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the US-ambivalent honkey

posted in Home Jabber on September 24, 2005

Humans are so careless. We only realize how beautiful life is when we chance upon death.

Ah, much on my mind. So another blab.. err, I mean BLOG! WEB LOG! JOURNAL OF THE BRAIN! BRAIN OF THE HUMAN! Human torch! Torched Earth! Typing into this little box.. little slivers of my self dropped onto this compact assemblage of technology apex. Right!

Earlier this month I watched Akira Kurosawa's 1952 film, Ikiru (Japanese for "To Live"), which although slow and has many themes that would be better amplified with a deeper understanding of Japanese culture, it succeeded in causing me to consider what I'm doing with my life. What better goal for a piece of art? To turn the viewer inward, and ask him if he is truly doing what his dreams consist of.

I guess this is a good recurring theme for me. I continually check with myself: what the fuck am I doing? How does this compare with what I was doing five years ago? Will what I'm doing now excite or depress me as I look back ten years from now?

In Ikiru, a japanese bureaucrat is diagnosed with stomach cancer (another thing I could relate to, having my share of intestinal problems in the last year-1/2, a sadly common American digestive rite-of-passage into your thirties), and he suddenly realizes he hasn't really been living the last thirty years. It's fascinating to see that even in '50s Japanese culture, the American influence was already strong, an ancient culture obsessing over the budding smartass country from far west. But that sexy jazz cigarette-smoke swingin' sass baseball gumsmacking beat poet V8 gas guzzling allure is undeniable. As an American, my bodybrain is always smoking three cigarettes, listening to Chet Baker, savoring a stick of Black Jack, and blowing down the freeway in my '55 Chevy.

Soon Bok has been back for three days now, and we've gotten a combined total of about 10 hours of sleep in that time. Her body is just not readjusting to the States. Nor is her mind or soul, honestly. I can't imagine the conflict after visiting your family for the first time in a completely different culture, finally feeling accepted and at home, then landing back in quietly racist Portland and the general ambivalence of Life in America. (Another recurring theme for me also, apparently.)

Speaking of fresh landing in Portland, Jeremy has been trying to adjust to sleepytown pdx from his travails in apocalyptic post-Katrina 'Orleans. He's posted a few entries on Shrike on the subject. I'm wondering if the recent RE-flooding has influenced his yearning to return to help rebuild.

This American Life aired yet another great episode with stories from New Orleans. It really gets to me thinking about losing everything you have, old photos memorabilia art writing clothes etc, and then spending the next three weeks in a stadium of fellow refugees waiting with your kids to be doled out a cookie cutter apartment in Texas (IF you don't have any past convictions or sex/drug related misdemeanors!), then just as you're trying to readjust to that, having to evacuate YET AGAIN and start the whole process over. What are you left with? I'm reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, a birthday gift from dad and a fantastic book so far, and there's some correlations with stories of Jews in WWII, being moved and moved again, soon enough stripped of everything and all you have is your family and your life, which could soon be stripped away also. Granted, the 'Orleans Americans being moved about aren't being hunted down by a maniacally genocidal dictator, but are instead under the shadow of a embarrassingly inept and unfeeling dorktator president who must be peeled off his continuous vacation horseride across the ranch for any semblance of action for the people.

Although ugly and a strange mix of quality in content, a randomly google-found page offered this interesting quote in regards to why there's never been a combined assault on the US, stating that although much of the world hates the US, they're also fascinated with the culture & technology we produce:

America is both menace and seducer, both monster and model.

They also point out that not only the UK has been a terror in the past, "..the USA has done terrible things too. The key is in apologizing. Although the government seems far from making any concessions, showing any humility or even the faintest sign of modesty.." which reminded me of an earlier reading at The Independent with this quote:

Mr Bush's response to the falling public support has been a stubborn refusal to accept any error and to vow the US will remain in Iraq and will not "abandon the mission".

This reeks of Bush striving to avoid the "flip-flopping" status he so relentlessly used to demean Kerry in the elections. Our ever-more-Vietnam-like involvement in Iraq is an obviously spiralling disaster, and his adamant devotion to "finishing the mission" is not only destroying his ratings in the states, but the world opinion of the US in general. And, like this Washington Post article states, there's no clear line as to WHEN we're done in Iraq.

Phew. Wonder if I could survive as a glowing honkey in Korea?

6 comments on this entry

thanks for another thought-provoking, think-making entry, nate. what can we do about the ol u.s. of a? (we are honing solveig on as much french as we can, which aint much.)

but why not korea? kog-jong-mase-yo!

Jon 9/24/05

thanks jon.. i don't know what to do about the u.s. -- the more i read that spurs my anger and disgust with our history and present, the more i also unearth that makes me want to love where i live!

i really have no idea what korea would be like .. many people don't like americans there, and soon bok's parents were somewhat upset she wasn't dating a korean.

Nate 9/24/05

i know people who have taught english in korea, and koreans tend to be much more intolerant, especially towards americans because of that little thing called the korean war. and also i hear they have a much more macho thing going on.

now japan, that's a cool place. japanese are very racist, but only in the sense that there are japanese, and there are non-japanese, and that's it really. they don't in general want to injure non-japanese, but a gaijin (foreigner) will always be a gaijin, never completely accepted, but quite politely tolerated as a sort of cute novelty.


scott 9/25/05

Unless of course you are a woman. Even though Japan's made strides lately (like electing that cute young lesbian as a commissioner), women are still most definitely second-class over there. It's built into the language. When I traveled there with a male friend, I was left to do 100% of the communication, and cops and clerks alike would listen to my questions and then direct their responses to my friend. Not very cool. Also, Koreans are treated in Japan the way blacks are here, so that may open a new can of cross-cultural-racism-sensitivity worms.

Sarah 9/28/05

i've heard that about the way Koreans are treated in Japan. And from what i hear, Korea isn't terribly "machismo" -- most of the Korean men I've met or heard about are actually quite femmy.

but i also gather alcohol is a big hit in both Japan *and* Korea, so we always have the great equalizer to make us all get along.

mm.. cross-cultural-racism-sensitivity worms are my favorite!

Nate 9/28/05

yeah, that's true. japan is very male dominated. being a man, i didn't really consider that. the men actually take a piss right in the street there, and it's considered par for the course. just whip out your dick and pee in the gutter in front of everyone.

and yeah, i taught english in san francsico for a while, and some of the koreans there studying said they were born in japan, speak only japanese, went to all japanese schools, have all japanese friends, have lived in osaka their whole life, so thinking like an american, i say, "you're japanese then," and they say, "oh no no no. i'm korean," and they're sort of embarassed about me even saying something so outrageous. they without a doubt have been put in their place.

i don't know, maybe north koreans are different from south. i also taught in prague for a year, and there was a distinct difference btwn east and west german men, even though the wall had fallen years ago. the east germans were much less assertive and more go with the flow/do what you're told, while the wessies had more of an obnoxious american vibe, no surprise really. maybe it's a bit similar in no. and so. korea in a bit different way.

scott 10/1/05

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