Best of the Week
of May 2, 1999
Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or
advanced during the week of May 2, 1999, as selected by Y?
These postings, as well as "Best of the Week" entries from
previous weeks, also can be found by accessing our new database using
our search form, or, in the case of
answers posted before April 24, 1999, in our
Original Archives (all questions
from the Original Archives have been entered into the new database as
well). In the Original Archives and the new database, you will find
questions that have received answers, as well as questions still
awaiting responses. We encourage you to answer any questions relevant
to your demographic background, as well as to ask any provocative
question you desire. Answers posted are not necessarily meant to
represent the views of an entire demographic group, but can provide a
window into the insights of an individual from that group.
First-time users should first make a quick stop at our
guidelines pages for asking and
The biggest culture shock I had when I went to the United States was
when I walked into a public restroom. Why is the wide space necessary
between the door and the floor? Aren't people ashamed of their legs
being seen? And why do people put their stuff on the dirty floor?
Also, aren't they ashamed of being heard when they are going to the
bathroom? Some of them even talked to me while I was in there, and I
was so ashamed. In my country, there is even a tape recorder
installed on the wall to block out the noise.
Kanako, Tokyo, NA, Japan, 25, Female, Asian, Mesg ID 569964341
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Why do some Mexicans like to lower their cars?
Candice, Sacramento, CA, United States, 52, Female,
Jewish,White/Caucasian, Straight, Attorney, Over 4 Years of College,
Middle class, Mesg ID 5599123626
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Do parents of children 20 or younger realize how miserably they have
failed in their duty to discipline and acculturate their children,
and don't they realize they are creating a danger to society?
Mark S., Houston, TX, United States, <email@example.com> , 30,
Male, White/Caucasian, Gay, Engineer, Over 4 Years of College ,
Middle class, Mesg ID 4289931526
I think the tone of your question is really unfair to a lot of
people. While I do agree that some parents have failed, I don't think
that failure can be directed at parents of children 20 years and
younger. While I do not have children, I have three younger nieces
who are disciplined (when necessary), are learning about all cultures
and are not a threat to society or to themselves. I don't think your
disdain should be pointed at the "parents of the '90s," but perhaps
all parents in general. Don't you think other generations have raised
children who became dangers to society? Think aboutCharles Manson,
John Wayne Gacy, Ted Kazinski (the Unabomber). I don't think you can
consider any of them model citizens.
Chip, Detroit, MI, United States, Female, White/Caucasian, 4 Years of
College, Middle class, Mesg ID 5499123223
Believe me, most parents I know are humbled by how difficult
parenting is. Every step of the way, schools, friends, family and
non-parents are ready, if not willing, to point out all your faults
as a parent. So to answer your first question: Yes, parents are
painfully aware of their failings. However, a common assumption made
is that a child is an empty vessel one gets to fill up with good
things. Believe me, most parents will tell you that babies come from
the womb with strong personalities and that no two are alike. There
is no roadmap; you just do the best you can. It is a constant
balancing act to try to provide challenge, experience and
open-mindedness while satisfying the need to keep your children safe
and well-protected. However, for every tragic pipebomb maker, there
are thousands of well-adjusted kids who go off to college, get jobs
and start the cycle over.
By the way, most parents don't consider the job over when the kid
hits 20, either. You hope there is a finish line, but there never is.
You always worry about your children.
Steve, Houston, TX, United States, 42, Male, White/Caucasian, Mesg ID
Maybe I didn't get the failure notice in the mail. My kids, 4 and
2, are about as polite and well-behaved as any boys of that
rambunctious age are. They say please and thank you when they're
reminded. They don't hit, or say anything worse than "poo-poo head,"
which I'm trying to discourage. Is that my failure? My boys are a
danger to society because they say "poo-poo head" Am I missing
Andrew, Huntington, NY, United States, <firstname.lastname@example.org> ,
35, Male, Jewish, White/Caucasian, Reporter, 4 Years of College,
Middle class, Mesg ID 549970815
Bravo! Finally, someone has addressed the role of the parents in
the poor behavior and discipline of children today. While I would not
go so far as to suggest that all parents have been negligent,
certainly a number have. Ever notice how a number of these negligent
parents are the same people who rebelled against authority in every
possible way in the '60s and early '70s? Hmmm ... wonder if there is
a connection there.
John K., Cranford, NJ, United States, <email@example.com>
, 25, Male, Chemical Engineer, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class,
Mesg ID 5499113209
Gee, all of us? That's a lot of people. I am both a parent of two
boys and a professor at a community college, so I spend a lot of time
with people who are under 20. While many of the niceties of previous
generations have fallen by the wayside ("sir" and "ma'am," for
instance), on the whole I would have to disagree strenuously with
you. Many of my students are both attending college and working at
least part-time; most are responsible and serious about their lives.
As a parent, I try to provide a disciplined and loving framework in
which my kids can live. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't,
but that's the nature of being human. And at the risk of sounding
snooty, from your profile and your question I doubt you have
children, and parenthood is truly one of those experiences you can't
describe unless you've been there.
Finally, the challenges that young people face today are far more
serious and, in some cases, life-threatening, than any we ever faced.
Under those circumstances, is it any wonder kids aren't worried about
saying please and thank you?
Some kids do bad things. And in our society, bad is much worse
that it used to be. But to categorize everyone under 20 as
undisciplined and uncivilized, and then to blame their parents for
it, is not only unfair, it just isn't useful. If you see changes that
need to be made, start making them. Mentor a teenager, volunteer as a
tutor or a coach, do something constructive. You don't have to have
children of your own to make an impact. Don't just gripe and lay
blame. Then you're just part of the problem.
Laura, Bel Air, MD, United States, 37, Female, White/Caucasian,
Straight, College English professor, Over 4 Years of College, Middle
class, Mesg ID 5599105926
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I teach in a non-Jewish community in the Midwest. We study The Diary
of Anne Frank and the Holocaust each year. The students always ask
these three questions: 1) How did the Nazis know who was Jewish and
who wasn't? 2) Why didn't the Jews pretend to not be Jewish; why
didn't they just not wear the star? 3) Is being Jewish a race or a
religion? Please help. I never feel I answer these questions
Jade, Midwest, NA, United States, Female, Christian, Teacher, Mesg ID
The Nazis paid large rewards, in the form of money, food stamps,
etc., to anyone who would say who was Jewish and who was not. The
Nazis had access to synagogue membership records and required you to
fill out your religion on nearly every government form, including
your taxes, passport, censuses, etc.
Judaism is a religion, yet, due to centuries of inbreeding, there
are certain characteristics of Jews that may be classified as racial,
such as the Jewish nose. Another example would be the genetic disease
carried by Ashkenazic Jews: Tay Sachs.
Alex J., Elkins Park, PA, United States, <firstname.lastname@example.org>
, 15, Male, Jewish, White/Caucasian, Straight, High school student,
Less than High School Diploma , Upper middle class, Mesg ID
1) The Nazis (and the German governments before them) had records
of each individual's birth and information, including religion and
the religions of their grandparents. All someone needed to be
considered Jewish was one grandparent born of one Jewish parent. The
amount you practiced or believed was unimportant, as was whether you
had been raised a Christian.
2) They put the Jews in ghettos - they thus knew who was supposed
to be wearing stars.
3) Judaism is a religion. There are German Jews, Black Jews and
Spanish Jews, just as there are German Christians, Black Christians
and Spanish Christians. Their "race" is white, Latino or black and
their religion is Jewish. 99.999 percent of Jews consider their race
to be synonomous with the color of their skin.
Lee, San Fransisco, CA, United States, Female, Episcopalian,
White/Caucasian, Straight, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle
class, Mesg ID 5499124957
To answer the specific questions:
The Nazis made it a national policy to determine the origin of
every person in their control and to classify them as appropriate.
They had specific guidelines they used for classification, and these
were generally out of the hands of the individual. So, the government
investigated everybody and selected those who failed to meet the
criteria for liquidation. Once classified, there was nothing a person
could do to officially change that designation. A person might not
wear the star, but it wouldn't matter if his papers stated he was a
Jew. Some (like Anne Frank) hid, but for many this was unsuccessful,
and they were captured. Incidentally, one way they checked for Jews
in hiding was to look for a circumcision; a male in Germany who had
been circumcised was 99.9 percent likely to be a Jew.
I don't have any doubt in my mind that Judaism is a religion.
Jesse N., Herzliya, NA, Israel, 40, Male, Jewish, White/Caucasian,
Straight, Engineer, 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID
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What kind of facial/body features do people of different cultures
regard as beautiful? Is it a perfect body, perfect face, or more?
Maomao, Taipei, NA, Taiwan, 17, Female, Asian, Student, Mesg ID
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How do African Americans perceive God? Do they pray to a white God or
a black God? How do they portray God visually?
N. Carman, Arlington, TX, United States, <nikicarman@AOL.com> ,
17, Female, White/Caucasian, Mesg ID 4309993759
I am assuming you are referring to the Christian God in your
question, and not the Islamic God, Allah, who incidentally, is black.
But anyway, because Christ grew up in the Middle East, it is unlikely
He'd have blue eyes and blond hair, which I am sure many people would
like to dispute. I always thought of him as brown with kinky
Analee, Santa Clarita, CA, United States, 18, Female, Christian,
Black/African American, Straight, Mesg ID 5399125936
While I am Caucasion, I am of the opinion that each of us was
created in God's image, and since God can take any form, we would
probably see Him in a form that is personally familiar. I would
expect that a Caucasion would see a Caucasion God, while an
Afro-American would see a dark-skinned God, an Oriental would see a
God with yellowish skin. I don't think it matters; the important
thing is to find God.
R. Scannell, Westland, MI, United States, White/Caucasian, Mesg ID
A better answer than I can ever give comes from author James
McBride, a black man raised by a white mother. When he asked her what
color God is, she repliedthat God is the color of water.
Melissa, New York, NY, United States, 18, Female, Student, Mesg ID
I think it shows an inherent prejudice to think of God as a
certain color or race. Color and facial features are for flesh and
blood only. How could it be otherwise? God doesn't need dark skin to
protect against the sun! He created it! He doesn't need blue eyes and
blond hair, either. God is of spirit, thought, compassion and
inteligence. You insult whatever God you believe in by assigning it
your own prejudice. You show ignorance by insisting on it.
Lee S., Perris, CA, United States, 47, Male, Agnostic,
White/Caucasian, Straight, Technical field, 4 Years of College,
Middle class, Mesg ID 5399111327
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