Brian Bergen has enlisted the memory of JFK in his war against kimchi, a traditional Korean dish on the verge of being canonized – so to speak – by the state Legislature.
The pairing of kimchi and a president assassinated almost 60 years ago may seem peculiar.
But it’s not.
The state Assembly last week adopted a bill to designate Nov. 22 as Kimchi Day in New Jersey. In hyping the idea, the Assembly Agriculture and Food Security Committee said kimchi has a “rich history dating back thousands of years.” The committee described the dish as consisting of salted and fermented vegetables and said it is often eaten by Koreans at every meal.
Not only that, it’s good for you. The committee put it this way:
“Kimchi has been widely acknowledged as a probiotic food with well-established positive health benefits, serving as an excellent source of beta-carotene, calcium, potassium, dietary fiber and vitamins A, B, C and K, which can potentially lower rates of heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes.”
Notwithstanding this description of some type of miracle food, Bergen voted “no” on the resolution. He was the only one to do so, although a handful of lawmakers didn’t vote. The dish, so to speak, now goes to the Senate.
This seems like one of those symbolic bills legislators are prone to pass without giving it much thought. After all, what’s the harm in designating an official day – even though we have many of them?
That made Bergen’s lone opposition look a bit silly, even obnoxious.
The day after last Thursday’s vote, however, Bergen raised an interesting point.
Nov. 22 is really not just any other day. It is one that those of a certain age – or rather, old people – will never forget.
It is the day back in 1963 on which John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas. It was early afternoon on a Friday and ushered in a truly memorable weekend. There was grief followed by disbelief when Jack Ruby shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswald, the president’s accused assassin, on Sunday. JFK’s funeral was held on Monday, which was designated a national day of mourning. Schools and most everything else official were closed.
Bergen last Friday dashed off a letter to Nick Scutari, the Senate President, asking him not to post the bill for a vote.
The GOP assemblyman from Morris County said that if the bill passes, come this Nov. 22 – the 60th anniversary of the president’s death – “New Jersey would be officially celebrating a food dish instead of honoring a national hero.”
Instead of choosing kimchi over JFK, Bergen suggests that a tribute to New Jersey Koreans take place on Jan. 13, which is the day back in 1903 when the first Koreans immigrated to the United States. He wants that day designated as Korean American Day.
Bergen doesn’t expect Scutari to honor his request, but the assemblyman certainly has a valid argument.
Many people these days do not know as much history as they should. The guess is that far too many lawmakers may not have even known the significance of Nov. 22 when voting for Kimchi Day.
But they should have.
And Bergen’s suggestion should be taken seriously.