Learn from Us, America
By Kim Heung-sook
When I sent an electronic September greeting to an American friend recently, she responded immediately. ``Your greeting was like fresh orange juice in the morning!! We have become so depressed and cynical after watching part of the Republican National Convention. The week before, we were wildly intoxicated with joy after watching Michelle, Obama, Biden, Clintons, and so forth. We often forget that half of our country folks are backward and prejudiced CretansL.
``These are scary times!! McCain and his 'soccer mum' Sarah Palin have been able to titillate the classic fears of conservative American voters. The Democrats did much better than ever before. But sometimes being noble and issue-oriented doesn't always win votes. The Republicans are always able to use demagoguery quite effectively. A little of that from the Democrats wouldn't hurt. That's how the American voters vote, unfortunately. Gotta appeal to fear sometimes. Politics is never a pure sport.''
Don't ask who the writer is because I'm not going to tell. I know even the Bush administration grants freedom of speech but I am not sure what Big Brother is capable of doing nowadays. All I can say is I don't feel ``depressed and cynical" even if I read about the Republican convention or other political reports from America. Why? Because it is happening in somebody else's yard, not mine. To some extent, it is like watching ``a fire ablaze on the other side of the river" as the saying goes.
That doesn't necessarily mean that I'm watching the fire as lightheartedly as if watching explosions in the ``Die Hard" series. No sensible mind can afford to do so: The outcome of the U.S. presidential election affects the lives and perhaps deaths, too, of nearly all men and women on Earth. Korea and Koreans are particularly influenced by how America acts. Look at the stock market.
That is why I felt a little uneasy as I seconded my friend's observation, helplessly recalling what Franklin D. Roosevelt said 75 and a half years ago in his inaugural speech as the 32nd President: ``So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself ― nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."
Fear usually spawns greater fears, often driving simple people into stupidity or fantasy that makes them choose to hear the most hopeful words, without thinking deeply if they can be put into action or not. In December of last year, many of my countrymen went to the polls, fearful of a worsening economic situation, and cast their ballots for a candidate who promised the impossible. The result? The worst statistics ever since the financial crisis that swept the nation in 1997-1998.
While I respect John Sidney McCain III for his patriotism and eagerness to ``reform" Washington politics, I hope he will find other places than the White House to funnel his loyalty to his fatherland. In my opinion, the last thing he deserves is ruining his well-preserved lifelong image of a righteous man by partnering together with ``the dominatrix" Sarah Palin as Gary Kamiya describes her in his article for Salon.com. No matter how many ``Americans think she's hot," her integrity seems much lower and fallible than McCain's.
It is relaxing to note that the Palin effect is subsiding. One big reason is that she believes ``God is constantly intervening in her daily life." She has said that her religious beliefs wouldn't dictate her political positions, but our latest experience tells us that too much love for God is the same as excessive attachment to a person in that it can't be contained reasonably.
Kamiya, a writer at large for Salon, also points out: ``Palin was brought in to appeal to women and to independent, socially conservative voters in small towns. But aside from the crude fact of her gender, she has nothing to offer women who don't share her out-of-the-mainstream cultural values.'' I happen to belong to the same gender group as Palin and I don't think her superficial charm serves womankind.
We Koreans used to learn from the U.S., yet the November election is calling on Americans to reverse the trend. Just this time, learn from us, America, for your own good. Remember, even ``Die Hard" hero Bruce Willis is said to have stopped being a Republican.