Thursday, October 06, 2005


The Corners of thy Tents

Though I did descend into politics in yesterday's entry, I consciously resist doing so too often. The political blogosphere is well developed and hardly needs my mewling voice added to it. At the same time, I am an avid reader of political blogs, in fact I am hooked, and happily so, and wonder at who would not enjoy the flint strike of clashing arguments which sharpens reasoning even as it heats the blood in the midst of battle.

But after all, the reason a free people engages in politics at all is to preserve their culture and perpetuate their civilization. And that suggests to me that a certain amount of energy should be expended in describing, debating, defining or disseminating that culture and that civilization. Not that I can or should be any arbiter of taste like the critics in the major media are; Pauline Kael in cinema, Michiko Kakutani still in literature, pronouncing from on high and presuming to direct our sensibilities. Today, with a million voices able to be heard, I am content just to be an arbiter of my own tastes, and do so publicly for fun and to interact with people a bit more.

And so I choose to stick usually to culture and ideas. And I find that if I spend most of my time sharpening my own reason on subjects like bike trails, Korean movies, Balinese tradition, Solzhenitsyn's nobel speech,dance classes and fine poetry, then when a political subject comes along I find I know my views quite clearly. Participating and reflecting on things of cultural value nourishes the spirit. If I then find I cannot resist commenting on Iraq or Katrina, at least I'll be able to do so with, you know, a nourished spirit.

So that's why I prefer to write about Japanese candidates for the US CPA exam, such as Miyoko, a family friend from Japan has been staying with us over the last month. She was here to take portions of that exam, which is only administered within the US. (By staying a month she could take two bites out of the test center apple). Japanese accountants are lining up to take the US CPA in order to manage their US-based subsidiaries, and because in short order Japan will make its accounting rules compliant with the US GAAP style.

I had particular reasons to be happy to host Miyoko, even beyond the fact that hospitality is prized in the Torah. Indeed, Lot if anything was a bit too hospitable in offering his daughters to the men who had surrounded his tent, the rough men of Sodom who were threatening mayhem if Lot didn't submit their real target, the male strangers who were Lot'sguests, to be raped. And gee, I wonder where this depiction in the Torah of an entire culture of homosexual rape, set in the middle east among the pagan neighbors of the emerging Hebrews, could have come from? After all the Torah, inspired by G-d or not (and I vote yes) could only describe the local color of its time. Digression.

So we did take her kayaking in a salt marsh in Wilmington, NC, to our Thursday dance classes where she broke a few Southern hearts, to the high street at NC State for shopping and middle eastern food. Her favorite activity was to sit by our local river and eat Krispy Kreme donuts and jabber in Japanese with my wife. And here's the additional reason I had, beyond the pleasure of friendship, for wanting to do all I could for Miyoko.

Two and a half years ago, Miyoko had been barred from entry into the US at the airport in Seattle. She had flown in to attend our wedding, but because she had already traveled to the US twice within the preceding six months, her travel activities raised a flag with Homeland Security. This excessively frequent flying by a 4 foot 10 inch Japanese woman represented too great a potential terrorist threat for our country to absorb, and she was ushered onto the next available plane back to Japan.

A real-world effect our unwillingness to profile is having on our nation's reputation for hospitality.

In spite of what I wrote before, there is a need to engage in politics – in this case to fight against the political correctness that led to a policy that has inconvenienced millions, jeopardized our collective security and caused me this personal embarrassment. And so there now stands revealed the source of my own possibly excessive eagerness to show Miyoko the sights of Greenville, North Carolina. What Homeland Security tooketh, my wife and I did our besteth to giveth back.


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