The Star Columnist Danederi Herbert recently wrote in 913: “The way to get ahead in America these days is to make terrible choices. … I should’ve dropped out of high school, gotten pregnant by several different baby daddies, bought a house I couldn’t afford and quit paying for it. Had I done those things: the government, through taxpayers, would be paying for health care and food for me and my children; and my baby daddies, through child support, would likely be paying for my lifestyle. … Those who bought more house than they could afford received a modicum of relief via the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007…”
She called herself and millions of Americans who make the “right” choices “stupid.”
On the surface, her arguments seem valid: Why should your tax money be wasted on those who make “terrible choices” and have multiple babies by male transients in the path of life and dependent on the government handout, while majority of others work hard and live by the common rules of society? In a bigger picture, though, it’s human nature that one wants to succeed by working hard and harvest the fruit of his/her labor, and some take pride in helping their less fortunate neighbors — elderly, poor and sick.
Life comes in all shapes, sizes and colors — easy for some, impossible for others. Consider that some beneficiaries of the government programs are war veterans suffering from old wounds — both physical and mental — from the long-ago battlefields in foreign countries. Today, the world is full of hungry and homeless people crying for food and shelter, where the rule “Make the right choices” does not apply.
The recent news that German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed thousands of migrants to her country and Austria, including war refugees and victims of persecution from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, is heartwarming. The number had reached 340,000 in Germany and Austria recently, and more are arriving day by day! Merkel said, “As a strong, economically healthy country, we have the strength to do what is necessary” and ensured that every asylum seeker will get a fair chance.
Hundreds of grateful migrants, according to the news, chanted in chorus, “Germany, Germany” at the train station in Budapest before launching their journey to Germany. This act of kindness by Merkel makes America look pale as far as human rights are concerned.
Sixty five years ago, about this time of the year, South Koreans were in the same fate as those arriving in Germany and Austria today, except that the Koreans were running away from the North Korean communists who had invaded the South that June with Russian tanks and ammunition. No matter how many years have passed, the memories of the day when your fate was that of candlelight before a torrential wind and your future looked bleak remain with you.
Thankfully, American troops came and fought in our defense, and even after the three-year war ended, during which they had lost 54,000 American lives and spent 3 billion American dollars, they continued to help the poorest of the poor by building roads and water-purifying systems and restoring the bomb-destroyed towns and villages. Such kindness awakened the South Korean military leaders with “undying loyalty” toward their saviors and vowed to fight alongside the Americans to preserve world peace as long as they were needed.
That was how the Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the Republic of Korea was established on Sept. 30, 1953, two month after the end of with the Truce. Today, while the two Koreas remain enemies on that peninsula, with a 155-mile long and 2.5-mile wide demilitarized zone between them, which is heavily militarized with mines and armed guards, American and Korean troops conduct military drills together, causing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to become agitated and restless.
Resettlement Center in South Korea, in Ansong City, named Hanawon (“House of Unity”) 30 miles Southeast of Seoul, has been sheltering tens of thousands North Korean defectors and migrants over the years since its establishment in 1999. Each refugee entering there is eligible to stay for their first three months with room and board, in addition to $800 monthly settlement stipends, and free classes on job training and other survival skills before they can stand on their own feet.
But nearly half of the North Koreans fail to complete the requirements due to poor health originated in the North, either in a labor camp or the regime-controlled farms. According to a report, the North Koreans experience a profound sense of inferiority toward their highly educated, effective South Korean neighbors. Unbelievably, some defectors complain that they’re merely “Second Citizens” to South Koreans, and even wish to return to the North!
No matter where we are, we humans can never be totally happy. But one thing that matters in life: Sharing our gifts and wealth with our less fortunate brothers is a virtue. Albert Switzer, Nobel Peace Prize winner, said, “The purpose of human life is to serve (others), and to show compassion and the will to help.” Who can argue with that?