Monthly Archives: September 2016

God Bless Honest Bigots

Heart_apple

I’ve written about dealing with racism and prejudice now and then. It’s something I deal with occasionally here in South Korea, from either Koreans or fellow expats, and it’s something that I haven’t quite gotten used to. I try to remind myself that Canada also has its own racial issues, and that I would probably face a different set of racist incidents and attitudes even if I never left Winnipeg. I believe as Canadians, due to our history and multi-cultural background, we are better when it comes to racial relations, but we’re not THAT much better. After all, as I mentioned, I do encounter bigoted expats now and then, even Canadians.

Now while the occasional sting of prejudice is something that I have come to expect, especially as a mixed couple here in South Korea, it’s always more painful when I hear about my better half dealing with racism because of me. Last night, I learned that my wife was defending me from a rather racist American who was making crude remarks and somewhat racial innuendos about me. I have met this person once; I thought he was decent enough. We had dinner and drinks once, and he was fine. I didn’t think about him much afterwards. I just wish he was decent enough to make comments to my face when I met him rather than wait until I’m not around and offend my wife. And although none of this is my fault, I can’t help but feel demeaned by such comments and attitude, and sorry for my wife for having to deal with such things.

The racist barbs are meant for me. I’ve taken it before. I’ll never get used to it, but it’s something that I can deal with.

And so let’s talk about Donald Trump. While there are many things that I find abhorrent with Donald Trump and his followers, there’s one thing I can appreciate about the whole thing. Among the racists in his group, they belong in two camps of bigoted attitude: there are the ones who truly embrace their own racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, and there are the ones who try to hide their bigoted nature, the alt-right or the anti-PC crusaders who trumpet freedom of speech or whatever cause they claim to care about. God bless the first group. We all see them for what they are. Maya Angelou famously said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” And God bless them for it. They have the courtesy to tell you what they are, to tell you to put your guard up, don’t cross this line and hide your children.

The second group is more insidious. They are the ones that claim that they are not bigoted, they are just principled. They are not sexist, but just friendly. They are not racist, but just curious. So many buts… “buts” that don’t matter to the receiving end of bigotry. And what gets me with this second group is that now and then, they would surface when the person they are being bigoted about is not around. They peddle their “soft” bigotry when the person who would most likely correct them and give them an honest dialogue is not in the room. “I didn’t realize your friend was gay.” “Did you know she’s dating a black guy?” “I don’t think your Korean girlfriend would understand.” It is more insidious, because these people are never honest about their biases, you let them in in your life, and then they do their damage. Of course, a person can be forgiven for an innocent dumb comment now and then, but as a person who’s been on the receiving end of several racial barbs, I know a bigoted statement when I hear one.

Here’s an example. A few years ago, a woman I met in Seoul assumed I didn’t have an office job because I was brown. She was concerned about this, and inquired about it when I wasn’t around. I would’ve preferred she be upfront about it, and saved me the time I spent being pleasant with her. In her mind, she wasn’t being racist; she was just concerned that I might be misleading people regarding my employment. But what pains me is that other people had to confront her about bigotry and be offended and frustrated for my sake. Westerners are no better of course. I’ve heard friends answer for me the question, “is he really Canadian? Where is he REALLY from?” when I’m not around. This is a question a person would almost never ask about a white Canadian.

So thank you, openly bigoted people. Thank you for showing your colors for those people who choose not to willingly associate with you. Just like nature puts bright colors on its poisonous vermin, you flash your warnings for all other creatures to see. I worry more about the soft racism that hides itself. It is too cowardly to face you up front. It deals its damage when you’re not looking and when you least expect it. Unfortunately, last night, my wife had to deal with it.

On a more positive note, Canada is dominating the World Cup of Hockey this year. Carey Price is a wall. The competition is a bit limited, but it’s still good hockey. It’s a good primer for the NHL season.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hello Clara Grace

daughter

My sister gave birth to a wonderful baby girl yesterday, my niece Clara Grace Bain, who inherited my mom’s name. My sister is such a trooper. She went to work throughout the pregnancy, went on maternity leave, in less than a week had a baby, then is now ready to go back home within a day. I mentioned this to my wife, and such a thing is just unheard of in Korea. My Korean sister-in-law should be having a baby soon as well. She plans to spend a considerable amount of time in a recovery facility after delivery. Of course as a man who doesn’t plan to have children and will never experience the pain and joy of childbirth, I don’t think I’m in any place to make any evaluation, but I can’t help but inexplicably feel a tad proud of how my sister’s delivery went.

My friend’s artwork got stolen the other day. There’s concrete evidence that show that it was an old woman that she’s acquainted with. She plans to file a police report, but I told her not to. I just told her to talk to the art thief, let her know that if she doesn’t return the work and leave my friend and her friends from then on, she would file a police report. My friend however is concerned that the thief would not admit the crime and this would escalate into more abuse or dangerous behavior in the future. I’m guessing my friend is more familiar with this person and the danger this thief poses to herself and to others, but I’m just worried that this will ruin a person at the end of her years. Her children and grandchildren will learn that grandma is a thief. It’s like the origin story of a crazy bag lady.

I’ve met the art thief before. She was very friendly and quite unassuming. But from what little time I spent with her, no alarm bells rang. She didn’t really pique my interest either. I’m not saying that she’s a boring person, but hearing that she’s an “art thief” just made her a tad more interesting. It’s just one of those classier-sounding crimes.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On Fear and Admitting It

cn-rail

I know where President Obama was coming from when he made the speech to commemorate the Sept. 11 attack. It was a good tribute to the victims of the attack as well as their loved ones. He used the moment to try to unite people into a common purpose, much like after the attack, when Americans were united, so much so that George Bush had a great approval rating.

What got me however when he said, “…as Americans we do not give in to fear. We will preserve our freedoms and our way of life that make us a beacon to the world.” This is simply not true.

While there was courage displayed after the attack, especially with the first responders, there have been so many actions which can only be described as being inspired by cowardice. Iraq was invaded due to fears of phantom weapons. Americans have surrendered their rights to privacy due to fear of terrorism. Airports have been a security nightmare. People have been tortured and locked up indefinitely because of fear. The Middle East has been destabilized exactly because of fear. It caused a ripple of nationalism and xenophobia which crossed over to Europe. And right now, a megalomaniac is close to becoming the president of the United States, running on fear against Muslims and immigrants.

You cannot say Americans do not give in to fear. Americans buy guns in exceedingly high numbers exactly because of fear. They fear terrorists. They fear gay people. They fear minorities. They fear their neighbors. They fear their government. Police officers shoot black people immediately because of fear. Fear is big. And as tragic as it is that 3,000 beautiful lives were lost on 9/11, because Americans were afraid, thousands more died in the Middle East afterwards.

What happened in 9/11 was a great tragedy. Out of that tragedy are stories of courage and strength of spirit. Unfortunately, there are far too many other stories of cowardice and cynicism. This cowardice and cynicism has a persisting and pernicious effect that adapts and evolves. It touches the lives of a greater number of people than the glimmer of bravery that shone in the face of 9/11. There were several great virtues shown after the attack, there were moments of true bravery, but you cannot honestly say that Americans do not give in the fear.

Americans gave in to fear, and the whole world felt it.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Estranged

Poet

This is my tribute to Gord Downie. It might not seem like it, but I’ve been putting a lot of Canadian-related imagery in my work lately. It doesn’t get more Canadian than the lead singer of the Tragically Hip.

More death. This is becoming a grim trend on my website entries. My estranged uncle passed away a few days ago. The funeral was just over the weekend. Our family had a rather curious relationship with him. My grandmother gave my mom the responsibility to watch over him. This was a task/burden she took to heart, and as we were growing up, she was always there to support him. At times, it got really rough, my uncle had a lot of demons, and it made it very hard to be on his side. But even when my mom was dying of cancer, she was still trying to support him.

When she died in 2008, our family made the decision to cut him off. My uncles and aunts didn’t. They still maintained contact with his kids and their mother. But we felt that we had to do it. We just had to move on with our lives, even if it unfortunately meant having no relationship with our cousins.

One of my cousins tried to make contact with me a couple of years ago, but unfortunately, time has made strangers out of us. That, and I’m really not that active on social media. It led nowhere. Just hellos and how are you doings. I had an opportunity to be decent and build a relationship with a relative, but I didn’t take it.

And now my uncle passed away, and I don’t know how to feel about it. I feel numb to the whole thing. I’m sad about everything, but a part of me feels that I really should be sadder, if that makes any sense. Perhaps it’s the Catholic guilt. My mom felt this huge responsibility towards her little brother, and I felt that I should continue with that tradition, but it just wasn’t in me. I’m sad and numb but not moved to anything else. Perhaps it’s because we’ve become strangers. Perhaps my memories of him had too many darker shades. But that not enough to justify being an unkind, unfeeling person.

I hope my cousins will do better soon. My heart goes out to them.

Interestingly, the time between learning that my uncle is gravely ill and hearing that he passed away happened in less than twenty four hours. He’s been ill for about a month, but the seriousness of the situation didn’t get to me until it was too late. Everything just happened to fast to process. What I noticed however is how people, especially those around me react to me talking about personal crisis by talking about their own crises. Not very helpful at all.

I try not to be too personal with people. I tend to be more candid when I’m writing here on the Internet. But when I talked to two of the closest people in my life about my uncle being terribly ill, they both talked about their own personal experiences and never got to talking about mine. One talked about an uncle she didn’t get along with, another talked about a father who recently had surgery. Forget about what I was trying to talk about in the first place.

Then a few hours later, I told both that my uncle passed away. Suddenly, it’s all about how I’m feeling and how sorry they are and wondering if I’m okay. Ironically, this is microcosm of how our family has neglected my cousins, and now that my uncle passed away, we’re all concerned about them. But ignore all of that for a second. Isn’t it odd how some people wouldn’t talk about your problems without talking about themselves first? And sometimes in the process, they never get back to talking about your problems.

Or maybe that’s just me. Maybe I just surround myself with self-centered people.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,