"I Don't Judge Myself By What Someone Else Says"

January 17, 2008
By Eugene Ichinose, San Gabriel, CA

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sydney Schanberg once said, “I don’t judge myself by what someone else says.” I often find it very difficult to stay true to myself and do the right thing when under pressure. But one incident would change the way that I handle difficult situations when pressured to go against what is right. In my junior year, I was assigned to write a news article about the North Korean missile crisis for my school newspaper. The topic at first was of little interest to me, and I decided to simply emulate the accepted Western view that authoritarian North Korea was “wrong”, and that democratic America was “right”.
I cruised over a series of official sources prior to writing my article in order to obtain statistical facts, essential in a news story. I was surprised to learn that, according to my research, America had ten thousand nuclear weapons, all of that were much more powerful than those of North Korea. This statistic had scared me at first. I had imagined the capability of these American weapons, able to bomb any point on earth. Everyone was a target, and the outbreak of a U.S. nuclear war would be devastating. Civilians would be killed, cities would vanish upon the dropping of a bomb, the sour smell of gunpowder would fill the atmosphere, and the sky would forever remain cloudy gray.
An even larger surprise was the fact that, according to my research, North Korea had only 11 nuclear warheads, compared to America’s ten thousand. Why, I then asked myself, was the U.S. condemning this particular nation when its own army had amassed the world’s largest arsenal of nuclear weapons? America, as a world power, wanted to remain boss by increasing its nuclear capability, trying to prevent other nations from doing the same.
Later that week, as I read over my completed article, I saw that I had produced a seemingly pro-North Korean article. I considered rewriting the entire piece, but I knew that all its contents were strictly facts; and facts could not be changed. I was aware that in the predominantly Asian area in which I lived, any release of a work even remotely suggesting support for a communist country would face vicious opposition. As I sat indecisively staring at my computer screen, my parents came into my room with the copy that I had given them to proofread. As they set the coffee stained pieces of paper, cursed with their red-ink markings, on my desk, they instructed me not to publish the article due to its potential to create a stir in the community.
It was then, as I sleepily sat in front of my computer with the continuous buzz of the hard drive fan eluding my ears, that I learned of the importance of standing up for the right thing. My parents, like millions of other westerners, had succumb to the contemporary media’s incomplete and egotistical presentation of news. Exposure to only part of an issue leads to the lack of understanding and acceptance towards differing views. Without a full presentation from all sides of an issue, the public is more likely to form radical and single-minded beliefs that in time can have a negative affect of society. Thus, I had reasoned that despite the risk of damaging my reputation and putting myself in danger, I reasoned that the right decision to make was to publish the article.
As time passed, I realized that this incident had allowed me to see the importance of questioning issues for their morality even when they are widely accepted, in this case, on a national scale. As for my article, no opposition was directly expressed towards my writing, and I even received a letter from a fellow reader who supported and praised my words. In one of the few instances where I truly felt proud of myself, I realized that being able to do the right thing, even in the midst of pressure, eventually leads to an honest and proud life. Though I still hesitate when pressured, I understand the importance of staying true to my morals.

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