This Land

IT WAS AN UNEXPECTED TWIST of language. I was explaining to Hanju (in Korean) my concerns about Barack Obama, whom I’d recently seen at a rally, when I used the term uri nara – our country – in reference to the United States.

That might not seem at all strange, except that uri nara is a phrase that is only ever used to talk about Korea. The words are almost symbolic, an expression of solidarity and collectivism, two things rarely if ever associated with American culture. Yet at a time when our nation’s communities seem irreparably disconnected, that was the exact feeling I sought to evoke.

As I stumbled through a politial dialogue in my adopted language, I learned a few new words. Hanju learned a new one as well: rhetoric – by one definition, the art of making persuasive speech. The night before, Obama had spoken about the importance of young people reinvesting in their communities. In his words there were echoes of Kennedy’s famous line: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” These ideas resonate with me as I’ve long felt that what ails this country is growing apathy and a general disinterest in our fellow man.

But amid Obama’s talk about changing the culture I was forced to wonder, is it just rhetoric? Uri nara is faced with so many problems, I said to Hanju, that we can’t afford four years of pretty words.

I talk a lot on this blog about wanderlust, about my desire to pick up and get lost in the big world, yet I have to admit to my affection for this land. As travelers it’s easy to lose touch with the romance and wonder of our own nation – to get bogged down by our misanthropic foreign and domestic policies. But every now and then something comes along to remind us of what we have here, and what we lose when we stop caring. How strange that my heart’s ties to the homeland were made plain while speaking the syllables of another tongue.

Photo: sunset over a wheatfield, by jfhatesmustard. eastern washington state.


4 Responses to “This Land”

  1. 1 theharbinger February 14, 2008 at 1:00 pm


    Check out my latest post for a candidate actually worth voting for.

  2. 2 Kango Suz February 16, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    Neat idea there about the wanderlust. I too share the desire to just get lost in the world, however I find myself in love with my own nation as well. It is just so easy some times to get so caught up in the differences that I loose site of that love.

  3. 3 Korea Beat February 18, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    I don’t really understand the “is he just rhetoric?” thing… can’t he have both great rhetoric and great policy details? It’s like saying someone can’t be both pretty and smart.

  4. 4 dailytransit February 18, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    Korea Beat: I suppose I should clarify – I’m not convinced that Obama is “just rhetoric,” nor am I trying to express that idea here. I am concerned about the fact that he lays it on really thick with general statements about hope and unifying the country, yet rarely gets into policy nitty-gritty.

    Perhaps that’s just the nature of the election beast, but I feel like someone as invested in change as Obama claims to be might take a more definitive line. At the end of the day, I just hope he can deliver.

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