Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Answering my nastygrams....


I don't know how many other bloggers wake up in the morning to nastygrams but I do occasionally. It's not very often. I wake up to email from an anonymous account by an anonymous person whom I have upset in some manner.

These messages aren't the same as those who write and challenge something I have to say. Those are great and I don't mind them at all. In fact, I welcome them. The nastygrams are those notes that come, written at times in all caps, usually less than two lines and are generally angry.

This one stands out:

"You will never be Thai, no matter what you say and no matter how hard you try!"

This particular note came from someone in Thailand. I traced the email and it was sent through TOT's servers.

My response would be this:

I am fully aware that I will never be racially Thai. My heritage is British. I am Caucasian. I've never been good at caring about race or DNA. It's the old "content of his character" thing. Bites me every time.

I believe strongly that all people eventually find what makes best sense to them, what blends with personal values and inclinations. That could be Thai for me and British for the writer. Someone else will have another affinity. Overall, that is the purpose for all of us, the purpose of life itself. We explore. We discover. We learn. We make choices. When we find ourselves at odds morally with our culture of origin, we might try to use the system to change those things. Or we find something else. People move all over the world to find a place and way of life that brings them to peace. Maybe that is what the Biblical passage of John 14:2 means. "In my father's house, there are many mansions."

I think the real concern of the writer, if I can make a wild guess, is whether I am honoring the culture or whether I am using it as a personal "niche", something to stand out as "cute" or "different". Maybe he is concerned that I don't understand or respect the depth of thousands of years of history or results of thousands of years of life wisdom gained through hardship.

While I am not a professional historian, I understand as well as I can. Part of my ongoing process is continual learning. I can assure the writer that I honor the culture very much ~ and I respect those who came before me and created it.

I also understand that there is no paradise here on earth. No place is perfect.

The woman who cuts my hair is Cambodian. While she cuts and colors, we talk. She told me a story from her own background. When she was young, she and her family were moved to a refugee camp in Thailand. During that time, she and her sister remember rapes and torture committed by Thai guards. I have no reason to believe she is lying. There is enough documentation to back up her claims.

That is something that is unacceptable, regardless of culture and history. The continued mistreatment of Burmese refugees in Northern Thailand is equally unacceptable and the guards and government officials who approve or engage in the behavior should be tried before an international court and be brought to justice. Period.

Thailand deserves a good international weenie-wacking for being so lax when it comes to the sex trade and human trafficking.

And we won't even go into the drug smuggling.

So, yes, I recognize that Thailand has issues. And I recognize that those who engage in the behavior use the social mores and culture of the country to justify and rationalize their actions.

I believe as we age, we become less of a "purist" and more realistic. We cull out the good, try to do what we can about the bad and life goes on. Choosing a way of life is a multi-dimensional process and we begin to understand that fundamentalism of any flavor rarely works because life itself is messy and complex.

My choice of Thai culture was not entirely intellectual. That was only part of it. It was also experiential. It is based on personal experience and an internal compatibility. In that regard, it's not unlike finding a wife or a husband. We accept that no one is perfect and nothing will meet our needs or desires 100%. We accept the bad with the good and do the best we can. We make our peace.

Peace,


~Chani

16 comments:

Julie Pippert said...

I'm not cool enough yet, I guess, to get any mail, nice or naughty. Well bloggy friends sometimes send me nice notes and happy links.

I'm okay with that, mostly, although I do thrive on controversy to some degree.

It could just be that nobody wants to upset the crazy lady. Who knows.

But no, I haven't gotten any nasty emails or comments.

I'm SO surprised that you have!

It makes me wonder about both of us...how we come across.

Anyway enough of that. I say good response blog post!

MsLittlePea said...

What?!! You have a healthy attitude about those kinds of emails and I commend you on that-it's not easy to hear stuff like that for me. I can relate to being told something like that myself, because I am half Asian(Filipina) and half Caucasion-so I've been hearing things like that all my life. Never "Asian" or "white" enough and it's so ridiculous. We are who we are and if embracing the things you love from a certain culture uplifts your spirit-what is offensive about that? I am proud when someone is interested in and loves the land of my birth. And I'm happy for you that you found a way of life that makes you happy-some people walk around their entire life not knowing or liking who they are and there is so much sadness and loneliness in the world as it is.

It would be ignorant to assume that there is a perfect society somewhere out there. Oh-I love hangin' out here-this is why I come back everyday to visit:o)

Julie Pippert said...

Wait, I think hat came out wrong.

The comment about wondering about how we come across.

Your posts are always so thoughtful. I've never gotten the impression that you think you *are* Thai or think teh society is perfect. No such animal, right?

I'm just curious where someone gets that.

It's pretty clear to me that something within Thai calls to your soul. I've always admired that you heard that call and answered it.

I think it's very cool to explore other customs. Hey speaking of, have you ever been to http://stuckincustoms.com/

Caro said...

That nastygram sure is tying in with the last couple of negative experiences life has been throwing at you of late... To live and let live. How very difficult an art to master. I'm sure being on the receiving end of all this crap is very unpleasant. All my thanks and admiration for turning it into something worthy and thought-provoking.

ellie bee said...

I guess I just can't imagine anyone sending you a nastygram. At least not based on what I read in your blog. People are so strange, so unhappy, so desperate to feel important and in control that that they resort to violence--be it nastygram or road rage or abuse or just general over all piss-anted-ness (how's that for a word?)

Keep up the faith. I love the analogy that your choice of culture is similar to choosing a spouse. I feel that way about choosing a family--I fit better with some dear people who have no blood ties to me at all, but are my family nonetheless.

namaste

QT said...

Chani - anyone who tries to "buck the system" and tries to do for themselves in this world will raise ire with others. Just a simple fact. I admire your ability to see past the words. You deserve to be happy and at peace.

meno said...

I have receieved a few nasty comments. I utilize the 24 hour rule on them. I don't answer for a full day so i am not tempted to return the vitriol.

I like your response.

People are so silly sometimes.

KateMV said...

Sorry you get nasty emails. That isn't fair. I've never been a fan of anonymous comments.

I was wondering if you'd be willing to share more about your actual time in Thailand and how it was that you came to feel it was the culture that was right for you. I think I've been back through your archives and read what are the parts of the culture that appeal to you, but I'm curious to know more about how that decision actually came about.

If you have in fact written about this already, and I just missed it, you can just tell me which part of your blog to look at.

Jurgen Nation said...

First time commenter from Indie Bloggers. I think understanding is the most essential part of it, though, that you want to learn and honor the culture and heritage. I can't see how that isn't considered noble by the nasty-gram writer. Isn't that what historians are supposed to hold dearest and most true - trying to understand that which they're writing?

That anyone sent you a nasty e-mail is surprising to me because I think you're very balanced and have a great attitude.

(I would love it if you posted this to IB, by the way - it's wonderfully written and it's a great topic for discussion. You present it wonderfully.) -stacy (IB)

KC said...

Haven't been so lucky...but I'd imagine it's kind of funny. and sad.

And I love "nastygram"

Pam said...

Your blogs are interesting, thoughtful and challenging. They get us thinking, we debate. All good, whether we agree or not.

"Nastygrams", a good word for them, probably come from people who can't, or won't express themselves in an intelligent manner. You know the type, four letter words are their favorite adjectives.

liv said...

Chani, I tend to not put much stock in anything that comes from "anonymous." If you have something to say, then you should own it. And if a person has made up their mind to be ugly or unseemly in comments, they should at least sign their name.

Of course, I also see that nameless or not, yucky email smarts. It must feel like getting picked out for no reason.

I think you write with beautiful clarity and conviction. Keep it up.

flutter said...

are you kidding me?!

Honestly. You are amazing with your patience.

I can't imagine why someone would be so rude as to even bother to write something so closed-minded to you.

I like you regardless of what skin you wear, Chani. Your spirit is Thai.

Thailand Gal said...

Julie, I don't get a lot of mail either. Occasionally someone has a comment they'd prefer to make privately ~ or there's the occasional nastygram. When it comes to cultural stuff, I'm willing to be controversial and that leads people to want their say.

I'm not sure how we come across enters into it as much as the subject matter.

~*

Thanks, MsPea. :) I always value your comments here, too.

It's interesting how protective some people can be about their heritage. The person from Thailand who wrote that note probably felt a bit insulted by someone co-opting his culture. You know, I didn't have any part in creating it and that would be offensive to some. I'm glad you see it as you do. It seems an honorable thing to admire something so much that we choose to live it.

~*

Julie, I haven't checked out that site yet.. but definitely will. I think of customs as just being another form of communication. It is how we outwardly manifest the inward. Thai culture speaks to me. It fits.. so I do it. It is never meant to be disrespectful to native Thais who developed it.

~*

Caro, thanks. :) I try to use most things that way. Nastygrams come when someone feels threatened on some level. I never take it personally.

~*

Ellie Bee, I'm right with you on the family issue as well. All our lives are is one big sum total of our choices.

~*

QT, thanks. For the most part, I am very at peace with this choice. There are times when I want to be very certain that I am respecting it ~ not just doing the fun or easy stuff but going into the depth with it. Historically and otherwise.

~*

Meno, the 24-hour rule is a good one. I think that nastygram I quoted came in a few weeks ago. At first, my temptation was to ignore it but then decided it deserved the courtesy of response. I understood the issue.

~*

Kate, I have been doing that in chunks. When something this big occurs, it can't be reduced to a list of pros and cons. It's so darned experiential. The best way to describe it is that Thailand is the first place where I ever felt "at home", "at peace". Things made sense to me there. Because I am someone who explores alone, I didn't have a bunch of people around me, Thai or ex=pat, leading me around by the nose and influencing my experiences. I spent a great deal of time wandering alone, meeting people, spending time with them, exploring the way of life in a personal and objective manner. I will do my best to come up with something similar to what you've suggested but I'm just not sure I can condense it that way.

How does anyone quantify an experience that way? Processing this change in me, this discovery of Thailand, my home, will probably take a lifetime.

~*

Stacy, thanks for coming by. :) I do my best to honor it ~ but sometimes people just feel defensive about the things they hold dearest. The nastygram writer is probably concerned about several issues. Maybe he will write again and tell me more.

~*

KC, I'm not sure where I picked up the term "nastygram".. but it certainly does fit. LOL

~*

Pam, thanks. :) I love the dialogue that goes on here! That is why I like this commenting process, being able to write back and forth.

~*

Liv, I actually didn't feel that way. One of the things I know is that we all grow in our own ways. Maybe the nastygram writer thought I wouldn't take him seriously if he wasn't nasty. Maybe he feels so protective of his culture that he sees me as a usurper of sorts, someone who has no rights to it. It's hard to say. Yes, I wish he would have written a longer, more explanatory, note but sometimes reactions are just visceral.

~*

Flutter, thank you. :) I try to keep my spirit Thai. The funny thing is that it is so natural to me, it doesn't feel like "trying". It's just falling into line with who I am by nature.

Weird, isn't it? The stork must have gotten lost and dropped me off in the wrong place. Wow.. dumb stork! How can anyone confused north American with southeast Asia? LOL

~*

Thanks everyone. :)


Peace,

~Chani

heartinsanfrancisco said...

This was a wonderful post and really spoke to my own inner spirit. You never disappoint, but even more, I always take something of value away from your writings which enhances my own life.

Every culture has those who prefer exclusiveness, but I, like you, prefer the kind of INclusiveness in which everyone is welcome to participate at his own level.

The idea that anyone's skin color determines who they really are is absurd in this day and age when most of us are a mixture of ethnicities. What resonates with our souls makes us who we are, who we choose to be.

Laurie said...

I've had several anonymous comments lately. I've traced it back to HWDDD's exwife. Joy of joys, she's back in our lives.

You handled your Anon very well, in my opinion.