Friday, March 03, 2006

Hardship withdrawal

I'm not sure who even bothers to read my crazy theology and Karl's crazy secular humanism (hehe), but I am sorry that I haven't posted in such a long time, for anyone who cares. As you might have guessed, as the chair of the recently embroiled ASUW Student Senate, I've been rather engulfed by this entire Boyington blow-up.

What's been most frustrating are comments like these (this is my friend Gary from the UW College Republican Online Forum):
"I must say that I take a bit of joy in seeing this happen. How many of us remember being cursed at just for standing by the CR table? How many of us tire of comments about Rich White people? I love how they can't take the heat (so maybe they should get out of the kitchen)"

Gary's a great guy, by the way. I'm just unhappy that people think me and others involved here can't "take the heat" - I've been "taking the heat" for quite a while, as have other progressive-minded people for the past decade of "compassionate conservatism" where meaningful dissent is immediately splattered around on the internet and abstracted into treason. A better word would be blasphemy, but more on that another time.

Despite this, everyone in ASUW has been diligently responding to questions, disagreements, and inquiries - I wonder if the people on the UWCR forum have this fantastic image of us liberal student government geeks, huddled together in our office shivering with fright and clinging to each other for sheer body heat in the cold wind of conservative reason. My mind has definitely been engaged as I've defended my vote and the views of the majority of the Senate to curious people.

But the reason I haven't posted here in so long has been due to the greater part of the messages I've received - these don't merely disagree, they indignify. For instance:
I thought I should ask, are you of Korean heritage; going by the surname of 'Kim' I rather thought you may be. Should that be the case my dear Mr Kim, it is rather surprising that you are not aware the USMC; Colonel Boynton's old outfit. Spent much time, bloodshed and lives, saving your sorry arsed country from your communist cohorts during 50 to 53. I know because I had the privilege of fighting along side them, and if you are an example of why we fought; I almost regret it now.
I got this e-mail from a man in Australia - he takes it upon himself to remind me how a "real Korean" should feel and act about the actions of the Marines. When we use tactics like this to make ourselves "righter" than our opponents, sure, we might win, but is it democratic?

I haven't posted here in a while because there hasn't been anything very constructive to say - messages like this and countless others that are equally debasing have made me a much angrier and more calloused person than the guy who lasted posted on the 8th. I've been trying to meditate and discern lessons from all that's happened.

Clearly, I've contributed to the poisonous rhetoric used by all sides in today's American politic - last year, I said that if people didn't support a certain amendment in the Student Senate, they were racists. So I'm definitely not claiming to be without sin here. The pain of being on the receiving end of rhetoric like that is now clear to me, and I've seen it take a heavy toll in the past few weeks on friends who are even less accustomed to this world of politics than I am.

Several times in the same period, though, I've had the pleasure of sitting down with some of my conservative friends and just being two human beings, talking about the issue - neither of us compromising our values, but both of us increasing understanding. These were conversations where the people involved could somehow walk away with their dignities not only intact, but enhanced through encounter.

The Qur'an teaches, "Do you not know, O people, that I have made you into tribes and nations that you might know each other?" Democracy seems to be resting on this principle - that through dialogue across difference, progress can be acheived for a society. Instead, we find ourselves in this sickened country, where people can barely talk to each other without someone winning and someone losing. How much longer can this sort of "crossfire democracy" work?

It's been a sobering realization that as fun as it might be, I no longer am allowed to indulge in rhetoric like the stuff I've been receiving. And in fact, no one else is either. If we take our democracy seriously, we all must start by changing the way we talk to each other. One person doesn't make a difference here - but two people make all the difference: you and the other.

In the space between Self and Other, find healing. Find justice. Find peace. Amen.

1 comment:

Luke said...

Great post. I don't know where to start and too much to comment on...but I remember thinking/worrying that you'd get a lot of crap from the get go of the whole Boyington thing because of your "ethnic" last name.

Ugh. It's the old Gary Locke thing. White people can say anything they want politically or commentary wise and have hard line stances on anything. But moreso if you're Asian than Black or Latino, you're deemed a traitor if you aren't hyper-conservative. Somehow to people, the issue hits home more if its from an "objective" white heterosexual male.

It's like japanese ww2 hysteria all over again, we GOTTA show how mindlessly patriotic we can be.