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About The Asian reporter. (Portland, Or.) 1991-current | View Entire Issue (Feb. 2, 2015)
February 2, 2015
TALKING STORY IN ASIAN AMERICA
In the humbling wake
of Charlie Hebdo
Communal responsibilities as well as personal rights
week into New Year 2015, as
Parisians approached lunchtime,
two black-masked and heavily
armed men shouting in Arabic, entered the
offices of the weekly journal Charlie
Hebdo. Across town another gunman burst
into a Jewish grocer. Sixteen parents and
grandparents, sons and daughters, they
methodically murdered. Twenty-one more
Those who perished are mourned and
will be missed, always. Some injured will
recover, but some will suffer forever. This
essay is not intended to minimize their
pain or their families’ anger. It is not
intended to humanize the cruelty of those
causing it all.
In the weeks following the Paris trag-
edy, private sorrowers and public demon-
strators debated the societal necessity of
the kind of journalism we now code as
“Charlie Hebdo.” While it’s hard to
contribute anything new to this important
discussion, I would suggest a slightly
different quiet and public inquiry. Also an
It’s an important perspective, because
millions of ambitious families are moving
across our precious planet’s well-worn
face. Jumbo-jetting, instant Twittering,
and free Skyping are erasing the mountain
ranges and broad seas that once distanced
our distinct cultures and our great
religious traditions. It’s important because
today, there’s a lot of rub between us.
Our rub is unavoidable. And good.
Contrary cultures elbow to elbow can
make some beautiful noise, like the conta-
gious joy of Mexican salsa or the irresis-
tible serenity of Vedic chants slipping out
of hip yoga studios and onto our morning
city streets. Locally, according to the
Immigration Policy Center, the rub of
America’s free market with Oregon’s
Asians adds $6.1 billion and 26,779 jobs to
our state’s rapidly globalizing economy.
Our optimistic Spanish-speaking families’
annual rub adds another $8.4 billion and
13,916 jobs to our noisy lives. Our rub’s
revenue rises every year.
Reverence and irreverence
Our cities are a mélange of raucous
American democracy mixing it up with
three cultural elements central to our im-
migrant communities: Old World resil-
ience, old-school sincerity, and reverence.
Resilience means stubbornness. Sin-
cerity is the opposite of sarcasm. The third
element, reverence, is harder to translate
into urban English or modern French.
Reverence humbles us. Those who know
reverence in our bones, in these achy
hearts, immediately recognize reverence
THE ASIAN REPORTER n Page 7
in others. Our eyes soften. No political
As a New American, I know irreverence
is more familiar to our more settled neigh-
bors. I get it. Our family laughs along with
Jon Stewart, with Maz Jobrani and Carlos
Mencia (Persian- and Honduran-Ameri-
can comics). We understand the societal
value of irreverence.
However, as a community lawyer — as
one of those guys working the intersec-
tions of our city’s 70 or so energetic ethnic
streams with our robust mainstream — I
worry about our new homeland’s evalua-
tion of reverence. Since that murderous
episode in Paris, many New Americans
worry about how we might move some-
thing so essential to our shared humanity
into that intersection. Our reverence.
This inquiry is about bringing reverence
back into our public square. Not as
replacement for irreverence, not at all. But
as an equal opposite, like black and white,
like night and day, like life and death.
Everyone knows reverence
In 1965, Newcomers and settled neigh-
bors alike watched evening news stories
about the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr. Humbled we were, by his polished
obsidian eyes. Fifty years later, no one I
know will say a bad thing about the
Reverend Dr. King. Not around our
kitchen tables, not in our Starbucks lines.
Reverence for him resides in our achy
bones. In these broken hearts.
There’s a white-washed bike trimmed
with festive flowers on a busy inner-
southeast arterial named for el señor
César E. Chávez. It memorializes the
passing of two precious lives, right there.
Every workday, thousands of our hearts
momentarily pause when they pass by it.
This moment is reverence.
Sixteen urgent salmon miles east of
Portland, 100-year-old Douglas fir and
ancient massif curtain River Columbia’s
grand gorge. Sixteen millennia of native
nations have lived and loved here. Their
generous ancestors crowd their river’s
This inquiry is about
bringing reverence back
into our public square.
Not as replacement for
irreverence, not at all.
But as an equal
opposite, like black and
white, like night and day,
like life and death.
shore. I am as hushed here as in any house
of god. This speechlessness is reverence.
About this giant American and these
sacred places, our state and national
constitutions give us the right to say ugly
things. But most won’t. And the reason we
don’t, without argument, is our silently
Naturally some Portlanders and some
Parisians, don’t ache or didn’t break in
those ways we abbreviate as “reverence.”
They don’t know it. These neighbors
matter no less (but no more) than everyone
matters. Healthy societies have always
cultivated communal duties as much as
ensured private rights. Indeed, our deep
differences, our beautiful rub, require
Our words and our images span the
distances between our hearts, our parts of
town, our sides of our precious blue planet,
in an instant. Best if, in that instant before
an edgy idea leaves our lips, we considered
each carefully. Quietly. Are they unkind to
others? — Like our old-school moms and
grandmas used to tell and tell us. Always.
Nota: My gratitude to cosmopolitan urban planner,
Professor Nohad Toulan (1931-2013); to Muslim
Educational Trust elder Wajdi Said and civic activist
Rania Ayoub; for their patient persistence in a world of
hurt, in a universe of Love. Three generations of local
and global teachers, they are. Al’hamdulillaah. -- Polo
Snails slither into spa scene in Thailand and around world
Continued from page one
one of the partners, gently applying one to his forearm. He
does confess to eating escargots (“but not mine”), plans to
breed some for the table, and is currently experimenting
to produce “the perfect snail caviar.”
A chosen few get plucked from the farm for duty at the
spa, where I opted for the 45-minute Snail Spa Celebrity
Course. For $30, it’s a bargain compared to the $200
customers must shell out at Tokyo’s Ci:z.Labo, a beauty
salon where snail massage made its debut in 2013. Spas
have also opened in China and London, and the French
duo is expanding to Bangkok this month.
Given its novelty, Chiang Mai public health inspectors
have descended on the spa to determine whether the
treatment was safe and if imported snails — officially
classified as “alien creatures” — might prove harmful to
local species. Results of the investigation have not yet
While the facials are new, concoctions made from snail
mucus are said to date back to ancient Greece, when the
great physician Hippocrates reportedly crushed snails
and sour milk as a cure for skin inflammations. In recent
times, the French have turned this essence of escargot
into assorted creams and lotions.
The fluid, exuded by snails when under stress, is known
to contain beneficial nutrients and antioxidants, but
Bangkok-based Dr. Dissapong Panithaporn and other
dermatologists say that there has been no significant
scientific research on how these actually work when
applied to the skin.
Champeyroux, a manager in France’s nuclear power
sector before falling in love with Chiang Mai some years
ago, says his all-natural line of snail products, Coquille,
acts against burns, acne, stretch marks, scars, and aging.
The two women next to me concurred.
Taksaphan na Pohn, a 22-year-old recent university
graduate, said she had earlier tried laser and other
techno-treatments, but after some research decided that
“natural therapy” was better. She said snails helped clear
her acne when she was stressed during her studies.
“My face is firmer and softer,” she said. “But you don’t
get immediate results. It shows gradually.”
Like for many, the prospect of having my face crawling
with slimy hermaphrodites (snails are unisex) did not
immediately appeal. Although from my own research I
decided it might be preferable to another natural therapy
— uguisu no fun, or nightingale feces facial, which has
been around in Japan for centuries.
So after being slathered with one of Champeyroux’s
HELPFUL HERMAPHRODITES. A customer receives a beauty
treatment with snails at a snail farm in Chiang Mai province, in northern
Thailand. Opinions differ about whether snail facials are an effective way
to plump up skin in need of repair or rejuvenation or if they are merely
another marketing ploy. (AP Photo/Denis Gray)
creams, the beautician plopped down the first of half a
dozen mollusks on my face. A balmy coolness I sensed as
they proceeded to slide over my cheeks, furrow through
my eyebrows, and tickle my lips, taking particular liking
to my nose since snails are fond of climbing.
Opening my eyes, I got a macro lens view of one critter
perched on my nose tip. Its twin, antennae-like feelers
were weaving about, possibly seeking an escape route
with its tiny eyes. The snail’s 14,000 microscopic teeth
produced a slight, not unpleasant, scratching when it slid
toward my nostrils.
So if truth be told, I sort of missed my harmless,
sensuous sextet when they were dislodged, clinging to my
skin with a gentle suction.
Maybe I won’t eat another escargot again.
Denis Gray, who has reported on Southeast Asia for
The AP for more than 40 years, recently experienced
a snail massage to report on the beauty trend.
My Turn: Blinded by colorblindness
Continued from page 6
walk into public spaces, open fire, and
still walk away with their lives. In
those cases, we are told we must
understand ‘why’ and change laws or
[the] mental health system to make
sure it never happens again. … The
audacity of whiteness and anti-black
racism is condemning black bodies for
their own deaths, while seeking
understanding for white criminals.”
What their piece reveals is that
colorblindness benefits whiteness,
whereby these shooters are protected
by the invisibility of whiteness as a
racial category in the same way the
criminal justice system’s racial strati-
fication and disenfranchisement
remains invisible as well.
It is also telling that in the
persistent colorblind focus on
individual actions (by white male
shooters or racist bigots), we deny the
same kind of individuality to people of
color and especially — in light of the
series of state violence — to African
Americans who are represented in
terms of criminality and potential
threats to social order.
The recent swell of protest and the
insistence that “Black Lives Matter”
point precisely to the problems of
colorblindness. We are not a post-
racial and colorblind society so much
as we have become blind to these
forms of racial violence and racial
The Year of the Sheep
begins February 19, 2015.
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Year of the Sheep issue are due
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Year special issue will be published
on Monday, February 16, 2015.