I happened upon this online article that covers the exploits of Asian-American student, Chris Jeon, a mathematics major from UCLA who has decided to spend his summer vacation helping the Libyan revolution. As you might notice, the article has undertaken to scold the 21-year-old student for his apparently blasé attitude toward such a serious situation. The article proceeds with an indignant tone....
'However, what's worse about Jeon is his reason for going to Libya to fight in this dangerous war. Why did Jeon remove himself from the U.S., go on a ridiculous journey to Libya and put himself in harm's way with a bunch of strangers who he's never met and can't even really communicate with?....."It is the end of my summer vacation, so I thought it would be cool to join the rebels," Jeon said to The National. .......Let's make something perfectly clear Mr. Jeon, war is not cool. Fighting as a rebel against the forces of a dictator for something you believe in isn't cool. It's a way of life for many of these people. They aren't doing this because it's cool. They are doing it because they feel it's the only way to be free from tyranny.'I couldn't disagree more. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that war is "cool" but I think that the article misses the point - being in the midst of history in the making is actually a very cool thing and at least Jeon has chosen the (so far) right side to fight for. I don't really see what the basis is for the article's tone - Jeon seems willing to walk his talk and put himself in the line of fire - although I don't rule out the possibility that Jeon is simply an attention whore! What is most interesting about Jeon is that he is enacting something that many men crave but may never experience - adventure in exotic places and participation in the shaping of history as it is being written.
For Asian men, this is especially acute - it might be the case that some of us feel disconnected (or excluded) from the great deeds of history in the making and the truth is that even if Asian-American men were to emerge as pivotal players in history, American culture would most likely white-wash them out of societal consciousness. My cynical side believes that if Jeon were a white student this deed would be framed to highlight how adventurous and daring white guys can be and he would be held in awe by an adoring public appreciative of the positive reinforcement. When Asian guys act in ways that are at odds with the ingrained perceptions of them society will do back-flips to correct the anomaly because it's scary.
I hope Jeon finds what he is looking for.