Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The SJC post without a joke

I'm thinking a lot about age today. It is (or would have been) my father's hundredth birthday. For all the friction between us--caused entirely by me, which is something for me to live with--I see myself as more and more like him all the time.

Also, I'm trying to shake off the flu, which has me shuffling about the apartment like a nonagenarian. I was feeling half-decent on Saturday, so I did the walking trail--not the running--at the hash, but it turned out to be five-plus miles all the way up and down Namsan, Seoul's most prominent mountain, and by the end I was in a lot more pain than in any of my marathons. Till today, I hadn't taken a shower or shaved in about four days and when I got up in the morning, I looked like a past-sell-date potato. My hair looked as if I'd combed it with a slice of buttered toast.

And there's the possibility that my school will institute the Korean public schools' mandatory retirement age of 62, which would give me two more years, or three, if the rule allows someone to serve a school year started at age 61. Oh. I'd barely thought about this until this moment: if they go by Korean count of age, by which you're one when you're born and age a year every January 1, I'm 61 now. I have no idea what else I could do if I got put out to pasture. My friend Bob, who is three years older, is in the same boat.

I just read a new book entitled Korea: the Impossible Country, which says that having a manager (such as a school owner or principal) who is younger than a subordinate (such as me) makes Koreans very uncomfortable, as it goes against the Confucian-based cultural norm that age equals rank. I don't know if that's involved, but from a business standpoint, why would you get rid of a valued employee because of a number? And, frankly, I've gotten excellent job reviews and was chosen Teacher of the Year by the students. That's just a popularity contest, but... hey, they like me.

The cable's not working, so I've had three and a half days of reeling from the computer chair to the bed to read from a laptop or a Nook or occasionally a retro device I vaguely remember called a book. Bored, bored, bored. And woozy.

But, in the year's weakest segue, I was also reminded today of age in the sense of history. I found the president's inaugural speech very moving, especially when he said:
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
I think it was groundbreaking for the president, at such an event, to remind us all that equal rights are for everyone. I'm neither a woman, nor black, nor gay, but human rights are human rights, and I found that paragraph of the president's--especially "Stonewall"--very inspiring. I think people will watch clips of it in 50 years' time. 

One day at a school in Florida, when I said I thought that gay people deserved to have full equal rights, a student asked, "Did you use to be gay, Mr. Cornman?" I said, "No; Martin Luther King is my hero, but I didn't use to be black."

Remember the first three words in the whole Constitution: "We, the people". All of us.

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