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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dear Washington Post: Grow Up, Please

It’s customary for world leaders to don traditional shirts for a group “family” photo at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. President Obama tried to do away with the ``silly shirts,’’ but this year, they’re back.

Thank you Washington Post for dubbing the custom shirts of the APEC country as silly. It gives me an immense pleasure to know that the even the so-called biggest nation on earth is not immune to dumb-witted and discriminating attitude. I guess us in the third-world under-developed country might have a chance to beat you in your game after all.

The so-called silly shirts are made from the fabric that has been worn by the countries for centuries. Each one of them is is a work of art and a pride to its home country. The Batik of Indonesia, for instance, have been designated by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on October 2, 2009. I am thoroughly convinced that it is not because of its "silliness", but more to do with the fact that the art making the fabric has been passed on for centuries and its beauty and variation expands and grew throughout times.

Some questions:
- If antiquity is a desired virtue (i.e antique chairs, antique tapestry) then why do you called our antique (style of) fabric that has been around for hundreds of years "Silly"?
- If art is a desired virtue then why do you called our ancient art that depicted in the patterns of our traditional fabric "Silly"?
- If "green" is a desired virtue then why do you called our all-green fabric which is made from natural ingredients is "Silly"?

Archaeological and culture studies are hip in US, yet you called our fabric "Silly".
People splash paint and made abstract images and called it art, yet you called our fabric "Silly".
A dress woven and colored by using all natural ingredients can fetch big money, yet you called our fabric "Silly".

The making of Batik takes a long, long time. The pattern has to be drawn on the cloth, and then portions of it would be filled with wax so when it is dipped into dyes only the empty spaces colored in dyes. After drying, the cloth then washed in hot water to remove the wax, then the process would be repeated for different colors. The more color you use in that specific cloth, the longer it take to completion. The patterns themselves are a work of art, coming from the people's imagination and perception of the world around them and also from folklore and myths and legends. Each pattern has a special meaning, and on the olden days the rules of who can wear a specific patterns was strictly upheld. It was much more than a piece of art, it was much more than a symbol of wealth, it defined who you are in the society. That is what our "silly" shirt is all about, and I think it can be said the same with all the "silly" shirt depicted in the Washington Post's article.  

Business attire: The United States hosted 2011's APEC summit for the first time since 1993 on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, from Nov. 12 to 13. President Obama, second from left on the bottom row, did away with the tradition of wearing traditional shirts during the summit’s group photo.

I apologize if I don't think much of the all famous white shirt with little crocodile emblem, nor fancy business suit that seemed to be favored by Washington Post. It baffles me why a cookie-cutter outfit that can be purchased and used by anyone, and I mean ANYONE, should be discussed in a much-approved tone than a shirt made with centuries worth of tradition and embodiment of a country's culture and history. I would wear my traditional outfit anytime because that's how I can held my head high: by being proud of who I am and my country and my culture. And at the risk of sounding biased, the Balinese hand-woven Endek and Songket is probably the most beautiful I've ever seen. Other countries, well I guess not so lucky.

Washington Post and other media and people that might buy into the "Silly" shirt stories, stop being such a discriminating jackasses. Each country is different and unique, just as each people is different and unique. Stop making fun of us just because we are different. Stop trying to making us feel so bad and inferior that we eventually leave our culture and follow yours (if you even have any). Stop being the mean girls in high school or the bully on the playground. Grow up, for God's sake.

Note: All photos are screenshot taken from the said article.

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