Artist

Joseph Reyes

June 7


These are crazy times. The left wing of Korea is now a proponent of the alt-right’s agenda, specifically with Trump meeting with Kim Jung Un. President Moon Jae-In, in his quest for warmer relations with North Korea have unnecessarily entangled himself with Trump and Kim Jung-Un meeting next week in a summit in Singapore. When it was first cancelled, the extreme right wing in the country was celebrating, calling it a failure of Moon Jae-In. But now that the meeting is back on, it seems that the left is celebrating it as a “win” regardless of the consequences and what the summit exactly means for North Korean propaganda. If you told me that the left wing of Korea would push for a meeting between Trump and Kim Jung-Un two years ago, I would’ve called you insane.

Now I’m not necessarily against western leaders meeting with North Korea. What I am is extremely cynical of these things. First off, Trump agreed to a meeting without even having any concessions. They demanded total abandonment of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, but there seems to be a disagreement whether North Korea agreed to this. And even if they did, it is very unlikely they would follow through with this, especially with Kim Jung-Un fearing Colonel Gaddafi’s fate after abandoning his nuclear programs.

Second, the Trump administration is not treating this very seriously. I really think they’re just pursuing this and hoping that they would somehow stumble into a peace agreement. Why do I say that? I say that because we’re weeks away from the summit, and we’ve yet to hear any realistic plan to slowly wean North Korea away from their current nuclear trajectory outside of Trump sounding like a genie, “you will be very happy, your people will be very happy, your country will be rich!” And I get very suspicious when clowns start popping in for the summit. There’s word that Dennis Rodman, Sean Hannity, and Sebastian Gorka (a Hungarian Nazi) will be covering the summit for Trump. It’s a damned photo op for conservative “win.”

And again, all of this while Trump makes trade wars with Canada, Mexico, and the EU (and Nikki Haley embarrasses herself in front of the UN).

I like President Moon Jae-In, I really do, but I think he’s got himself caught in a trap. Friendliness with North Korea doesn’t mean the South has to be a wingman for relations with the United States, not at this early stage anyway. It wasn’t too long ago when the North wasn’t too cool with the South. Now he is wedded to the political whims of Donald Trump and Kim Jung-Un. Should either man do anything to mess up the summit or sour relations with each other, Moon Jae-In’s enemies would quickly jump on that and use it to attack him. The promise of warmer relations with North Korea is tenable. The promise of peace with North Korea, while ideal, seems unrealistic under current circumstances. And anything short of peace and total nuclear disarmament (something which Trump initially suggested the North agreed to), Moon Jae-In will be attacked for.

In any case, the left should really step back and see what exactly they are supporting here. They are supporting “wins” for two men who will cynically use the meeting for short term political gains and propaganda. The “wins” for both Trump and the North is simply the summit itself. Both men attend the meeting, they shake hands, take pictures. Done. Nobel Peace Prize for one of the worst US presidents in modern history. Any failing from the follow through could just be waved of as fake news. The “win” for the South would take far longer, and proving it to be a “win” would be more substantive. This is a strange and hard gamble for the left.  

June 20

Look, America doesn’t have a monopoly on being the light of democracy, the beacon of hope, the shining city on a hill. Actually, it’s far from it. Since they elected their current president, with one tragedy after another, I keep hearing “we are better than this,” “this is not us,” and “not all Americans.” Now I do agree that Trump and his supporters are not ALL Americans, but I disagree with everything else. Particularly with what’s happening right now at the American borders, the separation of immigrant children and their internment in abandoned Walmarts, this is exactly what America is.

People often say that America’s original sin is slavery and white supremacy. But even that statement ignores a much earlier sin, the displacement and genocide of Native Americans. But just looking at the Trump presidency as a microcosm, there is a pattern which is very similar to the rest of America as a whole. The vilification of Mexicans, the Muslim ban, the attack on NFL players, the blatant disregard to the crisis in Puerto Rico, the splitting and internment of immigrant families… one key they have in common is the absolute vile treatment of people of color. If you’re not white, there’s a great chance you might have a shittier American experience. And again, not all of America is to blame for what is happening. But it is very telling that despite the crisis on the border being the top news item for a couple of days now, instead of Trump losing popularity, he actually gains favorability. Not only that, he appears to have more power among his political party. Being disgusting towards young, immigrant children and putting them in internment camps is proving to be quite good for Trump. Americans might like telling themselves that they are the land of the free and the home of brave, but those same free and brave people often allow awful things to happen right in their own backyard. This is not the first time Americans kept an internment camp. They did so just a few decades ago.

After the Muslim ban was announced last year, there were lots of protests. It was great to see people standing up for their Muslim brothers and sisters. Eventually, the courts ruled that the Muslim ban was unconstitutional, and the president’s own words betrayed the hateful intent of his policy. But since then, there hasn’t been much collective outrage and action over the many injustices which Trump has orchestrated. Why didn’t Americans march for Puerto Rico? Aren’t Americans marching every day for Flint, police shootings, school shootings, or any other issues? Heck, even when the Muslim ban was finally partially enacted, there was nary a protest. Did people just get tired? Were people distracted? Did the free and brave people have other plans that day?

Unless Americans can exorcise their demons, they really shouldn’t be allowed to wax poetic indulgently about being American. Americans can’t say, “this is not who we are. This is not what we do.” No, this is exactly what you do. America is the one person in the room with the most guns who regularly lets bad things happen to minorities. That’s just how it is. And I don’t want to sound too high and mighty, but as a Canadian, we have a long history of sins against our Native populations as well, but you will never hear me say that that is not what we are, that “we are better than this.” Canadians are vile towards their Native populations. That’s what we are, and we should be better than this.

I love Americans. I have friend and family in the US. My nieces are Americans. I really hope that their future America would be better than this. The America I see in the news is the ugliest I’ve seen in years. It can be ugly for people like me and my nieces. As a person of color, I’ve seen racism rear its ugly head in Canada and even here in Seoul. But as Americans, I worry about my nieces. I can handle racism. I’m old and I’ve seen it enough times to know how to roll with it. But they are still far too young. And judging by how the US government and Trump supporters are being vile towards child immigrants, it is apparent that not even children are spared from the dark ugliness of the American experience. In truth, my nieces are raised in a fairly privileged lifestyle. I like to think that they’re growing up in an environment where deplorables have very little chance to make contact with them.  But despite all of that, I fear that it only takes one ugly accident to ruin a person’s day if not a person’s life.

In any case, Americans really do need to get it together. This has gone on far too long. People used to joke that “Trump is bad, but at least he’s not building internment camps.” Well, the camps are now here. What do you do? Where are the free and brave people? 

May 23


The experience of going to university is supposed to be opening one’s eyes, widening our horizons. Just by that virtue in itself, the nature of universities is very liberal. You meet people, you learn about the world, etc. This is why I don’t understand people entertaining the idea of conservatives posing as libertarians in campuses fighting against the liberal bias in academia. It is such a bold-faced farce that it boggles the mind how far it has come.

Turning Point USA has been wildly successful disseminating its poison in campuses. They have a professor’s watch list which aims to drive professors which they deemed as having a leftist bent out of campuses. They also provide platforms for far-right bomb throwers like Milo Yiannopoulos. It is a shame that Canada is not immune to this and now Simon Fraser will have a chapter calling itself Turning Point Canada in its campus. Despite distancing itself from the American group, it doesn’t take much to see how close it is the originators down south.

“Millennials seems to be increasingly more liberal, so this is just about offering an alternative view. Our professors and so on are increasingly majority liberal and maybe even further left than the Liberal Party of Canada.” How is that any different from Turning Point USA? And as much as the co-founder claim that they are not fans of Milo Yiannopoulos, I’m sure they would be more than happy to host his speeches in Canadian schools of Milo’s stock hasn’t fallen so low that he is now hawking pills for Alex Jones.

See, the reason why there are so many liberals in university is because once you open your mind to learning, to questioning, to empathy, then it is very difficult to subscribe to conservative or what many people would define as libertarian values. Read a couple of books, talk to a couple of people, grow up a little, and you’ll realize that Ayn Rand is a selfish hack. Why come to university to reinforce conservative values when the very act of leaving your small town and living and studying in university is the very definition of being non-conservative? Be conservative? Then live by your old codes, stay in your town, and don’t bother learning new information. Why go to university in order to learn more? Why spin a cocoon when all you want is to remain a caterpillar?

And maybe I’m wrong here, but in terms of academia married to liberal thought, has there even been progress in anything while being fueled by rigid conservative ideals? Has there ever been anything new and wonderful that originated in selfish libertarian values that didn’t end in outright disaster? Laissez-faire is great in expanding the marketplace of ideas and freedom in theory, but caveat emptor will ultimately be too tiring if not deadly. Conservative academia is farce and libertarianism is an unworkable selfish dream.

This really worries me right now because the alt-right’s current darling, Jordan Peterson, is a Canadian, and his pseudo-intellectual arguments, though sometimes difficult to discern, is really quite ridiculous and is nothing but vile racism and misogyny. We also recently had a terrorist incident inspired by incels, a men’s group who gather online and share misogynistic and racist sentiments due to their inability to get attention from the opposite sex. So yeah, Canada now has old hatred cloaking itself open-mindedness, academia, or victimhood right in its own backyard.  The hateful right is coming for our universities and will soon target our teachers. 


My work got featured in the arts magazine Wake Up Screaming. Thanks to Matt Witt. The edition’s theme is “In My Town” and it features my move from Winnipeg to Seoul, and how my old Winnipeg no longer exists. 

June 15


Yesterday, I was sitting at a Burger King. The Burger King and the MacDonald’s near my workplace are hangouts for the elderly. The neighborhood is quite old, and it’s a known hangout for senior citizens who wander about doing who knows what. The two burger joints are quite popular among the seniors because they serve cheap coffee and cheap sundae, especially in contrast with the other coffee shops around the area. So when people go to Burger King, they’ll often see old people talking business with either one cup of coffee or a sundae each.

Anyway, right next to me was this couple. I would guess they’re in their sixties. He’s dressed in a suit, while she is dressed like she’s going to go hiking somewhere. She even has a backpack with what appears to be cut vegetables in a Ziploc bag sticking out of one of the pockets. I normally wouldn’t pay too close attention to other customers but this couple was quite unusual. They were really quite heavy with the PDA. They’re touching each other’s hands and giving each other light kisses, getting all giggly and such. I really don’t mind all of this, but I find it quite odd that an older couple would be acting like teenagers even after from what I initially assumed was a long relationship. They seem more passionate about each other than I am with my wife at any stage of our relationship. They’re definitely more carefree about it, especially in a country where PDA is still a bit rare, especially among older generations. But I guess that couple was lucky. It truly must be a beautiful thing to be in-love at that age, to feel young, and carefree, and to barely contain yourself in order to be close to that other person.

Love is beautiful.

But then I started to be more cynical about it.

Are they really a couple? Maybe they just started dating at an older age. Maybe they’re a couple of divorcees. Or maybe they’re cheating on their respective spouses. That would explain their carefree passion as well as the mismatched clothes. After all, do couples really walk out the door with one wearing a suit and the other ready to climb a mountain? What were they doing in Burger King? Most of the senior citizens I see in either burger joints are men. I rarely see anyone taking a date in a Burger King, especially someone older. Yeah, something’s not right. Those two are up to no good. They’re spouses are probably somewhere else, working or at home or something. “Yes, honey, I’m off to go hiking with my friends! See you tonight!” “Later, I’m off to work! See you tonight.” There are too many red flags to say that they’re all innocent and are just being romantic on a Burger King in the afternoon. Someone is getting screwed somewhere. The world is beautiful and there is much joy to be found, especially through innocent eyes. But sometimes, it’s just impossible to do. I’ve lived too long and seen too many ugly things not to notice when something is off.

Love is beautiful. But that wasn’t love. That was something else entirely.

I finish my meal and went back to work. 

June 1


Tonight, Trump is going to hurt his supporters. The trade exemptions for Canada and Mexico expire tonight, and he is imposing a 25% tariff on steel and 10% on aluminum. Our prime minister already announced that we will impose retaliatory tariffs on American products. And we are not alone. Mexico has announced that they will be imposing retaliatory tariffs as well along with Europe. Things are going to be more expensive for Americans now.

It’s not as if Americans haven’t already been hurt by Trump’s dumb economic policies. China is now buying more soy beans from Russia and Canada as retaliation for the US’s actions. This hurts Trump’s core supporters, the farm belt. Couple that with his immigration policies which leaves many American farmers unable to hire workers in their farms. Harley Davidson, which is already suffering losses since the company’s image has steadily become quite passé, will now be suffering under tariffs, both in the materials used to manufacture the bicycles as well as in exporting them to Europe and China.

There are a few times when I’m proud of Prime Minister Trudeau’s actions, but him standing up to the American bully is a proud moment. It is unjustifiable for Trump to threaten a trade war when countries would do better helping each other prosper. The NAFTA negotiations are taking too long? Sure. But isn’t preserving good business relations worth the wait? What’s the rush? Where is everyone going? Do these American politicians have something better to do? His explanation of protecting national security and helping US industries are nothing but hollow words he was asked to repeat. Ask Donald Trump for more meaningful explanations and you’ll get nothing but repetitive bluster. Why impose taxes on German cars for example? How would hurting car manufacturers help national security? Wouldn’t that hurt thousands of Americans employed and partnered with the German company? I know all of his friends are driven around in German cars and they bear the brunt of such tariffs, but what about everyone else?

The thing is there is no such thing as an art of the deal. None. Donald Trump is an awful negotiator. The only deals that worked out for him are deals that benefitted him personally. It never works out well for his partners. That is something that all banks in the United States learned about him prior to him being president. But sadly, his voters don’t care about all of this. They prefer a leader who talks to them like children, pausing for applause and to repeat lines… lines which are getting quite tired by mid-2018. Seriously, why rail against Hillary Clinton at this point? They prefer a leader who encourages them to be hateful to women and minorities, a grown man who still hasn’t learned how to be decent.

So yes, good on you, Mr. Prime Minister Trudeau! Retaliate. Hurt the Americans. Hurt the people who made Trump a foul omnipresent specter in the media, political, and social landscape. Hurt the people who would drag us all back to much darker times. In these negotiations, it is best to follow the China model. We cannot lose face to the Americans. And though I have no animus towards Americans in general (they are one of my favorite people), I’m so sick and tired of seeing their worst have it their way.