Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Oh Canada

Icarus

How do you measure love of country? You really can’t, but it’s all relative. There’s a personal rubric to everyone’s life to where you can measure love of country to. I think one of the ultimate sacrifices one can make for the country is to enlist in the military. As much as I would love to kiss Canada in the mouth, I don’t think I’m ready to take the risk of dying for the country as part of my occupation. I don’t want that to be an element of my 9 to 5. Of course, as Louis CK once mentioned, these soldiers only “think” that they’re dying for the country, because really what are wars about these days anyway? Unless you belong in a small country fighting an invading force, you’re most likely part of a large military machine fighting for unsexy geopolitical reasons engineered by politicians at the behest of the one-percenters. But hey, at the very least, in the soldiers mind, they would gladly lay their life for the country. That’s what really counts.

So me being an ordinary civilian, how much do I love Canada? Well, it would be easy to say I could die for the country more than I would die for South Korea or the Philippines, but there was actually one point in my life when I could measure my love for the country in another comparative fashion. It’s ugly, but it’s the truth: I love sleeping in my own bed more than I love Canada.

After graduating from university the first time, I was at a loss as to what to do with my life. Looking for some life experiences, I decided to apply for the navy. I figured it would be good to be part of the navy since I could be in the military without having to be in the ground and stabbing someone in the neck. My uncle is in the US Navy, and he seemed to be living quite the good life with his family in Hawaii. I was all ready to go and sign away my existence when I learned that the first eight months would involve me being in a submarine hot bedding. Hot bedding is the practice of sharing a bed with people and taking turns sleeping in shifts. That’s why the bed is “hot,” it’s always warm from the person who slept on it a couple of minutes ago. So that would’ve been my life, hot bedding in a steel canister, floating or sinking in a dark abyss. I decided no. It was too high a price for me to pay.

Living overseas, I’ve met many soldiers. A lot of them have suffered tremendous trauma from their times in conflict zones. I remember one soldier in particular who started drinking with me heavily a week after he came back from Afghanistan. I tried to keep up with him, but there was an odd glint in his eyes that just tells me he’s seen and experienced things most people shouldn’t. But my decision to not join the military was long before I’ve met firsthand people who’ve suffered from conflicts, conflicts which continue to this day. The bed situation was enough for me to say no. I don’t even remember if I was thinking about Afghanistan at the time. In fact, I remember considering and being seriously tempted to go to Afghanistan a few years ago for a non-military job. So it wasn’t even being in a conflict that deterred me, it truly was the beds.

It wasn’t until many years later, long after I’ve been living overseas that I’ve truly grown to love Canada. I’d like to think it was more with me growing older as opposed to me missing what was no longer there. I often trumpet my love for the country and evangelize the goodness that is Canada, but during the time when I could prove my love for country, I failed due to sleeping comforts.

These days, it is very difficult to join the military because you never really know which conflict you’ll be sent to and for what reason. Which place will they send you to, and will your death really matter or will it just be a statistic in the games people play for oil or whatever resources countries are now fighting for?  Conflicts are not as clear cut as fighting the Nazis. This is why I admire people who willingly join now. Knowing all of these detractors, despite cynics like, they still sign up for love of country.

I’m sorry, Canada. I love you. But I love you with my cowardly heart. It is a heart that needs a warm bed heated by my body heat alone.

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On PTSD

Tentacular

I used to think Canada was better when it comes to mental health, but this report on CBC regarding Lionel Desmond has got me thinking twice. Back in Canada, it was not unusual to talk to a therapist about mental and psychological issues. People wouldn’t bat an eye if they heard that you used to go to a therapist for anxiety or depression, probably because they have firsthand or secondhand experience themselves. But now it seems we’re failing those who have sacrificed so much for what in my opinion are needless conflicts abroad.

I’ve seen people with PTSD before. I talked to soldiers here in South Korea who were suffering from it. I remember being particularly disturbed (and threatened) by one soldier’s behavior in a bar even after he was buying me shots of tequila. Then he tells me that two weeks prior, he was fighting in Afghanistan.  There was just an odd look in his eye. And I just have to let him tell his story, and take it to where it needs to be. (And me not come back to that bar for a while.)

We just have to start taking care of everyone more. We have to start listening to people when they tell us there’s something wrong, even when they’re soldiers who are supposed to be strong and tough. Boys do cry, and some damages you can’t just walk off.

Speaking of not paying attention to mental health issues, a few days ago, a celebrity in Korea committed suicide, and on his note, he mentioned the lack of care he received from mental health professionals in the country. I can relate to the experience. Twice, I found doctors who would just throw medication at me and not give me proper strategies to deal with my issues. I can imagine the same was true to him. It’s quite upsetting that there’s not much care in terms of mental issues in the country, especially with the country having the highest suicide rate in Asia.

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Legal Porn (No, not that.)

Different_media_same_topic

 

The New York Post prints a fair share of dumb articles, but three days ago they published a particularly dumb one which touches on something that I just recently watched, Netflix’s examination of the Steven Avery murder case, Making a Murderer. The headline goes: ‘Why Making a Murderer’ is Better than ‘Serial.’ The article, written by Sara Stewart, talks about both investigative pieces like they are entertainment, which to many they are, and she fails to recognize that it’s this same attitude towards both cases that lead to injustices. The cases began in the media, became legal porn, and many people are already too biased to hear any story that would contradict their biases.

Let me quickly counter Ms. Stewart’s five reasons and why they are at the very least moot and at the worst, serves to further harm the justice process.

1. We don’t know anything about the case (Steven Avery’s) already.
-The reason why people watch a documentary is to hopefully learn something new, not to confirm their biases. I’m hoping this was what both producers of Serial and Making a Murderer were trying to achieve. I believe most people know of Bowe Berghdal mostly through conservative talking points. This makes an examination of his case even more necessary.

2. Its (Making a Murderer’s) subject is more sympathetic.
-This is the type of laziness that leads to so much injustice. Ms. Stewart must not have heard of the Duke Lacrosse case. Rich, white students were accused of drugging and gang raping an African-American woman at a party. And from the very beginning, it was painted as an example of the excesses rich white men get away with and even as a hate crime. Nancy Grace filled hours of show condemning the accused. It was great legal porno. Unfortunately, the sympathetic victim turned out to be a liar.

Being swayed by sympathetic victims is one of the greatest traps people fall into. Ms. Stewart describes Steven Avery as being more sympathetic than Bowe Berghdal. But I would argue that it is exactly this sympathetic bias that got Steven Avery into bigger trouble. Isn’t the zeal for justice for Teresa Halbach a perfect example of the Missing White Woman Syndrome? The volunteers combing an area, the media coverage, the aggressive police action, etc.  It’s like whoever murdered Ms. Halbach took Criminology 101. She’s one of the most sympathetic victims of all.

3. Its (Making a Murderer’s) subject gives firsthand interviews.
-This is just silliness. Comparing the availability of both subjects in wildly different contexts is just dumb. I suppose Sarah Koenig could’ve just gone to Afghanistan to interview Bowe Berghdal while he escaped. Unfortunately we don’t live in such a fantastically ridiculous world.

4. There’s a wealth of archival footage available.
-Ms. Stewart seems to lament that there’s not enough footage of Bowe Berghdal as opposed to the court footage, local news, and police reports that’s available for Steve Avery’s case. I would argue that Ms. Koenig actually took some restraint in not using the wealth of material slamming Bowe Berghdal and essentially convicting him prior to being tried and his reasons for leaving examined.  But doing so would be extremely lazy and basically going through what everyone has already been exposed to. What Ms. Koenig is doing with the “unpopular” Bowe Berghdal might not be as good as “entertainment,” but entertainment is just one part of what Serial is trying to do. It is also trying to inform its audience.

5. It’s (Making a Murderer’s) literally easier to hear.
-Again with apples and oranges. One is a ten-part documentary which most people can and will binge-watch, while the other is an ongoing radio series. It’s the visual media versus the theater of the mind.

I don’t mean to write an examination of a dumb New York Post article, but my frustration from seeing the story is basically the same thing that frustrates me with many legal stories, and it’s something that I admittedly am quite guilty of as well: treating these cases like legal porn. It’s all drama. The characters are just mere characters, not real life people. People opine on whether Casey Anthony, Jodi Arias, or OJ Simpson are guilty or not, but what often gets lost are the web of people they are connected with. Steven Avery is portrayed as some sort of villain in 1985. No one would have guessed that it would later start a domino effect which lands his nephew in prison.  Bowe Berghdal is talked about simply as a deserter… but his issues regarding the military and how it treats its own troops is forgotten entirely. Lots of people become self-satisfied legal experts just watching legal drama on the sidelines, not realizing that it sometimes feeds into the injustice that is fueled by the media (Hello again, Nancy Grace).

Ms. Stewart writes as if she sees both Serial and Making a Murderer as entertainment pieces, which to most of the public they are, like numbers on a Nielsen ratings scale.  They really shouldn’t be, and we should stop talking about them as if they were. These people’s lives are not being ruined by the justice system simply for our entertainment. I would like to think there is more to them than that.

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Art, “Terror,” and a bit about Godaddy

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An art opening, an art opening! Got a gallery show opening this weekend with a couple of other artists. Exciting stuff. It’s always good to meet new artists and see what kind of works other people are into. I also learned that I’m not the only foreign artist in the country who dabbled in making action figures.

Despite Korea being quite small, I’ve never been to this city right next to Seoul where we’re having the exhibition (Ilsan, northwest of Seoul). The place seems quite young and the architecture feels foreign to me. It’s almost as if I’m walking in Japan. I would hang out in Ilsan more if it wasn’t an hour and a half away from where I live. And really, there are far too many bars near where I live for me to wander far in order to get a drink. My neighborhood has made me lazy.

Are we feeling better now, Canada? Are we all good? I gotta say, the overall reaction to the shooting a couple of days ago was far more level-headed than one would expect if it happened down south. No giant panics and no moral outrages. No one is going after swaths of Muslim populations. What troubles me though is the almost too-canadian rumored reaction from our Prime Minister during the shooting: that he hid in a closet. How Canadian is that, eh? “Mr. Prime Minister, a gun man is causing trouble outside, you’d better get inside this closet!” Can’t we at least get a panic room or something?

On a more serious note however, I’m more troubled with Canadian politicians and Americans calling the whole thing an “act of terror.” Glenn Greenwald made a good point about it, and it’s something I always felt was the general bias when it comes to the liberal use of Western force in other countries. The shooter targeted Canadian military. As cowardly in terms of the attack coming out of nowhere as it is, there appears to be an effort not to harm civilians, but only to harm soldiers and those in power. Sure, there was an element of “terror,” but wouldn’t the act of combatants attacking others who are technically combatants be classified as par for the course in war? It wasn’t an act of terror. It was war, and Canada has been at war (against vague terror) along with the United States for over a decade now.

Calling the attack an act of terror, in my mind, does two things. One, it is used as another piece of propaganda for more war, more money for the military, and more kids being sent to fight overseas. What exactly are we doing in Afghanistan? For what purpose are we there for? Couldn’t Canada find a better way to achieve these goals outside of military intervention?

The other thing it does is that it defines the word “terror.” It was an act of terror when a man targeted soldiers and a government facility. I’m not going to argue against that because it definitely was terrible and I do feel for the victim and his family. I’ll give you that. It was an act of terror. He did not shoot civilians, but that poor soldier did not see it coming and did not deserve getting shot that day. But how do we define the actions of the US military when they bomb innocent civilians through signature strikes? How do we define the thousands of deaths in the vague “war on terror?” These are actions which kill not only supposed terrorists, but also civilians. Aren’t the people living in these neighborhoods also terrorized?

Now, I’m not saying that United States is a monster for conducting a terrorist campaign on several nations in what appears to be a disproportionate act of vengeance. What I’m saying is that “terror,” “acts of terror,” and “war against terror” are all horribly vague and maleable terms. They are trump cards which justify horrible actions and push forward shortsighted government policies. Sure, we can call something an “act of terror.” What happened in Canada was an act of terror. But let’s also examine our own terrible actions and see exactly how terrible we have been.

Problems with Godaddy again. Well, I don’t know if it’s Godaddy, Korea’s fickle Internet, or whatever. Ugh!

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