Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Real Americans

What makes someone an American?

Is it their race?


Sexual orientation?

The languages they speak?

Is it where they were born?

Their parents’ nation of origin?

I asked my classes:

Japanese grade-schoolers told me that someone is neither foreign nor Japanese based on any of these factors.

They tied it to two factors:

The amount of work they do.

What they contribute to the greater community as a whole.

That’s it.

American high school students were a little less sure.

But once again, they came back to the idea of work and community.

They said that our government was wrong

That we should set the same standards for those who are born here and abroad and strip citizenship from native 18 year old who do not work for the betterment of the community.

What do you think? Please jot down your own criteria for nationality before reading on.

What is the price for archaic notions of “nationality”?

I have a home. I have people I respect and adore. I have a community I love so much, I would give my life a thousand times to improve it in some small, permanent way.

In the very same way I treat anyone or anything I love, I don’t lie to my country. I appraise lovingly and honestly. If my country is sick and has lost its way on some small, but critical issues, I do not put on a fake smile and lie, “No honey! You are the best country in the world and never have to change for anyone!” I love my country’s glorious futures far too much to be blind to the dark sections of its past and present.

Am I an American? I hope so. But the same as in any community, such decisions are not only for the individual to make.

There is a strong current that dominates American society that puts guards above fences in towers to shoot down at Americans like me.

Manzanar. El Paso. Angel Island.

Who is more American? Those shooting or those lying bloody dying in their ultimate expression of their belief in the America of their imaginations and realities?

The way we pass laws speaks volumes

About the level of respect we have for the ?Americans?

Who work themselves to death for the greater wealth of this country

That doesn’t accept them as equal to someone who performed the extraordinary feat of emerging from the womb in the proper location at the proper time.

And then ashamed, we sweep their bodies aside and wave our flags a bit harder and pretend that we believe and support the American dream

Turning only to ensure that our systems of privilege are still intact.

But once in a while, in a moment of candor, a couple of the Real Americans truly speak their minds and unwittingly display the true colors and motivations that inform how our government determines “American ness”:


Place of Birth.

Language spoken.

Below is a partial transcript of the Jersey Guys Radio show on April 25, 2005

Craig Carton and Ray Rossi
New Jersey 101.5 FM Radio
PO Box 5698
Trenton, NJ 08638

Craig Carton: “Would you really vote for someone named Jun Choi [said in fast-paced, high-pitched, squeaky voice]?”

Craig Carton: I’m using Jun Choi [said in fast-paced, high-pitched, squeaky voice] as an example of a larger problem.

Ray Rossi: and you know…

Carton: We’re forgetting the fact that we’re Americans.

Rossi : You know that he’s going to get the… whatever that vote is

Carton : And here’s the bottom line... no specific minority group or foreign group
should ever ever dictate the outcome of an American election. I don’t care if the Chinese population in Edison has quadrupled in the last year, Chinese should never
dictate the outcome of an election, Americans should.

Rossi: Americans should, exactly

Craig : And it’s offensive to me… not that I have anything against uh Asians…I really
don’t… i don’t like the fact that they crowd the goddamn black jack tables in Atlantic City with their little chain smoking and little pocket protectors..

Rossi: Now now now..that’s an issue with me..

Carton: I’m just saying, now that’s all Asians, not just Koreans…you know… you got
Pai-Gaw poker playing.

Carton: My point is on a much larger stand..

Rossi: I understand… but you see you had to put that out there…

Carton: We’re bending over backwards to cater to fringe groups of people and I don’t
like it!

Rossi: As long as we understand where you’re coming from… with the, uh poker table

Carton: Well go to AC for one week and try and get a table… ‘ching chong, ching chong, ching chong [Mimics Chinese accent..] hehe you hit it on 17 you stupid b*tch…
the dealer’s got a holding an 18…what’re you hitting for… you know? They do it all day and night…they got their little beady pocketbooks with the little beads on it… they take out wads of 100s… ching chong ching chong [accent] they don’t know how to play the game… eh, honey i got a 13 and I’m playing against a 6…

Rossi: Hehe, their money is green too! [Laughter]

Carton: There should be like Asian-only rooms in casinos… but just to be fair, I have nothing against them…

Rossi: No, of course not [laughter]

Carton: Very good people… very nice people...
[Commercial Break]

Carton: Asian Americans factoring in the Edison race, Korean native and mayor both court the growing segment… uh I’ve said it about the Arabs about 4 months ago, I’ve said it about uh… you name a group that’s suddenly important in politics, other than Americans as a whole and I got a problem with it… I’m not nitpicking any one specific group... I don’t like… like when Corzine came out and said…I’m counting on the Arab community to get me elected… right then and there you lost my vote!

Rossi: Well, but… you see what it is…

Carton: He was over at the Nordic lodge of Rhode Island… cuz I go to this place where its like 60 bucks for all you can eat… and I thought he was lying to me
[Unrelated Topic]

Caller: Good, how are you guys?

Carton: Doing good, babe.

Caller: It’s government for the people of the people and by the people and as long as you guys became American citizens and now have the right to vote, why not have them vote for someone who they feel comfortable with and will take care of their issues…

Carton: Well… I’m glad you called with that… god-forsaken disgusting liberal viewpoint, uh mickey…

Caller: I’m not a liberal at all… it’s by the constitution of New Jersey…
Carton: Well, you are a liberal by definition… by definition you are a liberal….if they’re here legally and they’re Americans, I think they ought to vote for… [mocking falsetto voice] no no no…that’s liberal by definition… so let me explain to you what the
problem is with it mickey so you can be a little bit brighter at the dinner table tonight, ok?

Caller: Ok

Carton: They are Americans, they have every right to vote. I will never deny them that, you know my grandparents came over here, they wound up with the right to vote and they’re very proud of it… same with Ray’s and most of our listeners’… they also have
the right to run once they become Americans, and I don’t begrudge them that either, my problem is this: when we start focusing our campaigns on the minority of people and not the majority of people, I find that to be problematic… anybody running for office, whether it’s the Mayor of Edison or the Governor of New jersey, the focus should be what’s good for the breadth of people, what’s good for everybody, and its obnoxious to
me, although I understand it’s a business, and its how you can get elected, if you say out loud, well if I can simply get the Asian vote I can win the election..

Rossi: Now that’s what it is…

Carton: And that’s what problematic to me… much as like we give DMV exams in Spanish, and French, and in Swahili, we’re getting away from what our core is and that is America..

Rossi: Which is true…

Carton: And I’m troubled by it… and I don’t wanna hear a candidate, whether they’re Chinese, or white, or black, saying oh if I can only get the Chinese vote I can win…
well what about me? I’m… see… I’m the average guy, that’s why we’re successful, Ray and I represent the average guy in NJ, blue collar white people…

Rossi: There you go.

Carton: And no one gives a damn about us anymore…

Rossi: That’s right.

Carton: And if we cry about it… you know what’s brought up? Slavery... or if we cry about it… well you know, ching chong, ching chong [Mimics Chinese accent] you
bombed us [Chinese accent] you know? The fact is, I don’t care if whites are a minority, it doesn’t matter to me, there’s no voice of the average blue collar white guy anymore, cuz all these politicians are worried about the fringe groups.

Rossi: Well that’s the thing…

Carton: God forbid you offend an Asian, really! And I hate it… god forbid that a politician was out here and offends Asians, or blacks, or old people… but at the end of the day, I’m the guy that’s gonna get them elected…

Rossi: There you go.

Carton: And they don’t give a damn about me!

Rossi: Nope.

Carton: Well the second Thursday in May they will… cuz Ray and I are hosting the only in-state debate amongst at least the Republican candidates…

Rossi: That’s right

Carton: Almost all of them confirmed, is that right , C-dog?

C-Dog: That’s right.

Carton: It’ll be myself, Ray Rossi and Bob Ingle of the Gannet newspaper chain and every guy running for uh... governor on the Republican side will be here in studio
because you know… we care! And were not gonna let these guys cater to minority groups simply cuz it makes them look good.

Rossi: Exactly

Carton: You have to cater to me, b*tches.
Rossi: Hmmm, that’s it.

Carton: I’m the rain maker.

Rossi: Look at that, the rainmaker

Carton: Well, that’s a little cocky though

Rossi: Well, no, that’s a tad on the cocky tip but that’s alright, that’s okay.

Carton: It’s May 12th by the way, 4pm… If you’re running for governor, you’re invited but you have to go through C-dog cuz I don’t know want weedman showing up… ‘No, you guys said I was invited, I’m running… Typical keeping it brother… No he’ll wanna ask some of the questions… [Mimics voice]

Rossi: Right [Laughter]

Carton: All right… here’s Sharon in Edison NJ on 101.5. How you doin’ Sharon?

Caller: Hi, I love you

Carton: Thank you.

Caller: You just said it all, the last couple of … callers, I guess they don’t know that they live in America and we’re being overrun. I had just moved out of Edison because of what has happened in the past 10 years… Orientals are all along, the whole complete route 27. And Indians have taken over Edison in north and all over.

Carton: Damn Orientals and Indians.

Caller: I..i moved out..36 years I’ve lived in Edison

Carton: And what was the biggest problem you had with the Orientals and the Indians ?

Caller: I can’t handle them! There’s no American people anymore.

Carton: Eh..

Caller: There shoving us the hell out!

Carton: It’s like you’re a foreigner in your own country isn’t it?

Caller: You go to own store and you can’t even see American people, you don’t see our own kids, American kids, working in stores anymore…

Carton: Like the next time you see an American, you think you’ll probably hug him or high five him or something?

Caller: Oh, that’s why where I moved too, that’s all I have, thank god for now anyways.

Carton: Yeah I’m with you… Sharon, we’re just the voice of the people, and I appreciate your call.

Caller: Keep up the good work.

Carton: All right, you got it baby… I think the quote was damn ‘Orientals and Indians.’

[Child rendition of American anthem on and fades into background]

Carton: That’s right baby, who wrote this, a white guy did!

Carton: By the way, did you see the girl singing the national anthem in the Canadian/US hockey game over the weekend?

[Unrelated Topic]

Carton: Listen I love my country, I’ll never make any excuses for that… and I think the majority should be catered to, not the minority

Rossi: Correct
That’s how I feel…
[“America, The Beautiful” song on and fades into background]

[Commercial Break]

Carton: Alright, in Edison, this is just another example of us losing our own country…the uh… Asian American candidate “Jun Choi” [said in fast-paced, highpitched,
squeaky voice] and uh… he’s capitalizing on the rapid growth of the Asian community in Edison, but so is his uh… I guess so is his competitor…

Rossi: Well, his competitor is doing the same thing.

Carton: Spadoro says “ I’ve got the Asians on lockdown.”

Rossi: Right exactly

Carton: Now if I was an Asian I guess I don’t know I’d vote for the Asian. Well I mean haven’t you done that before?

Rossi: Who knows my needs better than…

Carton: Haven’t you?

Rossi: Yeah, I used to vote for the Italian…

Carton: You know what?

Carton: Yeah, thinking that his corrupt ways would benefit me in the long way run.

Rossi: So did I, when I didn’t know what the hell they stood for I just say (phh) go Italian.

Carton: Look how good that did us. Look at the hole we’re in now. Nice move jack ass. thanks.

Rossi: Well what do you want me to tell ya, I tried.

Carton: You da one responsible for Florio


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From W.A.R.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Heading out to the alley to deposit an important package in the dumpster

Tearing apart a Kathleen Parker article is kind of like taking out the trash--not challenging or particularly fullfilling but eminently necessary on a weekly basis if you don't want to be overcome by the accompanying stench.

Her latest piece of "high-powered journalistic integrity" deals with "safe sex" in the form of abstinence programs. As usual, Parker's thesis is all over the place. But the lack of ability to put together a cohesive argument is natural for someone who literally believes that ignorance leads to mastery, and no practice makes perfect:

"What was for other generations a mysterious and wondrous thing is now the equivalent of learning to change a tire in driver's ed."

"Is not having sex ever an options for some who may prefer--oh I dunno--an actual human relationship that leads to long-term commitment, perhaps marriage, wherein sex is an expression of spiritual intimacy rather than a mechanical engineering feat involving anatomical widgetry?"

Like a war profiteering president who starts a self-interested war, but happens to overthrow a merciless dictator, Parker has hit on something worthwhile in the midst of irrational cloud of non-sequiters engineered to prop up her own selfish agenda. Parker unwaveringly wants abstinence-only education to work, but fails to acknowledge all of the research that shows that it cannot. Her last point that it is a dangerous assumption that bureaucrats should teach children values, morals and sexual practices rather than parents is easily countered by all the evidence that shows that parents are not effectively doing so and have never been particularly effective at doing so. It is utterly true that bureaucrats are not qualified either, but since when has anyone been taught sex education by a bureaucrat? I was taught, poorly, by a series of public and private school instructors.

Here we have Parker's only useful point in the article--current sexual education sucks. Students are either declared unable to deal with information, or they are given mechanical information with no guidance on how to deal with emotional and spiritual elements of sexuality. Kids aren't dumb, they just can't be expected to perfectly execute all aspects of one of the most complex and wonderful human activities without having put some thought and practice into it ahead of time. I'm not suggesting that kids be encouraged to have sex. Practice does not equal actual execution. Instead of the current curricula options of either pointing to the door of sex and saying "For the love of God, never go in there, unless you are a total adult and married and...Where did you go? Hey, come back here!*door slam*" or explaining the mechanics of sexuality, why not actually give kids information on how to have fulfilling sex?

Many will criticize this idea by saying that teaching kids about sex gives them the impression that they should be having it. I suggest that if people truly believe this idea, they go form a different society based on this "true safety is found in ignorance" ideal. They could avoid teaching kids conflict resolution because they kids will want to be in conflicts. They could avoid teaching kids CPR, because of course, kids will want their peers to have difficulty breathing. Maybe they will begin choking each other, or failing to cut up each other's food properly. The biggest benefit would be they would avoid those boring safety lectures on airplanes, after all, knowing how to handle an emergency landing will only encourage people to try to create one.

When I was a kid, I was taught all about sex, drugs, and alcohol. My parents basically answered any question I ever had on these issues. That didn't stop me from waiting to experience them. In fact, I don't know too many other people who have never had a drug or alcohol related issue. Was this because I was taught by my parents and not my teachers? Not really, basically, I just needed someone to lovingly drop some wisdom on me.

Being an effective happy person is the security of knowing that you are equipped to handle nearly any situation that might arise. If current adolescents do not feel this way about sexuality, the answer is more education, not less.

If Kathleen Parker believes that ignorance will deliver her and the rest of our children from evil, maybe her children should fire her for dereliction of duty.


I got a new haircut finally.

I had been planning to get one in Japan in February, so I kept putting it off. Once in Japan, I was so insanely busy, I never got a chance to get my hair clipped and the accompanying head massage. (In Japan, most of the barbers are also trained in head/neck massage, so when you go in for your cut, they give you the whole works.)

With student teaching, I continued to put it off once I returned Stateside, but finally I became concerned that my students might lose me in my tangled mass of hair. So on Saturday, I walked down Grace and dropped in at a salon on Broadway. They were closing, but they waved me in.

The older woman who cut my hair spoke with a strong accent. I'm not sure exactly what other language was being spoken, but she told me about the history of the shop, which used to be Japanese-American owned and operated, while she hacked away at my hair with a straight razor.

It was a tiny bit scary. She gave me no particular cause for concern, except of course the wildly swinging the (literally) razor-sharp blade around my head at a frantic pace part of the activity.

Twenty minutes later, I strutted out of the shop, utterly in one piece, looking mighty fine.

It was fucking freezing all of a sudden. I kind of missed the several inches of fur protecting my little pointy ears.

I was supposed to meet Liz downtown, since she was working at the hospital, so went up to Addison and headed up towards the Addison Red Line station. Since the Cubs had just completed another successful loss, the normal ballpark crowd was spilling out into the neighborhood.

A group of 30-something ugly white boys decked to the gills in booze and Cubbie paraphenelia was coming toward me on the other side of the street. They projected that "I'm still insecure about my sexuality, so I make up for it by getting wasted at baseball games and my entire self image is based on whether my team wins or loses and I'm stupid enough to pick a team that loses the majority of the time throughout history" aura, so I braced myself.

As they come down Addison, I can hear them shouting, "This is a GAY neighborhood! Where are the GAY guys. I bet we see GAY guys."

Suddenly, one of them pointed directly at me and said, "Look! There's a gay guy! He's gay!"

I tried to think of the most constructive way to respond when the cosmic battle within his body between the walking skill he had developed since at least age five or so and his blood alcohol level which he had been developing since about 10am that morning or so ended with a resounding booze victory. His hand barely shot out in time to stop his face from disintigrating on the pavement, but I was able to get out a "Learn to walk asshole!" He just looked confused and stammered, "What? What happened?" several times.

I felt great about the outcome, but I was a little troubled about why I had wanted to lash out at the guy. Was it because I was upset to be accused of being "gay"? I didn't think so--it's a confusion that tend to follow me around due to stereotypes connecting my body type, mannerisms, styles of dress and interactions with people with what people conceive as "gayness". But why was I angry at the guy?

I was thinking about it when I got off at Clark and Division. There was an old guy waiting at the top of the stairs at the Subway entrance/exit. He turned to me and said, "You are a very attractive man!" I smiled and said, "Thanks!" and went to meet Liz.

I thought of the Details scandal where Whitney McNally penned an article titled "Gay or Asian" in which as "humor" she connected stereotypes of Asian American men with stereotypes of Gay men. The reaction from both the Asian American and GLBT communities was strong, but especially from the Asian American crowd. Many conservatives attacked the Asian American community for being "homophobic" because "you shouldn't be mad if you don't think gayness is bad". Basically, we were being told we have to choose: Either hate people on the basis of their sexual orientation or shut up.

I knew that was bullshit, but it wasn't until my haircut day that it crystalized in my head. It's not the fact that being misidentified as "gay" that was the problem--it was the intentional lack of respect inherent in the communication. To be misidentified was not a big deal. But to be misidentified in a way that demonstrated a hatred directed both at me and at people in general based on their sexual orientation was deeply troubling.

Parking Tickets and Criminal Fines

We had a great debate in class today with most of the kids taking the position that Parking Tickets should be based on the income of the offender. So, someone who makes $10,000/year would be fined $30, but someone who makes $1 million/year would be fined $3,000.

Their argument was:
1. Such fines are to act as a deterrent.
2. Whether something actually acts as a deterrent is contigent on the effect of the fine, not the exact amount of it.
3. When a rich person or company breaks the law, they must be fined more heavily to actually deter them.

The status quo support was, "That wouldn't be fair if people were fined equally!" But I couldn't get a good explanation of what exactly was not fair about it.

Can anyone help me out on this one? What is the point of parking tickets if not to deter? (Other than just to make money, which the new plan would actually be more effective than the current one.)
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