Winds of distress in the month of May
Not all flowers and plants trigger allergic reactions. Pollen from forsythia, azaleas, cherry blossoms, roses and magnolias do not cause hay fever. These plants are entomophilous, and their pollen is dispersed by bees and butterflies. What causes seasonal allergies are anemophilous plants, whose pollen is dispersed by air currents. The most notable anemophilous plants are white birches, willows and Japanese cedar trees.
Pollen is not the only thing that stimulates the lacrimal glands, which produce tears. Our eyes often get misty on Mother’s Day, a May holiday celebrating the love of a mother who has given her whole heart and energy to raising her children. Teachers’ Day also falls in May. The May birthstone is an emerald, but red may represent our feelings better. We give red carnations to express respect and love, and red roses are symbols of passion and loyalty.
Another “allergen” from the ’80s makes our eyes swollen and teary in May. This allergen is neither natural nor artificial, but psychological, for this is the month we remember the Gwangju Democratization Movement. During that time, the streets were filled with protestors wearing red headbands and the riot police were armed with lachrymator, or tear gas, which irritates the eyes and nose and causes tears and sneezing.
The most powerful allergens occur on May 16 and May 18. The use of dates to mark two such significant historical events may avoid a “naming” of the events, but we call the events by their dates to be neutral because we have mixed feelings about them. In fact, May 16 is viewed as both a coup and a revolution, and people have diverse opinions about which is correct. In contrast, May 18 was first regarded as a riot, then a revolt and then a democracy movement. Events such as these are based on objectivity and historical events are based on historical contexts.
Yet still there are people who turn their eyes away from a consideration of the events, especially the ones that mark the Korean calendar in the month of May. Natural and artificial allergens can be treated with medicine, but a psychological allergy born of a lack of objectivity and historical understanding may have no cure. I can only hope that time will be a remedy.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Park Jong-kwon