Thursday, July 21, 2011

Reflecting on my time in Korea . . .

So . . . 

I have now been back from my Asian Adventure for almost three weeks, and I have enjoyed being back in the United States, but I have also spent a lot of time reflecting about the things I really liked about South Korea and/or China. 

A view of Seoul

One thing that I enjoyed a lot about the Korean culture was a lack of negativity.  For example, Koreans  do not openly criticize their government.  It is not that they are not allowed to or that there are consequences if they do, they just seem to have more honor and respect than to openly criticize.

It is a wonderful thing that our country has as much freedom of expression as it does, but I think some people just take it to a ridiculous point.  An extreme example is the Westboro Church.  Yes, they have the RIGHT to say what they say, but they should have the RESPECT and DECENCY not to say it.  I cannot fathom any Korean group acting the way Westboro does.  It might have happened, but it would shock me.

But even in the less extreme sense, I think that this basic idea plays out in our media today.  It does not seem that the media has a kind word to give any President or others in power.  In my lifetime, I have seen the media turn on Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.  Now these are three completely different humans, but it seems that at some point or another, all of the media has come together to decide that these people can do nothing right.  And it ebbs and flows.  Bill Clinton regained his saint like status after we had to endure 8 years of Bush.  Obama was glorified by the media until he actually had the power to do things, and now he is constantly criticized.

I respect the fact that Koreans do not publicly criticize those in power.  One of the members of our group asked one of our tour guides: "Who do you think should win the upcoming election?"  The tour guide proceeded to give us facts about the different candidates and remained completely diplomatic. So, he was asked again, and he still dodged the question.  I am sure that tour guide has an idea as to who he will vote for and opinions on the election, but he did not seem to find it appropriate to share them with us.

This is not what you see in America.  I myself am very guilty of loudly displaying my political beliefs.  I started wearing a shirt in 2006 that said "Barack the Vote."  But I also know how many times that I have been deeply hurt and offended by comments others have made about my political opinions.

Just because we have the absolute right to proudly declare our political beliefs and criticize others non-stop, that doesn't necessarily mean that we have to or that it is the most productive thing to do.  Maybe our government would be getting a lot more done if everyone didn't exercise this right quite so often.  

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