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We’re No Experts On Shin

W.S. Wang

While I hesitate to criticize the words with which another expressed his opinions, I must take exception to the comments made by Peter Jung ’01 in his guest column [“Unfair Attacks on Shin,” Feb. 8]. I am willing to show “some freaking respect” to his thoughts on the Shin lawsuit and I might even agree with some of his points, but his attempts to iterate and strengthen these points only made me cringe and shudder.

He suggested that Perlner’s and Salib’s “ignorance of such issues as being Asian-American” is a reason for their position on the case. He then proceeded to assume the role of an enlightened Asian-American culture authority and educate the ignorant masses on what it means to be an Asian-American. How ironic, that the although he suspects his assertions of being bad generalizations, he is not deterred from from making them.

Being an Asian-American myself, I certainly don’t appreciate his presumptuous perpetration of insidious stereotypes that have plagued Asians in the U.S. for generations. “The Shins look pretty hardcore”? Given that they were discussing their daughter’s death and the events surrounding that tragedy, did Mr. Jung still expect them to exude that Brady Bunch brand of happiness and warmth? “Communication is often reduced to updates on the children’s latest achievements”? Is Mr. Jung such an “enlightened skeptic” himself that he refuses to believe Asian parents do indeed care about their children’s physical and emotional, rather than just academic, well-being?

He was much more accurate when stating that “If her parents knew how deep her problems ran, they would have done everything they could to relieve the pressure and stress on their daughter.” “Think Christians and ‘God,’ Old-Testament style”? Pardon my theological inadequacies, but I simply don’t get the idea. Frankly, when Mr. Jung vilifies Asian-American parents and delineates a bleak scenario of impasse in the intergenerational relationships, he is only exacerbating the very misunderstandings which he laments.

Moreover, I found some of Jung’s tangential musings to be somewhat “incoherent and irritating.” Unless he was living under the proverbial rock, he should know that there was plenty of outrage specifically addressing the issues of personal and parental responsibility after the Krueger aftermath. More importantly, why should that case be of concern to him when trying to understand this entirely different situation?

He is also convinced that no school has as many “messed-up kids” as MIT does when calling for a larger Medical Center staff. Is it really constructive to belittle the mental and emotional state of the student body? I’m sure that those suffering from depression or other emotional problems with whom Jung purports to empathize would not relish the glibness with which he characterizes them.

Jung decided to address Salib’s claim regarding public opinion by citing O.J. and Rodney King. Can you say counter-examples to this? How about admitting that public opinion is a force, but effectively questioning its influence for this specific case?

I suspect that Jung actually wanted to convey a sensitive, sympathetic view on the Shin matter, but did he? Although his column is titled “Unfair Attacks on Shin,” Jung himself ostensibly attacks Shin’s choice with a holier-than-thou attitude by stating that he’d want his parents to know if he wanted to hurt himself. The use of the callous phrase “decides to bite the dust” to describe such a grave ordeal did not help his cause either.

Most of all, his flippant use of language throughout the column and worse than bad generalizations again dehumanize and obscure the real tragedy. As for me, I know this column will be viewed as having the same flippant air as his and perhaps you will be just as offended by mine as I was by his. However, I was compelled because of the loathsome ways with which people have attempted to “expertly” deconstruct Shin’s psyche or this case. I recognize I don’t know enough about this complex situation to make anything close to a judgment and most likely, I never will. If Jung really had no intentions of playing the “blame game,” then I certainly agree with him.