Saturday, April 21, 2007

The perfect comment

Commenter Susan on the Metropolitician's blog knocked one out of the park on the role of Korean American culture in Cho Seung-hui's mass murder, the needless and ridiculous apologies coming from all corners of the Koreasphere, and several other related topics. Some highlights:

He arrived in the US when he was 8, and he lived here for nearly two decades, he was Korean-American, and truth be told, those two cultures mesh poorly.

It has been my experience that Koreans (fine, MOST Koreans, not ALL) hate everything black. They hate all races, including other Koreans, but they're most scathing vitriol is directed at blacks. I suppose the LA riots didn't help - and I speak from experience. My parents' grocery store was looted. My father was indeed one those badass Korean men in a vest, gun in hand, on the roof of his store, firing shots into the sky. Thankfully, no one was killed, but the hatred lingers.

I want US, Korean-Americans to talk about it, because something is indeed rotten in Denmark, or Korea, or Korean-America, whatever. The funny thing is, a friend and I, another Korean-American (a male, by the way, who despite his parents best efforts managed to turn out okay), were discussing the shooting, and the first thing both us said was it was totally his parents. Here's the profile they don't talk about: 23 year-old UNDERGRADUATE SENIOR at VIRGINIA TECH with a history of MENTAL ILLNESS. His older sister is a graduate of PRINCETON and works in some private subsidiary of the State Department. Look, my parents made it very clear that college lasts FOUR years, i.e., you finish at 21, because you go in at 17, if not earlier, and you have approximately ten choices of college - Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford being the top four - and allowances wil be made for schools like Columbia, UPenn, Williams, Cornell, UCBerkeley, UCLA, and that's about it - VA Tech, while I'm sure is a fine
institution in its own right, was probably akin to community college to Cho's parents. Before anyone complains that I'm stereotyping and generalizing, please, don't even start - you can't bullshit a bullshitter.

Why is it that when a Korean-American high school student makes 1600 (or 2400 now) on the SATs it is on the friggin FIRST page of the Korea Times (LA Edition)? Can you imagine any mainstream American publication, e.g., LA Times, NY Times, writing an article like that (and I'm not talking about those self-aggrandizing, voluntary "announcements" these papers have in the back celebrating weddings and the like). And add insult to injury, Cho had psychiatric problems - to my parents depression = not studying hard enough. Fine, I don't really know what went on in his house, I can only make assumptions and educated guesses, but I'm thinking his parents weren't all that supportive, loving, and actively seeking their son help. More likely than not they probably called him a dumbshit on various occasions asking him why he couldn't be more like his sister. So he withdrew into the voices in his head. He became delusional, and progressively more violent until he decided to shoot up thirty-two innocent students and himself.

There is something very wrong with Korean-American and we are in deep denial. We pretend we don't see our fathers smacking around our mothers, we pretend that it's somehow okay to be told you're stupid because you only managed to get an B+ in AP Calculus, we pretend it doesn't hurt when our parents wave around some article in the Korean newspaper about the latest Korean-American whiz kid and demand to know why we're not like that - yeah, I'm generalizing and stereotyping, but I dare anyone who says that they're Korean-American to tell me that their childhood wasn't littered with episodes like that. I have several Korean American friends, probably because they grew up exactly the way I did, and we laugh about our childhoods. Our non-Korean friends look at us with confusion and at times, something akin to horror. But my Korean-American friends laugh hysterically, because what is the alternative - despair, depression, withdrawal?

And I'm pissed off with all of these Korean people apologizing for Cho's actions. What exactly are you sorry about? That he killed thirty-two people? Or are you really sorry that he brought SHAME upon our good name? Those are two different things. And words without actions are meaningless. The candlelight vigils, the trusts in the name of the injured, the tears, the mea culpas, blah blah blah . . . worthless. If we want to truly show remorse, we need to take a hard look at ourselves. Why is it that domestic violence runs rampant in Korean America? Why is it that so many second generation Korean American females avoid their Korean American male counterparts like the plague? Why is it that college students would rather hang themselves in their dorm rooms than face the scrutiny and castigation from their parents at poor grades? And why is it that we don't talk about it . . . EVER?

And for anyone who wants to challenge the assertion that Korean and Korean-American culture is mysoginistic, sexist, and often abusive, stop lying to yourself. And I don't just blame the abusive SOBs, I blame the women too. Why? Because ladies, we take it. Our mothers take bullshit from their husbands, and then they pamper and baby their sons. And for the most part, their sons turn out just like their fathers, and their daughters turn out like their passive-agressive mothers. Yes, there are exceptions - I KNOW, okay?

I'm not just angry at the "Korean" side of Cho. There's a lot that's screwed up with mainstream American culture too. . . Cho, like me, like so many of us, walked that fine line where he wasn't just Korean, or just American. He was both, and unfortunately, it seems like he absorbed the shittiest characteristics of both cultures.

There's more but it has to be read in context. Check out the Metropolitician for some of the most insightful interpretations of Cho.

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