TOWOIT #244

September 26, 2017… Day 250

This morning I had my earbuds in and was listening to a long news story about North Korea, the start of the Korean war, and what could happen to South Korea. A few times, I glanced over at my coworker, who I sort of treat as a little brother but also lean on emotionally sometimes. He came from South Korea with his mom when he was 6. His grandpa, who still lives in Seoul, grew up in North Korea until he was a teenager, when he moved south and was separated from his family.

I was interrupted from my listening and thinking when another coworker popped up at my side and said in a stage whisper, “Have you been watching Ken Burns’s Vietnam documentary on PBS?” I hadn’t been, but was meaning to. I’ll have to now. Sissi, wide-eyed, dropped an unusual amount of personal vulnerability on me in a short amount of time this morning at my desk.

Her parents and older sister left Vietnam by boat in 1975 and after spending time in a refugee camp in Guam, were sponsored by Lutherans in Washington State (where she was born). She and her parents had never talked about Vietnam or the war. Her parents had come down from the north to the south when they were young. Sissi said she was 36 years old and learning so much for the first time from the documentary. When she was growing up with white kids in Olympia, she hadn’t wanted to know anything. She didn’t want to be different. And it was the attitude of her parents too—this is a new beginning, the past is painful, don’t look back. But now Sissi thought she’d sit down with her mom and ask her questions, and she’d record the conversation if her mom would let her. Her eyes got glassy and mine did too, just listening to her and thinking about mothers and daughters.

I thought about some of my friends’ dads back home, and how we didn’t learn much about that war either. It seemed like a fresh wound. It felt like we actively weren’t talking about it, but it was still present. Later I learned that Alaska has the highest number of Vietnam vets per capita—a desire for space and peace, was the conjectured reason. In high school we did have some WWII sailors come in to our classroom to talk about the war—the grandfathers of my friends. Afterward, their grown baby boomer children were startled to hear how much their fathers would say out loud to the high school kids that they had never said before. And how much they hadn’t known about their dads and the war.

Now in a town like my hometown, a lot of white (and Native, and Filipino) people are upset about football players kneeling to protest racism and police brutality. I have been fuming for days about people wearing patriotism like a mask over their anti-black racism and not being self-aware enough to even know they are doing it. But I think their feelings about the flag and the anthem are sincere, too. I think their patriotism and their discomfort at black men protesting are so intertwined that it will take a delicate surgery to separate them. I don’t know how many of them will volunteer for a procedure like that. Maybe they will just wrap themselves up in the flag because it feels better.

I hope some of those people are watching Ken Burns’s documentary on the Vietnam War. I think it will have cross-over appeal for Republicans and Democrats, as a work of military history. I hope it brings up some conversations in white homes the way it looks like it will for my friend Sissi. I don’t know if it is too presumptuous for me to hope this, as someone who is not a combat vet, but I hope somehow through conversation and storytelling and reflection that there is some sort of catharsis that allows greater self-awareness.

A Facebook friend from home who often bridges the gap between left and right — she is from a logging family, loves guns, is often not politically correct — has been standing up for the players who kneel. She also posed this question on Facebook: What will people who are boycotting the NFL now do with all of that extra time and money? Will they work to end veteran homelessness? A few women took her up on her gambit and said why yes, maybe they would do just that. That was not a bad idea at all, they said.

When you think of all the time, money, and energy that people put into football—it could be a strange, unexpected gift to have it back for something else. Maybe people who really do stay away will feel empty without the tribalism and camaraderie and suspense of the game. And maybe they will find something else and maybe that something will be healing.

TOWOIT #201

August 9, 2017… Day 202

Rex Tillerson issued calming statements today about North Korea.

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The following is from interviews with European officials BEFORE the latest nuclear kerfuffle:

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Well, well, well. Predawn raid.

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Lindy West described to the New York Times audience, the smoky days we’re enduring in Seattle. It’s been 8 days. We have at least 3-4 more to go before it might get better. Outside of being at the office, staring out at the smoky vistas, I have been all cooped up in my apartment without air conditioning, going crazy. But every time I venture a different approach, I feel like I smoked a pack of cigarettes and my eyes burn. So I go back to sheltering in place.

Speaking of which, I did this Google search today, just in case:

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I haven’t figured out a good place to go yet, but I did learn this:

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But seriously, I learned that MOST of us can avoid dying with a little planning and public awareness! But I also learned that there’s no planning OR public awareness.

And as my wise older brother says, we’re worrying about people in this order: South Koreans, Japanese, Guam/Hawaii/other Pacific Islanders, and then finally us in SFO/LAX/SEA. We’re worried about the North Korean people too, but that’s a constant. I work closely with a young man whose extended family is in Seoul, so I keep perspective.

So it’s smoky, hot and deathy here. Trump is still president. And yet, I am in love.

Also, I’m not a foodie but sometimes nice things come back to back in my FB timeline.

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Parting thought:

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TOWOIT #78

April 4, 2017… Day 75

I don’t know if talking slow is a requirement for filibusters, but it’s 9:26 pm in Washington D.C. and Jeff Merkely is talking so slow. I guess it adds to the funereal atmosphere we’re enjoying in the United States Senate these days. I can’t listen to this.

Radio alarm: Finally, I hear a story about sanctuary cities that centers on the fact that it in most cases it is actually not even legal for local law enforcement to comply with “detainer requests” from federal immigration authorities. A couple stories later, there was a guest noting how warmly Donald Trump treated the military dictator of Egypt (Trump really didn’t have to say he was doing a “fantastic job”), as compared to his chillier treatment of, say, the chancellor of Germany.

By my count, there hasn’t been a State Department press briefing since March 23, but Rex Tillerson released this statement on North Korea firing a ballistic missile into the sea of Japan:

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Rex Tillerson did not have any comment on Assad gassing Syrian civilians, including children. Trump had this to say:

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Not a lot of words there in total, but he found room to blame Obama and call him weak. As was roundly pointed out on Twitter, Trump spent 2013 tweeting Obama that he should under no circumstances intervene in Syria.

Mark Cuban tweeted side-by-side photos of children suffering from the gas attack and the complainy, rambling, petty tweets Trump was making around the same time. I was going to post that tweet here but it was too sad to look at the kids.

There was no White House Press Briefing today, and Sean Spicer was missed. So I went to C-Span.com and entered in the number of views on the White House Press Briefing videos going back to last May.

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As you can see, there’s a big bump up in viewership after the inauguration. Sean Spicer really came in with a bang when he yelled at everyone about crowd size.

There was this one Josh Earnest briefing, on October 4, that had a Sean Spicer level of viewership. I put it on to see whether there was something special about it. There didn’t seem to be. But this was the first non-Spicer White House Press Briefing I’d seen (if you don’t count Allison Janney in The West Wing).

Some observations:

  • The room feels empty, with about 1/3 as many journalists there
  • It goes 2-3 times longer than a Sean Spicer briefing
  • Josh Earnest is SO calm, and speaks in nice sentences that makes sense.
  • The questions are still pretty tough and sometimes a little insulting to the Obama administration
  • April Ryan was there and she looked good
  • There didn’t seem to be anything particular about this press conference to attract so many viewers, but there were a lot of moments of foreshadowing like this one:

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Protesters in Fresno, California greeted Devin Nunes with the Russian national anthem blasting out of loudspeakers.

The woman I went to school with, Trinh Huynh, made the news yesterday after she was shot three times in the back in a crosswalk in Atlanta in broad daylight. She died at the hospital shortly afterward. News outlets looked at her Facebook and shared details from this post she made on January 28 about being a refugee.

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Everything is political. She loved to dance. They still don’t know why the shooter targeted her, but he’s been found and arrested. I will keep saying her name.