No, I haven’t forgotten my Korean friends. I daily fear for their safety. Yet merely saying that I am angry at Donald Trump for increasing their danger doesn’t seem adequate.
Besides, I’m distracted. Almost daily the president draws me into a new worry by saying, Tweeting, or doing something insensitive or abusive. Before I have time to write my concerns about Korea, he’s taken me in another direction.
With an attention-challenged president our population responds in like manner. One day I worry about Korea, the next day about young African American men, the next about Dreamers, the next about Puerto Ricans, even—I still can’t believe this—I worry about football players. Today we mourn the loss of life in Las Vegas. Tomorrow? Trump seems intent on keeping us off kilter. That way we don’t have time to criticize him in a coherent manner.
Yet I’m trying, for a moment, to focus on my concerns for Korea.
I have fond memories of the country and its people. Some I met when they studied here in the U.S.. Others I learned to know when my husband twice taught a semester at Yonsei University in Seoul. I hesitate to make generalizations about any group of people. I will say, though, that Koreans I have known are earnest, persevering, passionate, and hospitable. If cultural ways become embedded in the genes, it’s likely that their relatives to the north, whom I have not met, share those qualities.
Donald Trump is obviously unaware of history and cultural differences. Because Korea is a small country (north and south) its destiny has been at the whims of others. Still fresh in people’s memory is the brutal Japanese occupation of the peninsula and the civil war that ravaged the entire country, especially the north, which the U.S. carpet bombed. There is no reason to believe that Kim, if he feels threatened, will not send missiles to Seoul, a city of nearly 10 million people and a mere 35 miles from the border. Trump seems to believe that victory (his personal victory over Kim) will come via bullying on Twitter.
Why aren’t Americans saying more about this? Partly because we daily have something new to react to. A new Tweet, a hurricane, a gun massacre. Many of us do care but we feel helpless. That’s how tyranny becomes implanted, isn’t it?