It snowed here for the first time Dec. 4, and it’s coooold. Public ice skating rinks have opened, which is an ominous sign that they expect it to STAY cold! Tom and I both grew up in cold, snowy climates, but there’s a reason we moved away! The upside is…no, there’s no upside, since we’re not into winter sports…we’ll just have to grin and bear it.
I finished holiday preparations early this year, so now the main order of business is attending holiday parties. Last Friday I went to Tom’s noon office party at the Chancery (main Embassy building), then returned to work at the Annex so that I could go to our Public Affairs office party at the boss’s house. Yes, it’s tough. The Ambassador’s holiday party is tomorrow night. We decorated an office door for the Embassy-wide decorated door competition. I sketched the design, secured the materials, and organized people. I put down a snowball, and then ten others pushed and made it bigger—it was a lovely exercise in collaboration. Our theme, based on Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” is “PA Style.” Santa’s two reindeer are dressed like Psy in green jackets, black pants, and black and white shoes. One is a male with a bowtie, and the other is a long-lashed female with a pearl necklace. With brown hair, our red-suited Santa looks suspiciously like the head of PA. He’s twirling a bag of presents above his head marked “PA Style,” and next to him is a tree with ornaments painted with nail polish, which spell out the initials of our Sections in glitter glue.
Two big items in the news here. The first is N. Korea’s apparently successful missile launch, despite its ban by the UN Security Council. They already have short range launch capability—this is for longer-range weapons. It takes a really special country to be able to get all the superpowers lined up against it. It takes a really special country to throw money at its military instead of feeding its own people. Such a country is N. Korea. I’m not worried about them attacking S. Korea, though, because its leaders aren’t suicidal. The second item is S. Korea’s presidential election today. Conservative female politician, Park Geun Hye, is the daughter of Park Chung Hee, the controversial head of S. Korea from 1963 until 1979. The liberal candidate is Moon Jae In, and the two are running neck and neck. We’re happy because voting day is a national holiday.
Regarding the Sandy Hook school massacre, I am way beyond sad, I am Angry. I live in South Korea, where men are required to perform military service, and at any moment the country could be invaded by N. Korea. Under these circumstances, the country might be expected to allow, even encourage, individual gun ownership. Instead, the country has strict gun control laws. Why? Koreans tend to be emotional people, and they know if more people had guns, there would be more heat-of-the-moment gun deaths. The suicide rate among Korean students is already high; with ready access to guns, it would be much higher. (Fact: a suicide is 3 to 5 times more likely to occur in a home with a gun than in a home without one.) As a result, there are few gun-related deaths in S. Korea. Earlier, when we lived in Tokyo, Japan where my husband worked at the U.S. Embassy, strict gun control helped keep the streets safe (we didn’t fear walking around at 2 a.m.) and minimized gun violence.
As for China, I now quote from a letter to the editor by Ted Knap in "The Washington Post," Dec. 18, 2012. Its title is: "More Restrictions, More Survivors":
"On Dec. 15, the same day The Post reported on the school massacre in Connecticut, it carried this brief item in The World Digest: In central China, a knife-wielding man injured 22 children and one adult at a primary school. The attacker in Connecticut killed 20 children and six adults.
"Why the difference between 23 wounded and 26 killed? The attacker in China had a knife; the attacker in Connecticut had several guns and lots of bullets. Controlling access to guns is not the only solution to such massacres, but is is one of several steps to reduce the killing."
In the US, we now own 1.13 guns per adult. This is insane! If you think our national legislators should do something to stop the insanity, please write President Obama, your senators, and your congressperson. Then write them again the next month, and the month after that. I think the tide may be turning, but we have to apply pressure. I for one would like to see a ban on the ownership of assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and mandatory background checks for all purchasers of guns. Let’s make buying a gun at least as difficult as obtaining a driver’s license!