Saturday, April 21, 2007

A Students Letter Home

A Student’s Letter Home
by Bryan Schamus
April 20, 2007

To my loving family and friends:

We continue to heal in Blacksburg. I look at the calendar and I see it's only been four days. It feels like months.

The outreach has been tremendous, especially at the Newman Community, Tech's Catholic Campus Ministry. We got the word out that we were providing a sanctuary for the students to come hang out. Take a look at our website for everything we are currently offering. (( We continue to receive food, drinks, priests, counselors and people in need all the time.

We have eight priests in residence right now and they take shifts to be in the house for whomever might need help. Some people come in and just need to watch a movie. Some need to talk to a priest. Others just need a big hug.

The Bishop of Richmond is traveling to Blacksburg to say Mass on Sunday.

The convocation on Tuesday was the most moving event I've seen, and might ever see, in my life. Put all politics and personal opinion aside, President Bush was in our basketball arena to be with the Hokie Nation. He spoke from the heart and brought tears to many. Governor Kaine was “right on" with his speech as well, as he described his experience with the Hokie Nation. The ceremony ended with a now famous poem from world renowned poet and English professor here at Tech, Nikki Giovanni. This was her poem:

We are Virginia Tech.

We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning.

We are Virginia Tech.

We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry, and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again.

We are Virginia Tech.

We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did nothing to deserve it, but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by the rogue army, neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory, neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water, neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy.

We are Virginia Tech.

The Hokie Nation embraces our own and reaches out with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds.

We are strong, and brave, and innocent, and unafraid. We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be.

We are alive to the imaginations and the possibilities. We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears and through all our sadness.

We are the Hokies.

We will prevail.

We will prevail.

We will prevail.

We are Virginia Tech.

The crowd of 12,000, with 20,000 watching in the football stadium on the video screen, responded with resounding cheers and applause which led to the most spirit-filled "LET'S GO HOKIES" chant ever to fill Cassell Coliseum.

It was my first Hokie cheer ever. Since first coming to Tech, I've worked at every home football and basketball game in a "professional" capacity. I've never cheered with my fellow Hokies. I always dreamed about one day being able to cheer from the stands but I never wanted it to be like this. It was bittersweet. But I will always remember it. LET'S GO HOKIES!!!!!

We hug everyone we see. There is so much good happening here right now. But I would give anything to go to class to listen, take notes, without a worry in the world.

My good friend Theresa lost one of her best friends in one of the classrooms in Norris Hall. I can't even imagine. When she walked out for the ceremony next to President Bush, I didn't even know what to think.

Today I was interviewed by "Religion and Ethics", a television show on PBS.

Check your local listings to see when it airs, as it is different everywhere. They also filmed me singing Dona Nobis Pacem with some of my Newman singers.

Never, not three years ago or three days ago, could I have imagined what 4/16/07 would bring us. But in the aftermath of this tragedy, I’m reminded of all the reasons why I love with this place with all my heart. There is no other place on the face of the earth that could have dealt with such a loss in the way we have. As I told PBS today, when we gathered on the drillfield with candles and chanted, "LET'S GO---HOKIES", that was our prayer. Our ecumenical prayer as a united Hokie Nation. Thank you, Frank and Lisa McGrail for dragging me to Blacksburg three years ago. This is where I needed to be.

It will take many more days and months to heal. But I know all of you are praying and thinking of us. I apologize for not being able to return every phone call and e-mail, but please know that I read and listen to every one of them and they mean so, so much.

And I really hope that someday before I graduate, those of you that I'm writing to many miles away, can visit this campus and see what it's like without the world watching. Without the blood. Without the crime scene tape.

And without the sadness.

I am so proud to be a Hokie and I hope you are too. You all are Hokies. Wear your maroon and orange on Friday!

Please, please take a look at who this was sent to and send it on to others I may have forgotten or to those who would enjoy reading it. It's 1:30 a.m. and I'm running on fumes, so I am bound to forget people.

Keep the e-mails and calls coming and, of course, your prayers. I love you all.


Peace and goodnight,

A backlash against the fear of backlash

Original Post: I’m going to leave the psychology of all the talk about Koreans and Korean-Americans fearing backlash to others. I just wanted to share a few headlines:

* Braced for Backlash: Newsweek
* Korean students afraid of backlash on campus: The Daily Princetonian
* Defined by Horror: Korean-Americans fear backlash: ABC News
* Korean-Americans fear massacre backlash: UPI
* Local Korean-Americans Fear Backlash: KNSD-TV (San Diego)
* S.Korea worries about racial backlash after shooting: Reuters
* Koreans fear backlash over campus tragedy: Deseret News

And, for a little variety:

* Asians fear backlash after shooting:

Of course, none of this would be complete without a word from the Angry Asian Man.

So, the next time you hear someone state his fear of a backlash over the VT killings, take him by the hand, lead him aside, give him an empathetic look in the eyes…

…and bitch-slap him.

Hopefully that will shake the silliness out of him.

While I have little doubt that there will be a relatively small group of idiots who will respond in a stupid way to what that "nutjob" did at VT, there will not be protests in the streets against resident Koreans in the USA. Korean-Americans will not be banned from restaurants and shops. If anyone writes anti-Korean songs, most people will never hear them.

The BacklashTM is just not going to happen.

I am sure will see reports of taunts against Asians and some fighting in schools. Kids tend have a natural tendency to pick on those who are different and will go after red heads, fat kids, kids of different races and others (Children must be taught not to hate.). When kids want to pick on someone else, they use whatever reason they can find and the VT shooting is a ready-to-use excuse.

I do worry that some nut job will decide to attack a Korean church instead of the local post office. The body count would be the same but the racial angle will make it big news over here.

I also know that any incident that occurs is going to get hyped by people who want to play the “Asian-Americans as victims” card.

The fact is that most people in the US these days see non-first-generation Asian-Americans as just folk. In fact the interracial marriage rates for American natives of Asian decent show that they are integrating just fine. If and when East Asian immigration slows down, a lot of the difficulties between Asians and other groups in the States will diminish. Ethnic Asian American natives are not the model minority (a term only used by people who deride it), they are an integrated part of American society.

In any case the real ‘model minority’ is immigrants from Africa.

This is not just academic for me. The college where I work sends over a hundred students to the States to study every year. In fact, another group of about 25 (including about 10 from my department) is going there next week. If there was a reasonable chance that they would be attacked, we would not send them.

A similar message is getting out in the Korean media. Last night, among other reports, MBC news had a piece with interviews of VT students, all of whom said that what Cho did was not a reflection on ethnic Koreans.

Let’s hope that the same logic prevails among everyone.

By Andy Jackson | Posted in Korean Diaspora |

The Last Word

My good friend Adrian Hong of LINK fame has ended the debate on the anti-Korean backlash (that never was) with this piece in the Washington Post.

Korean Americans do not need to apologize for what happened Monday. All of us, as fellow Americans, feel tremendous sorrow and grief at the carnage. Our community, as it should, has expressed solidarity with and sent condolences to the victims, and as Americans, Koreans certainly should take part in the healing process.

But the actions of Cho Seung Hui are no more the fault of Korean Americans than the actions of the Washington area snipers were the fault of African Americans. Just as those crimes were committed by deranged individuals acting on their own initiative, and not because of any ethnic grievance or agenda, these were isolated acts by an individual, not a reflection of a community.

I would add that even a crime based on an ethnic or religious grievance only reflects on a larger group to the extent that the criminal’s views reflect the larger group’s views. Now, my favorite part:

Further, it is inappropriate for the Korean ambassador to the United States to apologize on behalf of Korean Americans and speak of the need to work toward being accepted as a “worthwhile minority” in this nation. While the Korean ambassador represents the interests of Korean nationals in the United States, and the interests of the Republic of Korea, he does not speak for naturalized Koreans here.

Absolutely. Adrian deserves kudos for dethroning Ambassador Lee from his imagined dominion over everyone of Korean ethnicity within our borders. I once met Lee briefly — though not enough to make much of an impression — but just about everything Lee has said this week has succeeded mightily at pissing me off, from his public expressions of concern that Americans would react with discrimination and violence, to this. For a guy whose job is to represent his country favorably, Lee Tae Shik could use a semester of remedial charm school.

The Korean claim to guilt and shame on behalf of Cho Seung Hui is well-intentioned but misguided. We are Americans first. While we share an affinity with Korea and appreciate and respect Korean culture, at the end of the day we are Americans. Our president is in the White House, not in the Blue House. And our response to this crisis should be as Americans, not as Koreans.

Read the rest on your own.

Finally, here’s an opposing view. The writing style of the commenter called “Wolmae” is as distinct as a fingerprint. There is only one person I know who writes like this. I won’t tell you who he is, but I will say he’s someone I respect very much, and whose views generally align closely with my own. He doesn’t happen to agree with me this time, although I think the passage of time is proving — thankfully — that there isn’t much of a foundation for his fears. Just the same, don’t miss it.

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