Tag Archives: Virgin Mary

Madam is a Bigot

Strawberry

Ugh… when someone complains about the cost of housing/helping refugees. Don’t bother entertaining that question. It is a talking point as old as time usually aimed at immigrants. It’s been adopted by white supremacists. This “economic anxiety” is just fluff for what is basically racism. It was economic anxiety that got Donald Trump elected to the White House. However, this same “economic anxiety” does not surface when it Donald Trump wants a space force, an expensive military parade, and increased military spending. His supporters only seem to be “economically anxious” when it comes to issues which affect minorities and immigrants.

So as innocent as that lady might be when she questioned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about where the money to assist refugees will come from, she is parroting a talking point that has been historically used to attack minorities and immigrants. It’s bigoted and racist. That is not to say that Canada should mindlessly bear the cost of helping all refugees out, but when it’s your first complaint, the one you heckle the leader of the country with, then I begin to judge your motives and intelligence. Canada is not a poor country. It’s not the richest country in the world, but we are not starving either. We can afford to help those who are desperately fleeing deadly situations in their home country. We can do this.

A few days ago, I came out of Seoul Station and heard festive drumming. There were drummers set-up in front of the station with seats for the audience and everything. It was pretty elaborate and the whole thing seems to have been well organized. It was a really festive mood. But ironically, it was organized by a group that wants to block refugees coming to South Korea, particularly the 500 Yemenis applying for asylum. The people who want the refugees out were channeling Trump. There are talks of immigrants taking advantage of the system, and that they are not really refugees. And these are the more civil talking point. Others on the Internet simply say they don’t look like Koreans or are scary. There’s a growing concern that the influx from a few hundred applicants ten years ago to about 10,000 asylum applicants this year point out to massive fraud, but it could also mean that the world continues to be a hellish place to live for some people. Or perhaps it shows how Korea has become more attractive to immigrants and refugees in the international stage.

A lot of the anxiety stems from Jeju Island, with many of the Yemeni asylum seekers being there due to its visa-free policy. I suspect this is also fueled by the growing angst against Chinese investors buying up property, coupled with the influx of tourists in the past couple of years. What’s disappointing is that aside from the usual racism, Islamophobia, and accusing foreigners of being involved with drugs and crime, the country’s #Metoo and feminist movement seem to have allied itself with the anti-refugee crowd as well. #제주도여성실종사건 (“Missing Women in Jeju-do”) was trending on Twitter last month, with the disappearance of six women being blamed on refugees. Again, there is no evidence that directly links refugees to the actual five missing women (rumors made it six) and it seems to echo the anti-refugee sentiments in Europe, with people saying that they are a danger to women. It also bears mentioning that foreigners in Korea as a group commit fewer crimes than the rest of the Korean population. This fervor reminds me of events a few years ago when there was a spate of students molested by their Korean teachers. Some were covered up, while others were simply fired. This created a bit of an uproar, but instead of addressing the problem directly, lawmakers decided to make it mandatory for foreign teachers to have AIDS test in order to get their visas. Ignoring the implication that foreigners have a higher risk for AIDS and that they should at least be AIDS-free when they presumably have relations with students, not many people batted an eye when this “solution” was made into law. Blame the foreigners and minority for crimes they didn’t commit. It’s an old, lazy, but effective tactic. Unfortunately, it didn’t really make anyone safer.

And if you really want to go deeper in history, women’s safety has been used by the Ku Klux Klan to demonize black men: the brute caricature. Black rapists, white victims.

Economic anxiety, women’s safety… these have all been incorporated by hate mongers to demonize foreigners and minorities. When it comes to talking about refugees, it is simply racist to address these things because a cursory search in the Internet will show how these talking points have been used repeatedly to demonize people. The coming of foreigners has never resulted in the collapse of a country’s economy and the pillage of women unless you look at colonialist history. European settlers ravaged the First Nations. Columbus and his men raped women and sold people as slaves. It was the First Nations that should have felt concerned about their economy and women’s safety. People don’t need to worry about these things when it comes to refugees. The last time I checked, Germany is still a pretty rich country despite taking in so many refugees. And as for crimes, it has the lowest crime record since 1992. So yes, going back to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, that woman was talking bigoted bullshit.

I’m not saying the woman is evil however. She’s simply misguided on the issue. She could be the best mother, daughter, sister, or whatever… but when it comes to the refugee issue, she is a misguided bigot. A couple of weeks ago, a Korean man hurled some racist sentiments at me. The person I was with tried to defend me, but I told her to let it go, and I tried to move on from the situation. Now, as progressive as this person might be in defending me against racist attacks, this same person later tried to convince me of the problems with “fake refugees” coming in to Korea.

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Foreigners in Local Protests

napoleon

Working in the heart of Seoul where protests usually happen, I’ve seen it so many times, foreigners looking at protests. Now, the protests in Seoul rarely get violent, so it’s a bit of a spectacle for tourists to come and see how protests are in other countries. It makes them seem like they’re seeing an unusual political event aside from the usual touristy fare. Unfortunately, protests here happen at least once a week. They usually interrupt my work on Thursday afternoons.

The recent string of protests that got the president of South Korea impeached however are much larger than regular protests. They’re bigger and are more elaborate affairs, with choreographed light shows and musical entertainment. It can be quite tempting for foreigners to come and see the protests and witness history taking place. But in such cases, there’s a very blurred line between witnessing a government protest and taking part in it.

Several people in Korea have invited me to join them in the protests, and as much a political junkie as I am, it is really not in my place to take part in a protest in a country where I am technically a guest by the government. There’s also some chance of violence erupting, and I’m sure most embassies wouldn’t encourage people to be near the protests. I haven’t heard of anybody being arrested and deported for participating in a government protest, but just because it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean that it’s okay to do. It also doesn’t mean that the government is not well within their rights to deport any foreign visitors participating in anti-government activities. How would Canada react to foreigners coming in to Canada to protest the government? I would be thinking differently if the issues directly affected foreigners, say Canada decided that all permanent residents (landed immigrants/ non-Canadian residents) must now pay higher taxes than Canadian citizens. But many of the protests I’ve seen where foreigners are wandering into are about issues that don’t really affect them directly.

One of the protests in the past that comes to mind is the mad cow protests several years ago. Koreans didn’t want American beef imports to Korea because of suspected cases of mad cow. Now, this was all just a massive hysteria with a healthy dose of anti-Americanism, but this didn’t stop millions of people protesting in the streets. In these protests, I even saw foreigners participating. Now, I couldn’t tell whether they were Americans or not, but seeing how the country now fully accepts American beef imports with little consequences, not only are the protests a big egg on the face of the Koreans but also to the foreigners who participated. There must be better ways to bond with the locals than joining protests.

The local media however sure loves pointing cameras at visibly foreign faces during news stories. It gives events an international vibe. Perhaps that’s part of the allure. Hey, we might get on TV in Asia!

The thing is foreigners don’t have a dog in the fight, so why go against the country which gave them the privilege to visit? The one time foreigners had an issue to legitimately protest the Korean government was when they made it mandatory for all foreign teachers to pass an AIDS test prior to getting teaching visas in fear of them giving AIDS to school children. That was a horrible piece of racist, xenophobic legislation that didn’t get any protest in the streets, not from locals or foreigners. And to this day, foreign teachers are still taking AIDS tests, some of them believing the lie that it’s for their health insurance.

So what is a foreigner to do? Stay out of it. If you have to be a tourist, take a picture, and spread the story to your friends. Locals love it when their stories reach an audience overseas. Otherwise, know why you’re really here (as a guest) and know why people are protesting (It’s usually not about you).

 

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Mommet Dearest

Octopus

My grandmother on my mother’s side is currently in a nursing home in Hawaii. She hasn’t been well for years, and we received a bit of a scare over the weekend. Last I heard, she’s recovering and is under observation. A relief, but for a couple of hours there I wish I was swept with strange emotions, but honestly, I really didn’t know what to feel.

I love my grandmother dearly, but I haven’t really been the best grandson to her. The last time I saw her was over eight years ago, that was when my mother died. Even then, a part of me resented her presence at the hospital. I was thinking, “I realize you’re weak and all, but my mother is dying. Can we focus all of the attention on her?” My heart and my mind wasn’t in the right place. And I’m not sure if it recovered after that. She lived in Hawaii, far from me, so I barely thought about her. The years after my mom’s passing, our family’s gone through so much without my grandmother, that I can honestly say I only remember her in passing.

Which makes the weekend strange. I felt somewhat like a bastard, like someone who missed the train (or someone who will soon miss it), and will forever be much less because he missed it. Even though I was upset, I felt like I should be more upset than I was. And the thing is, I don’t know what I was upset about. Was I upset about her, or more about me and how I’ve behaved? Or maybe I was just upset at the passage of time. Eight years…. What happened in eight years? What the hell?!

My best memories of my grandmother, we called her Mommet, was growing up and visiting her house every Sunday after church. I used to hang out with her and my great grandmother. I would help my great grandmother sew by putting thread through needles. The house back then had this great garden with different fruit trees. Mommet’s garden even had sugar apples. My sisters and I would recall her trying to feed us lucuma (chesa or dien taw)and none of us liking it. Weirdly, it was the place where I first saw my first salamander. It was also the place where I first stepped on dog shit. When I was a bit older, I remember discovering the Beatles at my grandmother’s house, when I saw my mom’s old records.

The series of Virgin Mary sculptures I made were inspired by my Mommet’s bedroom. It had a shrine of Catholic saints. I thought it was very pretty, and I made my series of sculptures inspired by the colors as well as the stories behind each and every character on that shrine.

Mommet used to be a bigger part of our lives, until finally she wasn’t, until she was in Hawaii and I barely saw her. I suppose it was better for her. After all, who wouldn’t want to live in Hawaii? It’s just a shame that in the process, I ended up losing a strong relationship with my grandmother. I’m relieved to know that she’s still with us, although it would seem that I’m writing an entry as some sort of eulogy. I’m not. I’m just ranting. I guess if anything, this is more of a eulogy for the dead part of me that wasn’t reacting properly over the weekend… or perhaps it is a precursor to how I’ll be devastated when the inevitable finally comes.

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Oh Look! Giants!

Colossus

Remember Shadow of the Colossus? What a great video game! It seemed to be a bit of a bore at first, but I managed to finish it twice; once when it first came out, and more recently when it was redone HD. It’s one of the few games worth revisiting after HD touch-ups. I love playing games that make me feel small, either it be in size or difficulty. For a moment, it makes me feel like I’m doing something bigger than wasting a couple of hours staring at my television.

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Killer Cars

Hood_ornament

Religious hood ornament. With the chances of dying in a car accident being around 1 in 100, I’m surprised I don’t see these on the road. Automobile fatality stats are higher than being chosen to compete in the “Hunger Games!”

A little late, especially since the death of Nelson Mandela being in the news, but speaking of dying in car crashes, notice the amount of good deeds the media reported regarding the late Paul Walker? He started a charity, he helped pay for someone else’s engagement ring, he helped some other person, etc. Is this his PR people? I don’t have much to say about Paul Walker and the “Fast and the Furious” movie franchise other than it’s just not for me, but it’s like the media tried so hard to distract the public from the fact that the man died doing something which his movies encouraged, going vroom vroom on suped-up cars. If you strictly just read the Huffington Post for news, you would think the man was the pope (or Nelson Mandela). I mean, you didn’t hear too many of the good deeds James Gandolfini did in his lifetime after he died this year, not that he didn’t do any, I’m sure he did. But the media mostly reported about his genius as an actor and his role in “The Sopranos.” With Paul Walker, it seems the only thing he did whenever he wasn’t acting in those dumb racing films was help out the rest of humanity.

As for Nelson Mandela, there’s really not much to say about his death that hasn’t already been said. The world lost a hero and a role model, and we are in desperate need of Nelson Mandelas to look up to. (I realize this is quite the change in tone compared to how I talked about Paul Walker) What’s sad though, is that even as the world honors a great man and tries to glean lessons from his life, not long before he died, his family was feuding over making money out of the family name in ventures which included a reality show.

I’ve been reading about the upcoming Penn & Teller movie about the painting process of Johannes Vermeer. It might sound like the most boring topic in the world and something that art history students would snooze through, but looking at the Dutch master’s photorealistic work and trying to emulate it using one of the theories that he used mirrors and lenses to guide his brush sounds very intriguing. The movie is the first movie that’s got me excited for 2014, that and George Clooney’s “Monuments Men.”

Update: Speaking of deaths. Eleanor Parker just died. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/09/eleanor-parker-dead-dies_n_4415730.html) The Baroness is dead! There was a great letter in McSweeney’s which makes some great points about her in the movie, although it failed to mentioned how those misguided kids practically bullied her out of a ball game.
(http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/i-regret-to-inform-you-that-my-wedding-to-captain-von-trapp-has-been-canceled)

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