About 12 years ago President Obama said a quote that I never understood. He said that “small towns in PA and in around the Midwest where the jobs have been gone for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. They are ignored about the Clinton and Bush administration. It is not surprising they get bitter, they cling to guns, or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them.” Back then I didn’t know what Obama was talking about because I never lived in PA and in the Midwest, I grew up near Cincinnati, OH. But now I have been living in Central PA for about 7 years and I still have no idea what he is talking about.
I do not know if Altoona would be considered to be a “small town” to Obama or anywhere in Central PA in which I have be serving in parish ministries. But here is my take and feeling.
I do need to re-iterate that I am not being political in any way. I have never considered myself to be a liberal or a conservative. And in general, I don’t define myself through politics. But I do want to think about the quote made by Obama in 2008 since it was just brought back up with Fetterman backing up on President Obama’s quote just recently.
So, if you haven’t realized by now, I am Korean American, as my wife who is Korean and we have two little kids, who… you guessed it… is Korean. We have been in Central PA for 7 years. My youngest son was born here, and my wife got her professional degree education here to become an ICU nurse. We have done a lot since moving here. We found promise, opportunity, and stability living in Central PA.
Sure, I know a lot of people here that have guns, enjoys guns, and likes to shoot or hunt with their guns. But I never felt that it was dangerous while living in my “small town.” And to be honest I am nothing like people where in Central PA, nor am I trying to be like one of the folks. I am different. I look different, act different, and think different. But that doesn’t make me feel isolated or targeted what-so-ever. I have met a lot of people here that have been super friendly, or that don’t feel the urge to rubberneck me when I pass them by. They respect my way of living and the way I look. I am different from people who are from Central PA, but I don’t feel attacked for who I am at all.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t face racism or hate living here, I do. But that’s no different from where I have lived. I felt racism in Cincinnati, Los Angeles, New York City, and South Korea. I don’t let that get me riled up and disappointed. But in general, Central PA is my home now. I enjoy the people, my family has found opportunity for success and security, I always felt safe, and in general people don’t care how I look, where I am from, what I do, or how I think. My family has found a good life in this so-called, “small town.”
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Hey this is Rev. Brian Choi's random thought throughout my week. Most of this stuff, will probably be about family, church, fishing, music, movies, food, whatever I think of, hopefully it will have some sort of theological reflection (maybe).