Sunday, September 6, 2009

US Politics, Korean Style

Turnabout is fair play, so they say; and so, following my rant yesterday in which I besmirched both US troglodytes and Korean racists, I am going to excerpt an Op-Ed from yesterday's Dong-A Ilbo, one of Korea's most right-wing publications, about the Obama school speech "controversy":
It is customary for a U.S. president to visit schools and play teacher for a day, reading books and talking to students. President Barack Obama is no exception. ...
Obama will not just stop at reading books to students. He will make a speech Tuesday at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, that will be broadcast nationwide through the Internet and C-Span TV. The White House said the president will stress the importance of taking responsibility for studying, setting educational goals, and doing what it takes to fulfill the two goals. As the Washington Post aptly said yesterday, Obama plans to deliver a pep talk to students.

So far, so good. We'll leave aside for the moment that Ronald Reagan ran on a platform to abolish the Department of Education and tried to count ketchup as a vegetable in school meals, or that GW Bush enacted policies making it more difficult to get student loans.
What U.S. presidents have said to young students has always triggered controversy, however. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush told high school students to study hard and avoid drugs in a speech broadcast nationwide. At the time, the Democratic Party opposed his speech. This time, conservatives are railing against Obama’s words.

Well, no. "The Democratic Party" did no such thing, although a limited number Democratic politicians and operatives did. I had been a full-time teacher for five years or so by then, a daily newspaper reader, and reasonably politically aware, and I don't remember the episode at all.

Mainly, I think this is because George the First was the boring-est, most predictably milquetoast American leader in living memory. To suggest that the response "this time" is equivocal is absurd. "The accusations range from trying to brainwash students to using tax money to spread his socialistic ideology and attempting to lift his sagging approval rating," while what I've heard of the previous example is it was labelled by folks like Dick Gephardt as "paid political speech". Here'a a link from "Newsbusters: Exposing and Combating Liberal Media Bias." Caveat: my only previous experience with this website involved catching them in a blatant lie about Nancy Pelosi and Starkist, then owned by DelMonte. Read about it here.

The Dong-A editorial ends with the following:
His speech is far from ideological or political. Given that members of the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers’ Union are exploiting schools as a venue for ideological propaganda and political struggle, the conflict over Obama’s speech is a minor problem in comparison.

Writer Bhang Hyeong-nam has a point there, in that Korean education--like most of the society--is in constant political turmoil; so was America in 1807, twenty years into its life as a constitutional democracy. Still, Koreans will continue to see each other more or less as family, all in this together, "Korea fighting!"

Alas, the US has had its soul ripped asunder by a level of dishonest discourse, vitriol and name-calling that pits Americans against each other with eye-popping, mouth-foaming hatred. And it was a deliberate political strategy.

Bonus Photograph: Well, at least these are supposed to be divided; cool Ladies and Gents signage in World Cup Stadium subway station.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Washington Examiner dug back to 1991 to discover that, when George H.W. Bush went to Alice Deal Junior High to speak to America's school kids, the left lost it.

"The White House turned a Northwest Washington junior high classroom into a television studio and its students into props," railed the Washington Post. Education Secretary Lamar Alexander was called before a House committee. The National Education Association denounced Bush. And Congress ordered the General Accounting Office to investigate.