Tag Archives: respect

Japan Living

My family and I have been fortunate throughout my military career, and one such blessing is that the Air Force has seen fit to station me in Japan for the vast majority of my 20+ years.

Japanese culture is amazing. Honor and courtesy matter a great deal. Service is valued and something people take pride in. Offering a tip at a restaurant, for example, is frowned upon. The workers know the quality of their product and their service, and they charge you for what is fair. They don’t need a tip as a bribe to put in good effort nor do they want you to feel like you have to help them out financially. (I’m probably vastly misunderstanding the reasoning behind this but the point is, you don’t tip like you would in the States.)

It sometimes seems like the treatment or culture that is too good to be true.

There are some downsides… Traffic laws are such that any accident is partly your fault even if it’s clearly entirely the fault of the other party. If you hadn’t been where you were, they wouldn’t have hit you, or so I guess the logic goes.

So when a landscaping crew’s high-power weed whacker accidentally launched a rock into my minivan’s passenger side window, shattering it, I wasn’t sure what to expect. 

whoops!

While stopped and waiting for the light to turn green, I certainly didn’t expect the sudden pop and Pssshh of crumbling safety glass falling into my car. I may have said something unkind to the worker who–back turned to me, oblivious to my plight and rage–continued trimming the plants on the sidewalk’s edge. His co-worker noticed, called his attention to the situation, and helped start a rough conversation involving contacting his manager’s secretary who thankfully is bilingual. On the phone, she apologized and said someone was coming to take a look. 

In the States, I could almost imagine getting the finger and being sent on my way to sort matters out on my own. I worried that, like a traffic accident, this might fall into some mystical category of “But did you not contribute to the damage to your vehicle by placing your vehicle at that intersection, at that exact moment?”

The company offered to repair the window, which I at least hoped would be the case. I was happy enough with that.

Then they offered to get me a rental car in the mean-time. 

They repaired the car in less than half the expected time.

Then they cleaned out my car and (I’m pretty sure) filled up the gas tank. 

They paid for the rental–or technically, I paid for it on my credit card then they paid me in cash.

And then the manager handed me another envelope that looked like money. With some help and laughter from the bilingual ladies at the car rental office, I found out this was “for dinner.” It was a 10K yen note, which is roughly $100. I mean, the minivan might indicate a large family, but still… That’s a pricy dinner!

It would have been rude to refuse, because this is another custom. When you make a grievous error or do someone harm, you apologize and bring a gift of some sort to smooth the relationship.

As I type this, the taco style brick-oven pizzas my family loves are being cooked, purchased with the “dinner” gift, to be enjoyed with a family movie. Not too shabby. 

(Okay, being honest: the teens will probably thieve some pizza, opt out of family time, and hide out in their rooms watching YouTube videos. Just because we live in Japan, that doesn’t mean everything changes from what you might expect in the States.)

Distance

i skipped Rachael Ritchey’s Blog Battle challenge this week. I had a couple ideas but nothing really came together in my mind.

Then my captain reminded our office that today is our base’s 24 hour POW/MIA Remembrance Run to honor America’s prisoners of war and those missing in action. 

  
I wrote down some thoughts this morning, and showed up to walk laps on lunch. While people run with a POW/MIA flag, servicemembers read a list of the missing.  Pure serendipity, I was walking past as they read several “Williamson” entries from World War II.

This week’s word took on a different meaning. 

DISTANCE
Though we’re separated by 

Both time and distance

Anyone can hear my cry 

If they but pause to listen

A foray in a foreign land

That didn’t go the way we planned

Becomes a test of strength and honor

Which I must withstand 

So little left to hope in 

My resolve threatens to crack 

My body may be broken 

But my spirit is intact 

Memory my only token 

Of all that I now lack

The oaths that I have spoken 

I will keep ’til I get back 

All the tears you cry in silence

All the nights you felt my absence

All the times we would have kissed

All the moments that I’ve missed

And the pictures that I’m not in

While I’m gone but not forgotten

Kid Karma

 

...you know, like, their parents?
…you know, like, their parents?

“I can’t take the Dude outside to play at the park,” Teen Son declared. “There’s broken glass everywhere there.”

Apparently some kids got a hold of a microwave and decided the appropriate thing to do was shatter the rotating glass plate on the public use cement patio behind our house. I sighed in frustration, bemoaned the wicked deeds of “darn kids these days,” and decided to call the housing area manager since the park isn’t actually my responsibility despite its proximity.

Then, a few hours later, my daughter tells me there’s glass in the front yard. “No,” I reply, “it’s at the park, in the back. Isn’t it?”

“Well I think there’s glass out front too.”

I investigate to discover the remains of a Vlasic pickle jar, not five feet from my front door, shattered on the cement walkway to the sidewalk. Chunks and shards sparkle between blades of grass beside the cement.

I’m out there sweeping and picking up shards in the dark with a flashlight, listening to my middle son describe what he saw, and thinking about the conversations I need to have with some neighborhood parents.

“[Kid 1] had the jar, and he wanted to break it. So he put a bunch of rocks in it and shook it really hard. But it didn’t break.”

ok, so first I need to make sure some parents talk to him about how dangerous and dumb it is to break glass in your own hand.

Then [Kid 2] said he’d help. And he took it and smashed it on the cement.”

Then I need to discuss the fact I don’t want a sea of glass shards outside my front door.

“Yeah,” Teen Son adds, “those were the kids who broke that stuff in the park.”

Maybe I should take a closer look.

We check and discover not just a microwave but an assortment of kitchen items turned refuse. Plastic cups and jars, and a blender–plugged into the patio outlet and seemingly used to blend aluminum cans.

I don’t know any way to explain that to parents other than “So, boys being boys, it seems the kids decided to blend some cans and break appliances in the park patio, and that seems not too safe.”

Maybe it’s a form of karma. I broke bottles on train tracks and threw florescent tube lights like spears. I even punched one once–yes, that ended poorly. I was friends with the kid who tried to build bombs in his garage, so maybe my parents thought, “Well at least David isn’t blowing anything up.” Or maybe they didn’t know the full scope of my nefarious activities.

Now I can imagine what a number of homeowners must have felt back then at finding shards of glass scattered on their curbside. I didn’t think of it then, but I get it now. So I expect the neighborhood kids will be mad that someone talked to their parents, and they’ll probably be upset about being grounded (or whatever form of discipline if any they receive).

I don’t care.

I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of parents would rather be aware of their kids’ behavior, however blissful ignorance might be. If you catch my kid shattering jars on your front door (or throwing light-spears or lighting things on fire or planning to build a bomb), I’d love to hear about it. I’ll probably thank you and apologize, blushing profusely.

Then my kid will come clean up the mess. I might even hold the flashlight.

Defining Moments

A friend posted a riddle presented in his managment class. “If the day before the day before yesterday is Tuesday, what is the day after the day after tomorrow?”

I came up with Monday, since ‘today’ in the riddle seems to me to be Friday. He had the same answer. The instructor said he was wrong, and the answer to the riddle was Friday. My linguist friends and I started tearing this apart trying to sort out what the right answer is and how to arrive at it. Some argued that the conditional ‘if’ phrase is trumped by the present tense verb ‘is,’ kind of like a grammar version of PEMDAS, the rule that guides which part of a math equation one must complete first. Had the question been stated “was Tuesday” instead of “is,” then Monday would have been correct.

(Or so they claim. I have my doubts. Not to mention, searching for versions of that riddle on Google pointed toward a similar-but-clearly-worded variant, one which doesn’t play a trick based on verb tenses but simply asks the reader to figure out the puzzle. I suspect the lesson writers or instructor copied the riddle wrong from the start. But I’m arrogant about these things.)

My frustration with the explanation boils down to playing a trick of grammar rules and definitions. Rather than speak clearly, the riddle as explained by my linguist friends ignores common usage of language and depends on an oft-ignored rule that supposedly shifts the meaning completely from what is implied. It’s someone claiming a simple answer depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is–technically accurate and a proper debate tactic, but readily dismissed as shady or truth-dodging by the average person.

I thought of this little exchange when my Facebook exploded with a mixture of Cecil the Lion and all the videos about Planned Parenthood. I very nearly posted a tweet something to the effect of

Maybe if there was a market for lion parts, PP supporters could get behind hunting. #profitsmatter

Then I realized that would do no good. It alienates rather than persuades. It mocks issues people care about deeply. And I think we have plenty of that already.

I got the video link for a feminist declaring “Planned Parenthood Isn’t Selling Baby Parts, You F@#$ing Idiots” and a day later, the right-wing response “Planned Parenthood IS Selling Baby Parts, You Freaking Feminist Hosebeast.” (They also sanctimoniously called out the feminist for dropping f-bombs left and right, while they stooped to a ‘clean’ version of name-calling that is no better in my opinion.)

Meanwhile plenty of people point out the disparity between response to the PP videos and the slaying of Cecil the Lion. Plenty of tweets and posts encouraging the murder of that dentist, whether by lion mauling or by drilling him a new orifice. Whichever side of the aisle your circle of friends leans toward, no doubt you’re seeing a ton of outrage that invariably paints dissenters as morons, idiots, worthless human beings devoid of morality. “How can anyone support this?!” both sides scream, while talking about two different subjects.

We’re talking past each other. Everyone’s speaking but no one is listening.

When the right yells about baby parts, the left sighs at best or swears at them, because the legal definition in our country is “fetal tissue” or “medical waste” produced by a legal and optional medical procedure. There may be aspects that are legally questionable, like whether “sales” are taking place or procedures are being altered from what the patients consented to in order to produce better remains. But “by definition” they’re not selling baby parts, duh, because you have to remember what the definition of “fetus” is.

And the right shouts, “How can you care about a stupid lion more than you care about the horrors depicted in those leaked videos? Look at the evidence; listen to the words of the doctors and the staff.” Many will admit if pressed that they’d like to see the hunter who killed Cecil prosecuted for where he broke the law, if indeed that can be proven. But to most, it’s just a lion, and doesn’t compare with the human remains shown in the PP videos. Going from a religious or moral definition of all human life as being precious, the anti-abortion / pro-life crowd can’t help but be furious about the sale of baby parts — because you have to remember what the definition of “life” is.

We’re all heavily invested emotionally into so many various societal and cultural issues that it can be hard to hit the brakes and take a look around. Maybe it’s a debate about white privilege and the #blacklivesmatter trend. Maybe it’s the Confederate flag, or gun control. Maybe it’s a fight for rights we feel we’ve been denied, or a challenging sense that the comfortable culture we once knew is slipping and changing into something far different.

The river of outrage in this country seems neverending. It’s easy to forget that there are people just like us on both banks.

Locking in on my one point of view and refusing to consider the opposition only creates tension, division, and strife. Yes, we might never agree… but at least I can do you the courtesy of listening to find out exactly what I’m disagreeing with, and vice versa. (For example, here is a challenging view on Planned Parenthood from a Christian man faced with an impossible choice.)

I’m grateful for my friends on all sides of these discussions who are willing to have conversations and dig down to the roots of where our points of view diverge. I spent a good chunk of yesterday morning discussing the value of life and the question “When is it justifiable to kill another human being?” I don’t think either of us walked away with a different point of view, but we maintained the mutual respect we’ve developed over the years.

For me, that respect is what matters. Rather than debate words and call each other names, we’ve made sure to define our friendship first. We’ve defined our individual morality to include striving to show respect for others, and we make sure our conversations on these subjects are guided by that definition.

A mind that won’t listen can’t be changed. And when my first thought is that someone else is guilty of this, usually I figure out that it’s me.

Let’s not categorize ourselves with “us” and “them” on this or any other issue. We are not engaged in a civil war despite all the cultural issues and debates. We have to figure out how to be “we the people” because that’s what this nation is founded upon and defined by.

Is He For She For Me?

Emma Watson invited me to a party, but I’m not sure if I’m going to accept.

Her speech at the United Nations for the start of the He For She campaign was all the rage on my Twitter feed.

I listened to the speech with interest after hearing that it riled up a bunch of dissenters. What could she have suggested to get such angry responses?

She suggested such lofty goals as equal pay for equal work. Or girls receiving the same access to education as boys. Or girls not being married off like property while they are still children.

I agree with her on all those things.

She also suggested that feminism shouldn’t have a negative connotation, nor should it be a “women’s thing.” Hence the campaign, intended to call up support from men who agree with the above. It’s not enough for women to say “I’m for equality.” We need men to say it too, not just with words and tweets, but with actions in the public and political spheres.

She said:

“I want men to take up this mantle, so that their daughters, sisters, and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too.”

I agree wholeheartedly. I grew up getting picked on sometimes (even as an adult), because where other boys would play football or whatever “real guys” do, I was happy to draw comics, play piano, or cook my favorite foods. When my crew in the Air Force would go drinking or fishing, I would go to the Chapel (a reliable place to find a piano) or library. I had a crewmember express shock that I was married with (at the time) a child on the way. “Dude,” he said, “I thought you were gay!”

Nope. Just human. Just an individual who does things differently than you.

If Emma Watson wants people to be free of gender stereotypes like that, I happily agree.

She also said:

“Both men and women should be free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong.”

You bet! I know some really strong women. And it seems to me that they’ve paid a steep price for being that way. What would be accepted or even respected in a man is often treated like a threat in a woman, at least from what I’ve seen. It should not be so.

Great points, Ms. Watson!

That said, there was something that caught my ear about the speech.

While on the one hand, she said “everyone’s invited to the table, everyone’s welcome to join the conversation,” this was immediately followed with “women should be in control of their own bodies.”

If I disagree with Ms. Watson (and I’m sure I do) about abortion–what it means, whether it is morally acceptable, when life begins, what life is worthy of legal protection–am I welcome to the table? Am I permitted to join the conversation?

More importantly, what kind of conversation will that be?

Just a guess
Just a guess

Because it seems patently obvious that there is one accepted right answer on this subject, and it is the answer Ms. Watson already possesses.

There might be an RSVP on my invitation from Ms. Watson, but there’s no point in responding if my contribution is going to be ignored.