Author:Stratton, Evelyn Lundberg
Position:State supreme court justice's missionary childhood in Thailand contrasts with life in U.S. - State Constitutional Commentary

Born in Bangkok, Thailand to American missionaries, I grew up without television or movies; I never saw Perry Mason win a case.

As a child, I went to mission-run boarding schools in South Viet Nam and Malaysia; the flower children and Viet Nam protesters were merely pictures in a magazine.

At age eighteen, I came to America alone, with $500, expecting a land of rebellion, protest and negativity, my images from the news magazines I had read. Instead I found a country filled with pride, hope and opportunity.

I watched America send its youth to South Viet Nam, to fight for someone else's freedom, to die on foreign soil. I wept when our missionaries, giving lives of sacrifice to others, were killed by Viet Cong just to make a statement.

We as missionary children railed against the American press for their harsh treatment of My Lai while never reporting the daily atrocities of the Viet Cong, of our village pastors hung upside down from trees and their guts cut out while their children watched.

I worked my way through college and law school; in the countries of my youth, working in the rice paddies would have been my main opportunity.

America is generous to its poor with grants and scholarships; my childhood friends only went to college if their parents were wealthy.

I blazed trails as the first woman in law firms and on the trial bench; I still walk five paces behind my husband, my Asian culture inbred.

My mother, when pregnant, had to take a ten hour train ride to get to a decent hospital in Bangkok; I owe my life to that trip because I was born of an emergency Cesarean section birth. During my pregnancy, I could call my doctor, my core of friends, at every twitch or imagined pain.

When my mother was in a local Thai hospital for a broken back, there were no MRI machines, no myleograms. Families of other patients slept on the floors in the halls or under the beds of their sick relatives.

We debate issues of insurance and underinsurance, of greedy plaintiff trial lawyers versus fat cat insurance companies; in my youth, no one even had insurance.

We demand the highest standards of our physicians, suing at the slightest appearance of malpractice. There, no one sued doctors; no one malingered to recover undeserved benefits. No one received workman's compensation for legitimate injuries.

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