) celebrations were at their peak.

According to police, the person suspected of carrying out the shooting, age 72, was found dead at the scene due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

It was the deadliest shooting so far, but not the first in 2023. The fact that the recent shooting at Monterey Park happened in one of the largest Asian American communities at their largest festival at the year meant more national coverage. But two mass shootings had already occurred on New Year’s Day in Florida.

Many are experiencing a heightened feeling of devastation upon hearing of the mass shooting due to the common belief that however you start the lunar new year is the same way you’ll end it.

On January 25, a candlelight vigil will take place at Monterey Park.

My nephew, 16, who lives less than an hour away from the crime scene and who is interested in working in law enforcement in the state of California, shrugged his shoulders when I asked him how he felt about the mass shooting.

“We’re just used to it now,” he said.

My cousins told me that the LNY festivities still continued. Businesses put on dragon dances, streets blocked for parades, firecrackers set off throughout the night, as if an attack did not recently happen at a similar venue not too far away.

“I don’t want to sound callous about Monterey Park, but at least those people are going to be remembered,” said Tom McNamara, mayor of Rockford, northwest of Chicago. “Last year I lost 15 lives in my community. There was no national story about it. It’s just sad that we live in a country where violence is normalized.”

The responses to the shooting are varied. Some are condemning gun ownership with increasing urgency, others have have chosen not to think about it. At this point, many are choosing to ignore news about tragic events as a coping mechanism to continue living their lives without disruption.

It may be easier to ignore the pain of our fellow residents, but I think holding space for uncomfortable emotions can be the first step toward radical healing and change. We’ve encountered tragedy after tragedy. There is no changing that fact. Pain, while uncomfortable, may also be an opportunity to draw closer to our purpose.

At a family gathering this weekend, my little nephew kept running to me for hugs and kisses. I don’t get to see him often so every embrace meant so much to me, especially as I remembered the shootings, the families who will not be able to hug their loved ones again.

Remembering that our days are limited will help us cherish every moment in the present.

Superstitions say we have difficult year ahead based on the way things have gone so far. However superstitions also say that the Year of the Rabbit (which happens to be my zodiac animal based on the Chinese-zodiac calendar) is also a year of hope.