"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

10 June 2018

Global Politics and a Petty Pet Peeve

Granted I've been known to say that if all my peeves were truly pets I'd have a menagerie.  But this one gets under my skin in a special way.  Its the kind of peeve that quietly (I promise the objective observer will not notice) brings out the Southern in me, the woman who smiles softly and gives you the answer you're looking for, all the while thinking (maybe saying) "Bless your heart" in that way northern-folk think we mean it. 

For what it's worth, "bless your heart" means a lot of things and most of it is nice. But most people outside of the South think we use it exclusively as a nice way to say "you're an idiot."  To be clear, there are plenty of words in the Southern lexicon for that, and when we mean to call you an idiot, we will use those words.  But there is a tone of pity in some uses of the phrase, an "I feel sorry for you" that can sometimes be gently offered when one is, in fact, being an idiot but the Southerner is  too well-raised to even begin to think beyond pity.

Misuse of "bless your heart" is another pet peeve, though and we were talking about a different one.

The peeve is this: when people learn that my youngest son is from Korea and the first thing they can think to say in response is: "Oh, is he from North or South Korea."

Bless your heart.

While I'm smiling and giving the answer the ones asking think they are seeking, here is what I'm thinking:

1.  My first thought is how ignorant of global politics, culture and history this question is showing the person asking to be.  Korea has been divided, partitioned by global political leaders acting in their own self-interest for only 70 years.  Genetically they are one people.  Historically they share one history, only one tenth of a percent of which is marred by this modern division.  They share the same heroes and legends, traditional dress, preference for their own regional kimchi recipes.  Their language, though each has developed a little bit of its own dialect as the world has changed in 70 years, is the same.  They both look to King Sejong as "the great" for giving them an alphabet of their own.  (And for what its worth, the alphabet is phonetic, not pictograms.)  Most South Koreans have relatives in the North.  There was a lot of movement before that border closed, and the whole peninsula is only about the size of Pennsylvania.

2.  Followed so quickly behind #1 as to be simultaneous: "Will my response to you change how you treat my child?"  Does it matter to you whether his historical geography is rocky and good for mining, or farmland turned ultramodern city-scape?  Does his city of birth change who he is as a boy, a student, an athlete, a neighbor, a US citizen?  Who he is as my son, his brothers' brother, your child's friend?

So why do I post this now?  Because this week 2500 reporters are watching as the US President, a man who has no love for his own allies, greets a North Korean chairman who has no problem dehumanizing his own people for his gain.  As they shake hands, mug before the cameras, and studiously ignore 70 years of policy and suspicions and human rights abuses that makes that most heavily armed border in the world more than a chance of geography.  As they studiously ignore the needs of both Koreans and Americans, to seek their own glory for an hour's strut and fret on global stage. 

I am not, you probably guessed, optimistic.  But when the cameras are turned off, the reporters go home, and each nation retreats back to its own isolation, I hope North Korean people, in America's eyes will again be humanized.  That Koreans, with their glorious history, can just be Koreans to us, especially when we encounter them in America.  And maybe, someday, that change in our hearts can be the true foundation of a unified Korea. 

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