Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why Do I Even Bother?

Why do I even bother having a political blog? It's entirely because my sister wanted to hear somebody say something nice about Obama and I have this whole political theory involving Argentina that...
And here's the thing. The Fluffington Post is a better parody! ;-)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Underestimating the Importance of Race

I feel that after Barack Obama's election there were a lot on the left/liberal side who felt that conservatives were going to be given a free ride. They feared the Right saying "Look, there's no more racism. We have a Black President. See? No more racism." And to some degree there was some of that noise in the talk-radio spectrum of politics.
To counteract that there was quite a bit of "Hey, this doesn't mean that the history of racism is all over." from the Left-ish part of the blogosphere.
But I think we've tended to overlook the fact of the raw power of the President of the United States of America. The guy in charge, the guy in office, that guy -- is Black.
And it does mean something. No, it's not the end of racism as we know it. But it is a significant and real change. And it's a change in actual power, not just symbolic power.
And you realize that for a while, no matter how brief, the leading candidates from both American parties were Black, right? Obama is the default candidate for the Democratic Party and for like three weeks there Herman Cain was the leading Republican Party candidate.
This is significant.
And although it doesn't mean that there aren't White racist asshats. And it doesn't mean that more insidious kinds of racism and stereotypes don't exist. No no no. But...
But the fact is that the leading executive in the United States is, in fact, Black. And there's genuine meaning to that in that it doesn't matter how racist an idiot I may be: if my boss is black then... well then so what? I can hate my boss as much as I want for whatever reason I want, but when my boss tells me to show up to work on time I sure as hell better show up for work on time.
And although we don't work for the President, if we want to get anything done we better talk nicely to him or he'll ignore us -- making us politically moot and weak. It's kind of the opposite of the Malcom X joke:
Q. "What does a White supremacist call the Black President of the United States?"
A. "If he wants to get any legislation passed he sure as hell better call him 'Mr. President'."
Why? Because to call him anything else makes you politically irrelevant. "Disenfranchised" even.
Having a Black President means something. And it means something big. Sure, I'm not entirely sure what it means -- not precisely at least -- it's important and it's a huge milestone for our society.
All jokes aside about the Chairman of the Fed, The President of the United States is the most powerful single individual in the world. If you want to have political power, you have to deal with the fact that the biggest dog on the block (how many mixed metaphors is that, exactly) is a Black man.
End of racism? No. Making racism moot? Well, that is a place we could be on our way to.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Of all the racial slurs ever uttered, "Charlie", for a Vietnamese person, is probably the least inherently offensive. IMHO.
The closest equivalent I can think of is "Jerry" for a German person. Oddly, Wikipedia does not describe "Jerry" as offensive.
"Charlie" was specifically used for enemy Vietnamese, and the etymology was simply the use of "Victor Charlie" (military radio code) for "Viet Cong", or North Vietnamese irregular army.
Which makes it interesting in the world of slurs.
Now, make no mistake, calling everyone who is your "enemy" the name Charlie does indeed help to de-humanize them. That is, perhaps, explicitly the point of using slurs. But "Charlie" has the perhaps unintended affect in that it's also a somewhat friendly-sounding name (in English).
The way it's not used is when speaking to an individual North Vietnamese person. For instance, you can imagine someone calling to an American soldier "Hey Joe -- you want to buy some of my wares?" Or to an English soldier "Hey Tommy -- you want to buy some of my wares?" But "Hey Charlie..."? Nope, doesn't work.
Now, note that it's patronizing to call all English "Tommy" and all Americans "Joe". And also note that there isn't really a big tradition of Vietnamese soldiers being in other (well, Western) countries. But who knows? (What did Cambodians call the Vietnamese soldiers?)
But what is just patronizing, what is downright insulting, and what is completely neutral always changes. Just look at the attitudes of different generations toward different words for African-Americans. From the n-word, to negro, to colored, to black, to Afro-American, and now there are even some that insist that the n-word is completely acceptable again.*
It's difficult for a lot of people to understand (or even remember) that "Asian" is acceptable while "Oriental" is not. What makes that even harder is that a bunch of older Chinese still call themselves "oriental". Yeah. Language is wacky like that.
So, you're asking yourself, "where are you going with all this?"
Nowhere, actually. My goal was to come up with the name we'd call the aliens in the future. "Dave", "Zoroaster", "Andy?" I got nuthin' 'cause none of it has any cultural weight. It sort of feels right to call your enemy "Charlie" (which, as far as I know, is simply not used by American racists to refer to any Asians) when thinking of it outside of the "slur" and just from a dialog point of view (I've been watching Apocalypse Now, do forgive me.)
Maybe we should just call all humans NooBs...

*Not to this white guy, but to others perhaps.