11 January 2009

More signs of the times

I continue to have afterthoughts from my three months in Asia, especially now that my "sudden" replacement of a BMW with a Hyundai has really come to light among my social circles.

Spending the Christmas holidays in South Korea and Hong Kong was a true eye-opener. It didn't hurt that I took in many non-Christian motifs (especially Buddhist) during my trip. More than ever, I am reminded that the different religious belief systems out there are, just like scientific theories, attempts at explaining the world in ways the average human mind can understand. My Seoul acquaintances told me there are over 8,000 different versions of the Christian Bible, all with different takes on the same core belief; this reminds me that I shouldn't be taking the Bible, or any other religious text, word-for-word (especially given that they're all less-than-satisfactory translations anyway), but rather, get the big picture and live by that.

The Christians really hate idolatry, even though some Christian branches, notably the Catholics and the Mormons, are heavy with statues and other imagery. I decided to take my own interpretation on this. It is wrong to worship Jesus because he is Jesus; for me, being obsessed with the being of Jesus himself is itself idolatry. What really counts is what he embodies - the love of God so great, he sends a part of himself in human form and sacrifices himself, just to save the humankind. Without taking this into the picture, and without taking that into one's everyday life, I believe that being Christian becomes utterly meaningless. Too many Christians are of the mindset that "no matter what I do, I am saved by Jesus, and I am not of this world, so I can be a total a-hole especially around those who refuse to be saved" - I'll never accept that. This salvation theme resonates with many other religions, and over in Buddhism, Kwan Yin vows not to save herself until she saves every human first. I will not worship Kwan Yin; what I worship will be all the mercy and love she connotes. (Of course, the fact that Kwan Yin is transgender doesn't hurt either.)

On a different note, while I will continue to boycott unsavory governments and corporations, I will take that to a more sophisticated level. Many Americans showed their stupidity by boycotting everything French, when France dared to oppose the US-led invasion of Iraq. This ignored over two centuries of shared values and friendship between the people of the US and the people of France. The French kept their cool by continuing to welcome Americans with open arms - assuming that the American visitor didn't act like a jerk, anyway. In almost all countries, the people are good, it's the leaders who deviate from the program for their selfish ends. I found that first-hand in Seoul; the South Koreans are great people, despite their government, the Unification Church, and the Korean-Americans. Rick Steves, the travel guru, reminds me of the same thing, after his visit to Iran.

What will this mean for me? My boycotts will target the worst of the worst, while no longer penalizing people who might as well be my friends. By buying a Hyundai automobile and an LG TV set, I've done just that with the Koreans (I will continue to stay far away from Samsung, Korean Air, and Forever 21). With other nations' corporations, I'll do the same. While Toyota's main US manufacturing subsidiary, notorious for its anti-labor activities and support of John Roberts, shall never be forgiven, other parts of the Toyota empire, including the Japanese headquarters and New United Motors in Northern California, are probably not all that bad; that means while I'll never drive a Kentucky-built Camry or a Texas-built Tundra, I'll no longer rule out a Japan-built Prius or a California-built Tacoma. And taking this to non-corporate levels as well, I may reconsider my boycott of CODEPINK organic coffee, which comes from a women's cooperative in Nicaragua. While I can never forgive Nicaragua's government and popular homophobia (enforced by left-wingers, at that), a bit less poverty among the fair-minded women may be what it takes to start changes there. And conversely, evil corporations, even those from "good" nations, will surely see my wrath; I continue to harbor warm thoughts toward modern-day Germany, but I will never buy Krups or BMW products ever again.

I took a few photos at Costco yesterday as I thought of these things.

Here is a children's book - and it is surely a sign of the times. Barack Obama, in his successful run for the Presidency, popularized many phrases that resonated with most of mainstream America. This book is made up of such phrases, and I think this is priceless. Specifically, it reminds the reader that there is no black America, no white America, no red America, no blue America - but only one America. The "divide and conquer" tactic, rising from the suburban cul-de-sacs and the gated communities of Orange County, which had prevailed in the US for the past three decades, must come to an end, and the Obama Presidency is the first step in making that happen.

The neoliberal economics and the neocon ideology have really trashed the US, especially in the last few years. I must continue to remember that Obama is only one man, with only four years' time; he won't get much done. He can, however, get the mentalities changed and the process rolling. The US is still pretty much the only country that can afford to give healthcare to me if I ask for it, but can't give it to me for ideological reasons; Obama won't change that overnight, but he will start a process that will eventually get that changed. I do hope the changes will be soon enough that by the time I do get sick and need healthcare, I'll be able to get it.

But the forces that corrupted the US for the past three decades won't go away overnight. Mann Coulter, the "shock jock" of conservative commentary, continues to put out garbage like this. Never mind that if I am to take the conservative ideology literally, we're looking at a sodomite who is an abomination in the eyes of God, and must be stoned immediately.

There is no doubt in my mind that Coulter is not a woman, but a castrated sodomite, given all his talk about how women must lose their right to vote, and so forth. I am more reminded than ever that one's gender (including my own) is not determined by what is under the person's mini, but rather, what's between the ears. And this is one sodomite that still has tons of testosterone-induced anger management problems.

I do hope that the American public will see past rambling shock jocks like this, and work for what's best for the nation and the world - and ultimately, themselves. Of course, there will be evil entities standing in the way - News Corporation, the Unification Church, BMW, certain foreign governments, and more - but they have NO right to determine my (or any other American's) future or destiny.