Two Koreas–How?

In this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, Feb. 21, 2014, p. A11, is a story, “Koreans Split by War Reunite.” The story reiterates a false history of how the two Koreas were separated. “The reunions serve as a reminder that despite the division of the peninsula after the 1950-53 Korean War, the border divides blood relatives.”

Leaving aside the sad fact–this is, after all, The Wall Street Journal, hey–that the above sentence makes no real sense, I get the gist from surrounding text. The actual history swallowed in this nonsense sentence is that the United States of America divided the two Koreas in July 1945, immediately after WWII. Dean Rusk and Charles Bonesteel, then in the U.S. Army, knew that the Soviets under Joseph Stalin wanted to take the entire Korean peninsula and incorporate it into the Soviet Union. They were also aware that the U.S. Army did not have the troops in place to prevent this.

Rusk and Bonesteel looked at a map of Korea hanging in the conference room where they were meeting, saw that the 38th Parallel looked like a good place to draw a boundary line between North and South. They drew it and presented their plan to the Soviets, who agreed. Thus the Koreas were divided.

I know this because my dad was secretary to the American negotiating team brought in by the U.S. and Russia (then the dominant state of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, otherwise called U.S.S.R.) I have his handwritten notes from the negotiations, and included a bit of these in my book about this division: The Jade Locket and the Red Star: An Untold History of the Invasion of Korea and Why Korea Is Now Two Countries Instead of One, available on Amazon as a paperback book, with photographs, or Kindle.



Asking Questions

ImageDuring my years of formal education–quite a few of them, I seem to recall–lots of teachers talked about asking questions: how asking questions is good; it’s how people learn; don’t worry about whether it’s not a good question because there really are no bad questions (this latter I perceive as not entirely true); and so on.

In the part of the world outside academia, however, and maybe even some dusty corners in it, I have discovered that asking questions is regarded as a nuisance, annoying, and time wasting, and that I am supposed to do what I am told.

This apparently is true even of some people who talk another line. Who might actively encourage some people to ask questions, but certainly not all.

My most recent encounter was with a member of that most patient of species, an RN, who was snappishly irritated when I tried to tell her about the side effects I was experiencing with a new medication. “Just take it!” snapped Big Nurse. I meekly tried to explain the nasty side effects I was having (never mind what they were), and her response was to hang up, effectively communicating what she might have intended–that she wasn’t putting up with this question-asking crap.

The moral of this not-quite-story is: Go ahead and ask questions, especially if you think they’re reasonable and about information you need to know. My medication really was a problem for me, and I finally had to take the doctor’s time for it. Just grow a thicker skin than I’ve managed. 

Fifty-One Celebrations

Who would have thought, fifty-one years later, that Lowell and I would be celebrating just over half a century of anniversaries? I’m signing on for the next fifty. Outside today it’s raining; I can hear the drips on the tin flashing on the roof, irregular now as the rain slows. At home, snow was expected today, light, intermittent: what a friend of mine in Colorado used to call a six-inch snow, the snowflakes falling six inches apart. Fanciful, I know, but every now and then, to avoid utter staleness and dullness, we have to look at things in a slightly different way than we have before. That’s why I’m finding the book I’m reading so exciting: Why Does the World Exist, An Existential Detective Story, by Jim Holt. 

So I’ll bite: why does the world exist? Why this world instead of some other world? And who am I to be in it, just me instead of somebody else who might be totally unlike me? 

What I know about my birth, since last summer, is more than I ever knew: that my birth mother’s name was Zelda; that by the time I learned about her, she was dead–at age 72; and therefore, perhaps, though this is only conjecture, that she suffered from the same heart condition I do, but in her lifetime perhaps she was not aware that surgical repairs were available, or perhaps she was off the grid of medical attention. 

When I locate Zelda’s gravesite, it appears to be directly under some very large Los Angeles freeways. Go figure. Did they move cemeteries out of the way to run the highways through? I know that’s happened in other places, and I suppose it’s inevitable, but it’s too bad it happens in survivors’ lifetimes. I wish she had a gravesite that I could visit, the way I do the graves of my adoptive parents (whom I always call my “real” parents because that’s what they are). But much as I love them, I do wish I could have met Zelda, like me an Iowa girl of strong yearnings and who loved to read.

Does being adopted make a child feel different than being born into a family? I know my answer, but I’m interested in yours.