In case you missed it, this happened.
Hundreds of miles away from Gwangju, for the record, and nothing to get worried about yet. I rolled into this country knowing full well that it’s a nation still technically at war. In fact, my whole application process was shaking down in the wake of the mysterious Cheonan sinking and the international blame game/pissing contest that followed. So my world wasn’t completely rocked when these images of black columns of smoke kept popping up on all the TV channels. Nor when my fifth grade students started demonstrating the arc of artillery shells and explosions while shouting “You hear? You hear?!”
In my perverse little mind, the threat of war is the teensiest bit exciting. My American middle-class white existence has only ever been marginally touched by it, so I can still afford to romanticize violence. And it would make my (military serving) grandfathers very proud indeed if I died in a fireball of noble glory defending democracy and a roomful of school children from communists. (That sentence makes bald eagles weep tears of pure patriotism.) So I thought about that for a little bit and chose to ignore the fact that, as a government employee and foreigner, I’d probably be shipped out stat if things heated up between the Koreas. All because of this fool:
Curiously, none of the (adult) Koreans I know said a word about the goings-on on Yeonpyeong Island. Waiting in line at the bank, assaulted by the media coverage on a TV just at eye-level, I asked Coteach what she thought about it. She refrained from any real opinion (I suspect there is a covert game of “Don’t Agitate the American” going on here…), but mentioned worrying for her younger brother. We’d spoken of him before: a kid just 18 or 19 years old in the middle of his compulsory military service. So here was I, in my brain turning this into the Great War that would magically transform me into an Ernest Hemingway-type genius or Great American Hero….when in fact I am only ever going to be The World’s Most Consistent Asshole.
Stay tuned for further developments and exercises in humility.
UPDATE: Shit just got real.