My Lightening Rod

Comment of the day… In a way, MLK’s dream still hasn’t come true.– Posted 1/22/2004 by KENSHIR0

A number of people commented on my entries of the past two days, and more than a few saddened me, such as Kenshiro’s Comment of the day. While I lived during a time of civil strife, today’s world is supposed to be more enlightened. And, indeed most people I know reflect a greater understanding of our contemporary world, but there remain a significant few who still live in the dark ages and continue to spew their hatred to the detriment of not only minorities but all members of our society…

The topic I have raised is a sensitive one for many minorities, and given the number and length of the comments I have received, it has become a lightening rod of sorts for the thoughts and opinions of my visitors. But today, in an attempt to write something lighter, I want to talk about another lightening rod

Back in October, I related my burning adventure with jalapeno peppers. As you recall, I had to use the restroom after handling some chilis and as a result, a very sensitive part of my body learned to shout: “Ai! Mui caliente“. (To read the entire entry, click here–go ahead, I dare ya’.) Well, I had another stupid experience recently. As the the temperature has dropped, so has the humidity, leaving the air as dry as a bone. As a result, static electricity has seems to jump out from everywhere. I think static electricity is a product of electrons–those things that circle the nucleus of an atom–that can transfer from one object to another when they rub against each other. Now, I’m no scientist, but as I understand it, this transfer of electrons is easier in a dry environment and when one object gets an overload of electrons, a negative charge, it will jump at protons, a positive charge, the first chance it gets. This sudden jump is what causes the electric shock we feel… or something like that. Can someone clarify or verify? I have to have at least one visitor who remembers high school science.

In any event, the other day I came home from shopping and began to change into my homewear. As is my custom, I like to take my socks and pants off first and then my sweater–48% cotton, 27% linen, 25% acrylic–and as is often the case with clothing that contains degrees of synthetic fabrics, it cackled with electricity. Well, this piece of clothing was obviously looking for a postive charge somewhere… anywhere. I began to fold my sweater when it brushed that same sensitive part of my body…

CRACK! An electric jolt hit me where it counts, right at the tip. Man, did it hurt. You guys know how sensitive that part is. Imagine pricking it (no pun intended) with a needle. Now multiply that 3 to 10 times (depending on how sensitive you are). Musubi-chan, who was facing away and also changing her clothes, spun around surprised.

“Woah, that must have hurt, Where did it…” She stopped in mid-sentence and stared at me, as I was doubled over grabbing [insert today’s title above] in an awkward attempt to chase the pain away (Itai, itai, tonde-ike!).

“Gyahahahahahaha! Are you okay? Hahahaha, I mean, kekekekeke, really, are you okay? Przupzufufu,” asked Musubi-chan, in as sympathetic a face as she could muster.

“I don’t think I’ll need surgery, if that’s what you mean,” was all I could mutter. Y’know, for me to refrain from any sort of sarcasm, I think I would have to be dead…

So what was the worst static shock you ever received? (C’mon, let’s share!)

Bad Xanga! Bad, Bad Xanga!

Is it just me, or is Xanga having a tantrum with you as well. On more than just a few occasions, I have written comments on other sites and clicked the submit button only to see my comment evaporate into virtual space. What the freakin-A is going on here? I’ve been anally copying the comments and then submitting just in case it disappears again. Although I have observed that if I click the “If comment box is not working, click here” button, I have yet to lose anything…

All Japanese School

Yesterday, I mentioned I went to an all Japanese school. ddsb2000 commented: “I didn’t know they had all japanese schools in america.” Well, they don’t anymore, but they used to. I went to an elementary school called Maryknoll in Los Angeles. They stipulated–if I remember correctly–that a child had to be at least one-quarter Japanese to be eligible for admission. I don’t remember if there was any specific law passed, but sometime in the 80s it became clear that the school could no longer discriminate based on race and they began accepting all races. As a Catholic Mission, Maryknoll attracted hispanics from nearby areas, but as the enrollment of non-Japanese went up, the number of Japanese American families went down. In the end, it closed its doors as an elementary school in the late mid 90s due to lack of enrollment. It continues today as a community center, the Maryknoll Japanese Catholic Center.

From what I can tell, the general consensus could be summarized as: “If our kids are going to a mixed school, they may as well go to public school; it’s closer and free.” It sound like a rational, economically sound arguement, but I have heard the whispers of some who did not like the idea that Maryknoll was desegragating. Some JAs took the pride thing too far, or they adopted some of the uglier aspects of Japanese culture.

Not that Japanese culture is all bad… But there is a distinct attitude of Japanese uniqueness that reverberates in Japan even now.

In any event, Maryknoll was a segregated school. It sounds awful now, but before you place judgement, let me tell you that it was also a blessing of sorts for Japanese in the beginning. It was established in the early 20th century when racism and the “yellow peril” mentality was still a part of mainstream society. It provided a place where Japanese nationals in America could worship in peace in a language they understood and study without fear of prejudice. The Catholic mission is located about three blocks from LA’s J-Town, and unlike the current Lil’ Tokyo, J-Town back then was a place where many of the Japanese community lived. There were a few houses, but most rented long-term hotel rooms–many are still there above the stores and restaurants on the north side of 1st Street across from JVP and Koyasan Temple. (My dad used to live there as well.) The kids could then walk to Maryknoll for their education. During my time, the school was still a source of community. I was born ten years after WWII, a couple of years after the Korean War and was a student there for nine years (kindergarten to 8th grade) during the Vietnam War. On the street, away from Maryknoll/J-Town, I was called a Jap, a Chink, and a Gook. Maryknoll provided me with a place I could study and play without fear of random and malicious harrassment, and sometimes violence–I have been beaten up for being “Japanese”. While I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that Maryknoll empowered me, it did allow me to grow without restraint and, in a way, innocently. Unfortunately, it also cultivated that attitude of being special to the detriment of others; by segregating others, we ultimately segregated ourselves.

When you were growing up, did you have the opportunity to congregate with those that share your heritage?