Be like a Chinese restaurant

Recently, my wife, Penny, and I attended a very interesting discussion and exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum.

The focus: the Motor City’s former Chinatown neighborhoods.

The discussion portion of the afternoon featured Curtis Chin, author of “Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant — A Memoir.” Chin is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and writer. In his youth and early adult years, he resided with his parents and siblings in the Detroit metropolitan region. His family owned and operated the famed Chung’s Restaurant located on Detroit’s Cass Avenue. Chin worked countless hours at Chung’s. Thus, his learning experience.

Chung’s, which was in operation up until 2000, was truly a Motor City institution.

Chin stated the restaurant was kind of like “a town hall, a town center,” where you could meet and see anyone. Patrons would be Motown artists, national performers visiting Detroit, white-collar professionals, politicians such as the late Detroit mayor, Coleman Young, factory workers, physicians and other health care professionals, attorneys, police, and fire department members, as well as drug dealers, prostitutes, and mafia leaders.

Chung’s was truly a melting pot.

Being in health care for the better part of three decades, I also saw that melting pot scene in hospitals and related health care cafeterias.

For the most part, with both dining environments I mentioned, everyone dined and conversed in a hospitable manner.

After Chin profiled Chung’s, I thought to myself: Why can’t family, friends, and public gatherings be like a Chinese restaurant? Why can’t Americans have non-hostile gatherings and confrontations?

With 333 million Americans, we will most certainly have our differences. But do we have to be divided so volatilely along political, faith-based, racial, sexual orientation, and related lines?

In my opinion, going for the jugular does not work.

America — in fact, the whole world — has some major issues to address. In part, those include:

∫ Multiple war fronts

∫ Food insecurity

∫ Overpopulation in select regions

∫ Nuclear and related armament build-ups

∫ Challenges of a growing internet

∫ Major divide between the wealthiest and the poorest

∫ Human rights and respect

∫ Crime

∫ Affordable housing

∫ Significant climate shifts

∫ Conspiracy theories and non-facts

∫ Immigration

∫ Physical and mental health care

∫ Educational access and affordability

∫ Firearms

There are slices of Northeast Michigan groups and individuals taking the lead to address some of those and other critical issues to make life better for the four-county region’s 62,194 residents, not to overlook the generations to come and the 1,000-plus new Northeast Michigan residents The Alpena News profiled earlier this year.

Pick two or three and become an open-minded problem-solver for the region.

There are several Chinese restaurants in the region where you can begin your discussions.

Jeffrey D. Brasie is a retired health care CEO. He frequently writes historic feature stories and op-eds for various Michigan newspapers. As a Vietnam-era veteran, he served in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Naval Reserve. He served on the public affairs staff of the secretary of the Navy. He grew up in Alpena and resides in suburban Detroit.


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