Tag Archives: American

Get Over Yourself

Loie

Look, America doesn’t have a monopoly on being the light of democracy, the beacon of hope, the shining city on a hill. Actually, it’s far from it. Since they elected their current president, with one tragedy after another, I keep hearing “we are better than this,” “this is not us,” and “not all Americans.” Now I do agree that Trump and his supporters are not ALL Americans, but I disagree with everything else. Particularly with what’s happening right now at the American borders, the separation of immigrant children and their internment in abandoned Walmarts, this is exactly what America is.

People often say that America’s original sin is slavery and white supremacy. But even that statement ignores a much earlier sin, the displacement and genocide of Native Americans. But just looking at the Trump presidency as a microcosm, there is a pattern which is very similar to the rest of America as a whole. The vilification of Mexicans, the Muslim ban, the attack on NFL players, the blatant disregard to the crisis in Puerto Rico, the splitting and internment of immigrant families… one key they have in common is the absolute vile treatment of people of color. If you’re not white, there’s a great chance you might have a shittier American experience. And again, not all of America is to blame for what is happening. But it is very telling that despite the crisis on the border being the top news item for a couple of days now, instead of Trump losing popularity, he actually gains favorability. Not only that, he appears to have more power among his political party. Being disgusting towards young, immigrant children and putting them in internment camps is proving to be quite good for Trump. Americans might like telling themselves that they are the land of the free and the home of brave, but those same free and brave people often allow awful things to happen right in their own backyard. This is not the first time Americans kept an internment camp. They did so just a few decades ago.

After the Muslim ban was announced last year, there were lots of protests. It was great to see people standing up for their Muslim brothers and sisters. Eventually, the courts ruled that the Muslim ban was unconstitutional, and the president’s own words betrayed the hateful intent of his policy. But since then, there hasn’t been much collective outrage and action over the many injustices which Trump has orchestrated. Why didn’t Americans march for Puerto Rico? Aren’t Americans marching every day for Flint, police shootings, school shootings, or any other issues? Heck, even when the Muslim ban was finally partially enacted, there was nary a protest. Did people just get tired? Were people distracted? Did the free and brave people have other plans that day?

Unless Americans can exorcise their demons, they really shouldn’t be allowed to wax poetic indulgently about being American. Americans can’t say, “this is not who we are. This is not what we do.” No, this is exactly what you do. America is the one person in the room with the most guns who regularly lets bad things happen to minorities. That’s just how it is. And I don’t want to sound too high and mighty, but as a Canadian, we have a long history of sins against our Native populations as well, but you will never hear me say that that is not what we are, that “we are better than this.” Canadians are vile towards their Native populations. That’s what we are, and we should be better than this.

I love Americans. I have friend and family in the US. My nieces are Americans. I really hope that their future America would be better than this. The America I see in the news is the ugliest I’ve seen in years. It can be ugly for people like me and my nieces. As a person of color, I’ve seen racism rear its ugly head in Canada and even here in Seoul. But as Americans, I worry about my nieces. I can handle racism. I’m old and I’ve seen it enough times to know how to roll with it. But they are still far too young. And judging by how the US government and Trump supporters are being vile towards child immigrants, it is apparent that not even children are spared from the dark ugliness of the American experience. In truth, my nieces are raised in a fairly privileged lifestyle. I like to think that they’re growing up in an environment where deplorables have very little chance to make contact with them.  But despite all of that, I fear that it only takes one ugly accident to ruin a person’s day if not a person’s life.

In any case, Americans really do need to get it together. This has gone on far too long. People used to joke that “Trump is bad, but at least he’s not building internment camps.” Well, the camps are now here. What do you do? Where are the free and brave people?

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Being “Poor” Despite Everything

American_VirginLet’s talk about my friend, Greg.

Greg has a full-time job. Aside from the full-time job, he has two other jobs he does on the side. He tries not to say no to extra work, especially while he’s still young and the opportunity is there. Now, he’s not rich, but he earns more than your regular salary man… it’s enough that his boss thinks he’s overpaid. He earns enough to be able to support his wife, go out now and then, travel when needed, buy stuff that would keep him distracted, and help out family should they ever ask. He doesn’t spend much on himself. He eats two meals a day, rarely buys clothes, and keep everything he has until they’re too old to function (like his ancient computer or his old phone).

Now what does he not have? He doesn’t own a house. He wishes he could. He wishes he could invest in one, but the real estate market in South Korea is ridiculously expensive and people are highly dependent on debt. And he’s not about to borrow money from the bank. So he wastes money on rent. He doesn’t own a vehicle. He doesn’t care much for cars nor does he need one. He doesn’t have kids and doesn’t travel outside the city. Why bother with cars, gas, and parking? In many ways, he hasn’t really carved out a typical adult life with debt, mortgages, property, etc.

And so what do he get from all of this? He gets told that he’s poor.

His wife tells him that he is poor.

The comment was just said in passing. It wasn’t meant to be critical nor hurtful. It was just an observation mentioned in the middle of a conversation about something else entirely. Perhaps she meant “poorer,” who knows? Still, it didn’t make it sting any less. Blah, blah, blah… you are poor…. Blah, blah, blah, blah. It stuck out like a sore thumb.

It’s not that he has a problem being poor. Heck, he’s an artist and didn’t really have a rich upbringing. But it’s the fact that he works too hard, earns too high, spends too much, and buys too much stuff that he doesn’t need to be called “poor.” It’s like all the things he’s done doesn’t matter. That despite waking up early, resigning to a life of being a cog in a joyless company, despite sacrificing doing things he would really rather be doing, it all doesn’t matter.

He is poor. He is poor because his life does not compare to the neighbors’. He is poor because his life doesn’t compare to the ones on television.

And really, that is the rub. More than the personal hurt, the skewed perspective bothers him more. His wife has never been hungry. He’s never said no to the things she wants. He has supported her through her studies and continue to support her even after. But that one comment tells him it all doesn’t seem to matter. It’s not that he’s fully content with his life right now. Sure, things could be better. He’s got ambitions too. Like the average human being, he wants the house with the backyard, the car, the mortgage, and everything. Someday, maybe. But there is no true poverty in his life at the moment. He’s seen true poverty. This is not it. If anything, it is selfish affluence and indulgence that have skewed what true poverty really is… the luxury of being offended by poverty. Greg’s wife thinks that he is poor. Greg is hurt at the idea of being called “poor.” You know what the poor are probably hurt about? Actually being poor.

In any case, he doesn’t deserve to be called poor, not after he’s tried everything in his power to give whatever his wife wanted.

It is one thing to be looked down upon by others. He kinda deals with that everyday, especially being a foreigner here in South Korea. He’s gotten used to it. But it’s another to be looked down upon by people you care about the most… even if it was just a comment in passing.

We all get carried away with things. I believe that that comment was just his wife getting carried away. Greg doesn’t need to work three jobs. He just needed one. He works too much that he barely has enough time to do what he truly wants to do: make art. But it’s all the stuff we don’t need, it’s doing the things we don’t really have to do, it’s comparing ourselves to others and competing in this endless Facebook wealth one-upmanship- it’s eventually what consumes his life and makes him and the rest of us miserable.

 

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