CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: Where’s the Compassion?

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By W.T. Wimpy Hiroto
(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on February 2, 2011.)

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Stop, already. Cease and desist. Surrender. I give up.

It’s open season on CR2S and readers have lost all semblance of kindness and benevolence. I mean, geez, it’s as if no one has ever flunked a driving test before!  The slings and arrows ranged from “How could you?” to a verbal smirk, “Wimpy!”

You’d have thought I embarrassed the Nisei Nation.

There is nothing to be gained by repeating the admonishments, although I have to admit some were cleverly camouflaged. The tone of most makes me wonder if I’m not a one-man disaster. But that’s cool. If making fun of a helpless stumblebum is the order of the day, so be it. Man up.

While WTH served as an appealing e-mail piñata, there was a single beam of pity that shone through. Sachiko W-A wrote:

“Since English is my second language, it is a challenge for me to read your column.  A few years ago I was faced to take the driving test for the first time in 25 years. I went to take a private lesson. It really help to get a confidence. The instructor was a female from Japan.  [S]he went through every detail the examiner would do to you . . . I passed in flying color. I think I paid about $100.” It was signed “Your admirer in Torrance.”

If you don’t think something like that raises the gladness bar, you’re cold. And in short supply of all things good. Sachi, your humble reporter will now confront Thursday morning with added vigor and confidence. That’s when I’ll take my place in the drive test line at the DMV. If by some strange macabre circumstance the same examiner that flunked me the last time shows up, I’ll feign a heart attack or some such nonsense.

The excitement appears to have died down, somewhat, since the introduction of Amy Chua to the American public. The Dragon Lady lives. In the form of Tiger Mom.

Ms. Chua purports to know a thing or two about raising children; like forcing her youngest daughter to practice a piano piece hours on end without water or bathroom break. Eldest daughter is called “garbage,” among other endearing terms. An excerpt of her “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” appeared in the Wall Street Journal, titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.” The furor that followed was a minor-league WikiLeak.

While psychologists, sociologists and educators screamed their objections, a surprising number (of Americans) grudgingly accepted Chua’s criticism of Western parenthood allowing their children to waste time on such non-productive activities like games, tweeting and screwing around. Made more disconcerting as China continues its relentless rise to the top of the international heap in more categories that you can count. Now we’re second-class parents.  Will the losses never end? Is an NFL quarterback named Li on the horizon?

I’ve not read her book, already a bestseller. She was born here (one of four girls) and made to speak Chinese at home, receiving a chopstick whack every time they spoke a word of English. Only an “A” was an acceptable grade.

Ms. Chua is a rather attractive 48-year-old, in a Nancy Kwan fashion. A Yale law professor, as is her husband Jed Rubenfeld, you’re not talking Monterey Park ethnic, more like San Marino. And not unsurprisingly, he is nowhere to be found in the parenting equation.

The Western reaction has been unsurprising.  While decrying the abusive nature of her style, it is another knee-jerk reaction based on fear and trepidation; where next will the Chinese (or Indians or Brazilians) move to the forefront? Even though their students far outdistance ours in math and science … (pick your argument.)

It is unsurprising I would consciously match Amy Chua with any and all Nisei parents I know. There are none.  There were some infamous Japanese school principals and martial arts sensei before the war, to be sure, and rumors of strict Issei punishment, but nothing compared to the Chinese Tiger Mom. And I wonder about the Chinese Nisei reaction.

FYI: Phloem bundle is what the white string part of the banana is called. It allows the fruit to reap its nutrients.  As for the white stuff that encircles the tangerine, it is called “pith.” And if anyone is interested in Prof. Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture,” it can be viewed on YouTube. These gems of wisdom passed along to CR2S thanks to the fervor of Jeff H. It is heartwarming to know there are readers out there more interested in informing than panning.

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W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached by e-mail. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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