When Jun Choi was running his mayoral campaign for Edison, New Jersey in 2005, many Asians I knew didn’t vote for him, not because they had anything against his candidacy, but rather due to the fact that they were content with the way things were and saw no need to replace the incumbent. That’s exactly the lay back attitude I expect most Asians have–respect government but stay away from it, just like one’s attitude towards gods and ghosts.
However Edison’s politics is nothing to be lay back about. The municipal building is a place where different opinions, factions, ethnicity, proposals clash. Even the most insignificant education board meeting can be eventful and dramatic. Just read the local newspaper and you will know. One day a board member was late and didn’t participate in a vote, which resulted in a minor disagreement. The next thing you knew a lawsuit was placed in the county court.
I think the democracy in Edison is very much like a love affair between two people of strong wills. A lot of arguments and battles, but they just cannot separate. They will throw things at each other until both become exhausted; then they clean up and go out to purchase what have been broken; the next day the smash and purchase cycle repeat itself. I know a couple like that, but that’s a story for another post.
Actually many Asians are not really lay back in politics. Whenever education is concerned, Asians are very active. For example, the schools in Edison. The property tax is increasing so much quicker than the inflation, but the schools are continuously overcrowded. How come? In Middlesex County, only Edison and East Brunswick have good schools, and the real estate in these two townships are ridiculously overpriced.
I have a friend who live in a very modest house–almost a minimalist version of a house–with almost no second floor and no basement. She told me about those desperate parents who can’t afford the housing in Edison but want to send their kid to the Edison school. One of them asked her for help. The desperate couple was trying to make ends meet and they have a little boy of about 12. He’s really cute and clever. I mean anybody who sees him would want him to go to a good school, but alas his parents can’t afford. My friend–let’s just say her name is L–didn’t have the heart to turn the couple down. The boy and his parents pretended to rent from L so that the boy could go to Edison school. Every day, they risked being discovered and they thought they managed to do their best to avert detection. And guess what? Just three weeks later, the township people came knocking on the door and the boy had to go back, crestfallen and heartbroken.