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 answering questions.


Question:
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.
POSTED 5/6/99
Kanako, Tokyo, NA, Japan, 25, Female, Asian, Mesg ID 569964341
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Question:
Why do some Mexicans like to lower their cars?
POSTED 5/5/99
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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Question:
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?
POSTED 5/3/99
Mark S., Houston, TX, United States, <mseely@wt.net> , 30, Male, White/Caucasian, Gay, Engineer, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 4289931526

Response:
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.
POSTED 5/4/99
Chip, Detroit, MI, United States, Female, White/Caucasian, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 5499123223

Response:
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.
POSTED 5/4/99
Steve, Houston, TX, United States, 42, Male, White/Caucasian, Mesg ID 549983440

Response:
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 something here?
POSTED 5/5/99
Andrew, Huntington, NY, United States, <ziptron@start.com.au> , 35, Male, Jewish, White/Caucasian, Reporter, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 549970815

Response:
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.
POSTED 5/5/99
John K., Cranford, NJ, United States, <the-macs@geocities.com> , 25, Male, Chemical Engineer, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 5499113209

Response:
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.
POSTED 5/5/99
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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Question:
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 adequately.
POSTED 5/3/99
Jade, Midwest, NA, United States, Female, Christian, Teacher, Mesg ID 539995813

Response:
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.
POSTED 5/4/99
Alex J., Elkins Park, PA, United States, <magic_user@email.com> , 15, Male, Jewish, White/Caucasian, Straight, High school student, Less than High School Diploma , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 5399105214

Response:
My answers:

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.
POSTED 5/4/99
Lee, San Fransisco, CA, United States, Female, Episcopalian, White/Caucasian, Straight, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 5499124957

Response:
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.
POSTED 5/4/99
Jesse N., Herzliya, NA, Israel, 40, Male, Jewish, White/Caucasian, Straight, Engineer, 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 549925431
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Question:
What kind of facial/body features do people of different cultures regard as beautiful? Is it a perfect body, perfect face, or more?
POSTED 5/3/99
Maomao, Taipei, NA, Taiwan, 17, Female, Asian, Student, Mesg ID 43099123126
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Question:
How do African Americans perceive God? Do they pray to a white God or a black God? How do they portray God visually?
POSTED 4/30/99
N. Carman, Arlington, TX, United States, <nikicarman@AOL.com> , 17, Female, White/Caucasian, Mesg ID 4309993759

Response:
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 hair.
POSTED 5/3/99
Analee, Santa Clarita, CA, United States, 18, Female, Christian, Black/African American, Straight, Mesg ID 5399125936

Response:
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.
POSTED 5/3/99
R. Scannell, Westland, MI, United States, White/Caucasian, Mesg ID 539922138

Response:
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.
POSTED 5/4/99
Melissa, New York, NY, United States, 18, Female, Student, Mesg ID 5199110819

Response:
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.
POSTED 5/4/99
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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