Jesus H. sweet mother of everything. I knew the Korean War was bad -- I didn't know it was that bad. I'm the first to admit I'm a fucking idiot when it comes to history, which I could blame on the abominable American practice of forcing coaches to teach these courses throughout junior high and high school, but is mostly (like much of everything) just down to personal laziness, and my complete inability to "learn" anything unless I follow impossible threads back to the beginning of time. I always convince myself that I can't properly judge this event, without understanding the entire history of all particularly involved parties, get overwhelmed and then just give up. I'm neurotic, basically, and don't trust any sources independently ever, always convinced that everyone has a bias, a motive and a reason why they feel compelled to say anything at all. I don't like having to trust historians, because I don't, basically.
But it's no excuse to just sit back and do nothing, which is what I do much of the time. It's an embarrassment that I've lived in this country for over a year and am just now getting down to starting to understand this stuff. I've much preferred, over the last year, to sit back and complacently take in first-hand accounts of things (such as the Gwangju massacre), hearing straight from the people who were there at the time, who had real life engagement with these issues and, although possibly more biased than any other source, who are at least speaking from a place of personal truth.
However, sitting down with a fresh pack of Marlboros and a pot of coffee this afternoon and forcing myself to read through an account of the entire Korean War, start to finish, without moving -- without stopping to read more about this general or that skirmish, this political organization or that foreign influence -- was....
Overwhelming. And heart-breaking. But more than that, it was stomach-wrenching.
And, as an American who obviously views all history through the American lens, just a huge missing piece in the puzzle of the progression of American military and international political practices from the end of WWII to the beginning of the Vietnam War (both of which I obviously -- being an American -- know much more about).
It's hard to get outside of that, though. To stop viewing the Korean War as part of American history and start seeing it as Korean history. I don't know how to do that yet -- to stop paying more attention to the decisions of American politicians and military personnel. To stop focusing on the atrocities and utter stupidities committed by "my people", and what it has meant for the development of what the United States has become, right on up into the present day. That's where I still get stuck.
At any rate, I now find myself faced with the task of trying to find something to do with myself for the evening that doesn't involve staring blankly at the walls, and won't feel somehow farcical in comparison to the reading I've just spent the better half of the day doing. Cleaning the bathroom, perhaps? Hm.
What I'd really like to do is something I've only done a handful of times since I've been here, which is call my family. But, given the fact that it's currently about 3:30 in the morning back home, I'd best not.