Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Wednesday Ramblings...


Tragic as the events at Virginia Tech are, when I heard about the identity and race of the shooter (South Korean) I had a few other thoughts. I have occasionally been mystified at the stereotyping of Asians that takes place while ignoring that reality is somewhat different. Some of the common stereotypes might be like thinking of East and South Asians as being studious, workaholic, not assertive enough, being submissive and feminine, having superior academic abilities.

The media has done it's bit here in the sense with very rare exceptions one does not see a lot of Asian people on TV on shows esp men (don't watch much TV) that also contributes to some of the assumptions that I spoke about before. Not to say that everyone does this.
I wondered if that stereotype of Asians took a bit of a hit after this tragedy or if a new one got added. People come in all shades that is all there is to it.

No larger point here, just rambling.


Did not follow this too closely. But was thrilled to hear that the book "The Looming Tower" that I loved reading, and was written by Lawrence Wright (staff writer for the New Yorker .. which I love too) won the prize in the general non-fiction category. If you get a chance and this sort of thing interests you, I recommend you read this book, engrossing stuff!
Lawrence Wright, staff writer for The New Yorker, yesterday won a Pulitzer Prize in the general-nonfiction category for The Looming Tower: Al-Qaida and the Road to 9/11. The book is based on more than 500 interviews, some with friends and relatives of Osama bin Laden; it examines the circumstances that led to the formation of al-Qaida.
Audio link to his interview on fresh air here.

Rambling Poem...

Strands unravel on their own volition

A life coming apart, seams dissolving

Questions fester just below the skin

Hemorrhaging from within

Am all afire as they threaten to char my being to black

I rush to the edge teetering... as I feel the wind whip me

As a cold grey rain sharp as icicles falls

I wish it penetrates every pore of me

Stifle that fire in me, snuff it out!

Fire and ice will both annihilate me

How does it matter now how I am destroyed?

Within or without or falling over the edge

No better place but a yawning chasm for my soul..


Lucia said...

Stereotypes. Even one of my coworkers, who are generally fairly enlightened since we work all over the world, said something to the effect that at least he's not an American, so they can't blame American violence for this one. (Which, of course, they can. He grew up here. What's the benefit in trying to cast someone from another culture as being as violent as we are as a society?)

I am so weary of hearing this on the news that I'm on a news break until it's over.

Sanjay said...

@Lucia. Perhaps blaming someone else makes it easier on ourselves as a society?

I agree with the weariness, I have avoiding watching the Teevee and I also switch off NPR while driving when this story comes on. I have read the newspapers a bit and online too, but a lot of the TV media just seems to have gone nuts.

NainaAshley said...

i admit to being guilty of similar thoughts as Lucia's co-worker. When I heard the details, I thought 'at least he's not Indian'. In a world where anyone with a different color or features is looked upon suspiciously, you do not want the name of your own community dragged in the news. Of course I hope that people do not focus on his community but on his own individual troubles.

patches said...

People have this burning desire to understand tragedy. Their passion obscures their ability to see things clearly. In an act to appease their understanding, they will jump to rumors rather than substantiated conclusions. An act this brutal and violent, may never be fully understood, but it will always be supposed about.

ML said...

WOW, on your poem, Sanjay!

It's one thing to report the news, but the constant bombardment and the stereotyping that comes along with it is very tiring. I'm with you all - trying to stay away until it dies down.

Ash said...

Love that poem!

Sanjay said...

@Naina. I know what you mean. I did not have any thoughts as such when I first heard of it. Given that how some in the media tend to give in to hysteria I wanted to take a step back and wait.

Your fears about the community are not at all misplaced, they are real. The S.Korean consulates have been alerted to look out for racially motivated attacks by Seoul, there is police protection too for the parents of the alleged killer.

@Patches, I do understand that desire. But sometimes it is better to take a step back and wait to understand the why.

@ML. Thank you re the poem. I agree with the wall to wall coverage and sttereotyping can be draining. Stepping away is indeed good.

@Ash.. Thank you.

Beenzzz said...

What many fail to realize is that South Asians and Asians who come here, do so to study and work. The whole thing is quite stupid.

Your poem is excellent.

Asha said...

You are right!!!
When they kept saying a "south Korean",I thought he was a foreign exchange student but he has grown up here from the age of 9 and he is a permanent resident!!!!!He is almost an American,with a SK heritage!!
Shame on the media.

I am scared for my daughter.Chapel hill and UNCG has HUGE student population!!

Fuzzylogic said...

The media is certainly having a field day with the incident and it irks me to see him continuously being referred to as South Korean when actually he has been in the States since he was 9 with his parents. The stereotyping is obvious and distressing. I have definitly given the tv a break because I got fed up of hearing just a overplay of the whole matter over and over again rather than talking about steps to prevent such things from happening in future.

The books seems interesting,will try to get my hands on it.And the poem ,loved the play of the words!

Mona Buonanotte said...

I could see it coming, tho, as you all did...the media finding out the shooters past, girlfriends, roommates, classes, background, to find something about him to blow up in proportion. He was a sad, twisted little boy.

I can't even deal with the grief. My head isn't big enough.

paparazzi said...

Yes he's no more South Korean than Geraldo is Filipino. But it's not just the frenzy to typecast this way based on nationality, there are all other steretypes that are being worked on: mentally ill people, shy loners, sons of dry cleaners :), bespectacled nerdy geeks, people who play video games, creative writing students.. I mean they are leaving nothing unturned! It doesn't matter that that the past school shooters were predominantly white males. If you intersect all the shooters, you would not find much in common (apart from the fact most are white males :)). So maybe we should persecute all white males..

By the way 160 civilians died in Baghdad in the last 2 day in bombings. 160. No TV station is covering that, hey life is cheap there :)

McCain is still going around saying things are great down there. Yea - if you are wearing flak jackets, travelling in bullet proof cars, and have a retinue of agents all around you that can whisk you off the moment they see anything suspicious.

Sanjay said...

@Beenzzz. I know what you mean. Thank you for the kind words re the poem.

@Asha. Amen re shame on the media.
I can understand the fear you have re the daughter. But what happened at Virginia tech is not that common in terms of scale or even violence on campuses. But the constant drumbeat from the media can be a bit tiresome.

@Fuzzylogic.. good move re giving the TV a break. You will love the book, I found it very fascinating. Thank you re the comments about the poem.

@Mona. yes it has become predictable, every time something like this happens. I havent been able to deal with the grief part either, till I picked up a newspaper on the seat next to me on the train and read about this tragic episode, it was very moving to read about the victims and their lives.

@paparazzi, you make a great point about the shooter from this an previous episodes. I had not thought about that for this incident.
Eyeraq? Things are might fine as some would have us believe, the daily drumbeat of death and destruction continues unabated.
McCain is such a fake! He is a media darling though esp with the DC media elite. People are seeing thru him though, which explains why he is running behind in the polls, not raising enough money and spending more than he is pulling in.

Lotus Reads said...

The shooter may have been of South Korean descent but he was an American...he grew up this part of the world. What he had was a mental illness which can visit any one of any race. It is all so sad.

Wow, nice poem, Sanjay! Did you write that after the Virginia Tech incident?

priya said...

They don't want to say an American as it blams only them Its an escapism from the roots to blame someone or hurt and thaz how the mdia works ther. Either too negativity or just blame it on.

Anali said...

Pretty interesting post. This whole thing has been so horrible. And I admit that when I first heard about it, but nothing was known of the shooter, I thought just please don't let him be black. After the Imus thing, it will just be too much.

I guess all of us were basically saying please don't let him be like me. But he is American, so regardless of any other differences I guess he is still like many of us...

Sai said...

This is so tragic. Also the fact that guns are so easy to obtain.

Sanjay said...

@Lotus. your point about him being American is correct and very valid. Yes perhaps in his upbringing he was American, since he came here as a kid but he was not an American citizen, our media seems to just focus on him being Korean, maybe it makes it easier to say he is not like "us".

Thank you for your comment. No the poem has nothing to do with the VT incident. I cannot get my head around it, forget trying to write a poem about it.I think we all need some distance from it before we form an opinion other than it being sad and tragic for all the victims that that sick boy killed.

Sanjay said...

@Priya. Yes I can see what you mean.

@Anali. Thanks. I am sure Muslims prayed that he not be a Muslim too.

@Sai.Yes I agree like someone said if you cannot get prescription drugs without a prescription from a doctor, one should not be able to buy a gun without a good background check. Apparently his mental health issues were known but not in a database that would have been picked up like it does if one was a felon.

Keshi said...

Race is irrelevant. The individual is what matters.

Good post n great poem Sanjay!


deepsat said...

i hope this doesnt spur up a political debate! guess it makes easier to put a blame than fix the problem!!

great poem!!

Shitrint said...

really nice poem sanjay!

"Questions fester just below the skin
Hemorrhaging from within"

loved those lines! :)

Viewer said...

I simply dont understand why is it so difficult for us ot judge people on a individual level. Why do we have to tag the entire population frm a particualr country or a particular religion.