They say warnings come in threes. Here are three things I got so wrong about Americans that all starts with Korean barbecue back in the 1980s.
As a Korean American and the son of immigrants, Korean food wasn’t so hip back when I was growing up in the 80s. Kimchi was food for aliens and it wasn’t part of the fermented revolution to rebalance the good bacteria in your gut. Its ripeness wasn’t compared to exotic cheesemaking, it was a weapon for kids to relieve themselves of bullying for a moment by pointing the finger at the minority du jour. But the homerun Korean dish that was bulletproof? Korean barbecue. Meat. Grilled. Flavored. A bit differently but unified by the gift of the universal flavor of cow fat.
What I didn’t expect was the horror of Americans not wanting to grill their own beef at their table at the restaurant. These were people who boasted of backyard barbecue grills, weekends perfecting the perfect grilled steaks and hot dogs and competing who had the best technique. What better way to have it your way than at the table at the restaurant and cut out all the cleaning and the hassle of firing up the grill especially if it wasn’t a fourth of July weekend?
What I got wrong #1: When Americans go to restaurants, they want to be SERVED. More than the food itself, the experience of being catered to and in effect reliving a past where black and brown bodies gave them status is what the restaurant trip was designed for. The food is feeding the EGO not the BODY.
I thought higher quality food and the ability to be the master of your own meat would trump the need to be served. Nope.
Fast forward to the debacle over Colin Kapernick kneeling during the national anthem at football games. ‘Americans’ got so angry at the so-called display of disrespect. In almost every culture, and especially Asian cultures, kneeling is a sign of utmost humility. If one were to objectively assess who is displaying more respect in front of a flag, it would be the quiet one kneeling, not the one who is standing with a beer hat that mainlines Budweiser to his throat.
What I thought: Americans would see the kneeling as a sign of greater respect for the country. Soldiers, ahem, White American soldiers are depicted kneeling in front of the flag in many patriotic depictions. Kneeling requires great humility and the overcoming pride. Chinese emperors would force foreign diplomats to kneel before them before convening their meetings and many Europeans simply would not do it. Kneeling is incredibly self-sacrificing and a sign of respect, not disrespect.
What I got wrong #2: Kneeling triggered Americans’ (by now you should probably catch on to my definition of ‘Americans’ as NOT ALL Americans, but just the racist or psychopathic ones) guilt complex. Seeing another man kneel triggers a deep human emotion. For normal people it prompts sympathy, respect and reverence. For the psychopaths, revulsion and envy because they could never have the confidence to do the same. It brings them pain so they had to destroy Colin to relieve their suffering.
And let’s come to where we are today. Masks.
why won’t americans focus on the ppe divide instead?
Americans love to have the latest products and take pride in developing the best in the world. I thought their access to data, science and medical technology would have created the leading face mask market early in the covid-19 crisis. Instead, I saw South Korea take the lead. There should be people arguing over the ‘PPE Divide’ as in those who have access to masks that filter out 94%, 80%, 50% or 0% or aerosol particles from their face masks. And whether the masks are designed to prevent fogging up while wearing glasses or sunglasses and how to increase access while reducing prices. I’m shocked that America was so late to the game with even understanding the aerosol connection with covid-19. People still have subpar masks with virtually no protection. However, the greatest shocker is seeing people not even wanting to wear masks AT ALL.
What I got wrong #3: This one is complicated. To be fair, airborne illnesses at this level is so unimaginable to Americans in 2020 because it’s probably been about four generations since the U.S. saw diseases like tuberculosis ravage communities. Dying from breathing doesn’t seem possible in this day and age in America. But in other parts of the world, it’s not such a distant memory. Hence, faster mask adoption. I thought Americans wouldn’t need to ‘see it to believe it’ as even President Trump attested to after his own positive diagnosis. But the more glaring point I got wrong? Masks make Americans feel like they’re being told what to do. Minorities are always being told what to do. So we’re used to it. White Americans? Not so much. This distorted concept of freedom is the enfant terrible. Childish. The mask threatens their power. A hood enhances false power because it’s secret. But the mask is like a gag. In their eyes. Just go with the brain synapse for a second.
Plus, the mask also gets in their way of trying to tell us what to do when we’re less and less interested in hearing what they have to say. So that just probably pisses them off more.
So these are the three things I got wrong about Americans. It all started with Korean barbecue. I knew something was awry. I should’ve paid more attention. But I was just a kid trying to defend kimchi. And now white guys with beards are bottling it and selling it. Warnings come in threes. But where there’s a warning, there’s also opportunity.