Friday, April 26, 2013

Ken-Bun-Ki "Hero"

 Note: "Russell's Ken-Bun-Ki" is a series of articles I wrote for my Japanese City Hall newsletter back in 1996-97. They were articles about life in America or life in Japan as experienced by an American. This one is from May 8, 1997. 

"Who is your hero?"
This question is used often in American elementary school English class assignments. It's very popular. "Who do you respect? Why do you respect them?" This type of homework question was asked probably once every year for my twelve years of school.

Elementary school students write about fantastic characters or heroes from their favorite stories. Boys write about characters like Batman or Tom Sawyer; girls respect characters like Nancy Drew or Cinderella. Junior high school students usually write about famous people. For example, President Lincoln or Helen Keller, or more recent choices like professional basketball players such as Michael Jordan are all popular choices to this age group. Everyone wants to grow up to become somebody like the people they respect. High school and college students write about people they actually know or people around them. For example, they write about their grandfather fighting a disease, or a friend confined to a wheelchair, or a friend who is putting himself through college because his family is too poor to send him. At this age, the people we (Americans) respect are the people we know who are working and doing their best against terrible odds.

In Japanese there are various levels of polite and honorific speech. In English there really are no special vocabulary words that automatically show respect ("Would you...?" is better and shows more respect than "Will you...?" but that type of example is about the extent of English "honorifics.") However, this doesn't mean that we do not have respect for people. Each American has his/her own heroes.

As for my heroes, all of the names mentioned in this article are my heroes. I respect those people who overcome life's adversity and live their own lives. Who is YOUR hero?

This is the last installment of Russell's Ken-Bun-Ki, which has been published for approximately one year. Were you able to understand different cultures or different ideas? It's natural that people's opinions and ways of thinking are different. "Internal relations" means looking at others as well as yourself. It begins with knowing your own country and town.

Thank you!

Well, that was the last official "Russell Ken-Bun-Ki" article. I always wrote my articles a week or two before the intended published date because the editing, type-setting, and publishing efforts took so much time. I had written this sometime at the end of March, before I had gotten the word that the Mayor or whomever had decided to "cancel" me. My editor (who was my wife, Yuko) had already prepared this one, too, and knew it was a good one. So a month after the new fiscal year had started in April, my column ended on May 8.
I never got an official word as to why it was cancelled. "We are going in another direction" was all I ever got, kind of conversationally and kind of "please don't ask me..." So I let it drop. After all, writing these things was fun, but it was work. For the rest of my time in Miyazaki (I left four years later) various people would come up to me and tell me their favorite columns or the ones they disagreed with me on or what have you. So....I'm immensely proud of them, which is why I wanted to get them out there.
By the way, I hereby reject something I wrote here sixteen years ago. In my opinion athletes are not "heroes." I think it's become much more clear over the past 15 years or so that they and actors and comedians etc are not "heroes" whatsoever.
This article is the last official column. However, next week I will present for the first time anywhere the only "Russell Ken-Bun-Ki" article to ever be censored and rejected for publication by the Assistant Mayor of my town.

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