Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day



Most people tend to refer to this day as 'The Fourth of July', but I prefer 'Independence Day'.  That name just has more panache, in my humble opinion;  would the title of the SF movie starring Will Smith have had the authority, the zip and the bang, if it had been the merely functional 'Fourth of July'?  I don't think so.

I have this beautiful stars-and-stripes necktie that I bought years ago.  I have since worn it on every Independence Day (as well as on the last work day before, so I could show it off at the office).  I think I forgot just once.

Today was no exception.  I was out and about today, received compliments on my necktie from a number of people, and I admit I felt happy and proud as only a naturalized American can.  What's that stereotype about former smokers?  That they are more holier-than-thou than people who never smoked in the first place?  I think some of us voluntary Americans are a little like that, like other converts^.  Although it's been many years since I took the oath of loyalty, I can still be a little rah-rah sometimes.  Like when I went to visit South Korea a few years back, I liked the fact that people noticed a certain foreigner vibe about me even though I looked just like them and spoke Korean, since that confirmed my American difference (I also went to Japan, but looking like the natives was a moot point there since every time I opened my mouth English words would come out;  and whenever I tried out what little Japanese I knew I ended up having to repeat it in English anyway^).

Then on the way home I stopped by the supermarket to buy some drinks and nosh.  As I was fetching a shopping cart I noticed this old man staring at me, and not in an admiring way.  I ignored him and went about my business, and as the automatic doors opened and I began to enter, from behind me I heard a loud "This is MY America!" (or something similar -- it was pretty noisy in the parking lot, although there was no mistaking the anger in his voice) and a car door slamming shut.

So he was one of Those People.  Who automatically assume that any Asian person they see is a fresh-off-the-boat migrant fleeing some sweltering, overcrowded third-world sweatshop, probably in the U.S. illegally, eager to steal honest jobs from real Americans like him while refusing to learn American ways or learn to speak anything but broken English.  Who see Asians as Permanent Foreigners, forever strange and exotic, probably dangerous in subtle, unforeseen ways.

Rather ironic, I thought, in view of the fact that he was black -- meaning he is most likely descended from people who were unwillingly dragged away to America in chains and probably died cursing the country, a man who had no choice at all in his nationality;  while being American by birth rather than by choice has no bearing on one's patriotism/nationalism/jingoism, surely it counts for something that I am the one who came willingly (well, it was really my mother's idea as I was a child then, but I was all for it^) and eventually became an American citizen because I considered the ramifications of the decision and made my choice.


O. K., that's enough of that.  When I started this blog I promised myself that it would be free of exactly this kind of content, that it would contain nothing that even remotely resembles a rant or argument.  There are other blogs for that, ones that are all about lamenting, preaching and speechifying, and this blog was not going to be one of those.

Maybe it was the shock of facing xenophobic/racist hostility so openly after having lived for so long without consciously encountering it in multiethnic Los Angeles;  I wrote the foregoing words almost against my own will.  They needed to be said though, and now I do feel as if a burden has been lifted.

I hope I won't ever feel this way again.

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