White People Problems

Pumpin Festival Riot

Then, Now, Us and Them (Part 2)

I think I remember where I was going with this:

Up until very recently there was not even a concept of a global ethic. Most of human history occurred in the pre-state era when people routinely made war upon their neighbors or at the very least regarded them with little or no compassion. Communities competed for resources and power and as such every group was a rival to another. Consider for a moment how wasteful in terms of lives and money it would be (albeit, hilarious) if the communities of Lansing, East Lansing, Okemos, and Meridian were in constant states of war. The expansion of the in-group to entire states and nations in the modern era has made life incalculably more tolerable and efficient with one glaring exception. It is often the case that ethnic minorities within nations are not considered by the majority population to belong to the in-group and vice-versa.

Take for example the Michael Dunn case where he, a white man, shot into a car full of black teenagers in a dispute that originated over loud music. The legal merits of his case aside, the callous manner in which he acted afterward (driving off without calling authorities, checking into a hotel, and ordering pizza), does not bespeak the actions of someone who has just taken human life. Either Michael Dunn is a classic sociopath or, more likely, he simply did not perceive the teenagers he fired at to be as fully human and deserving of rights and protections as he was. And lest you think I’m taking sides in a black/white blamefest here I will point out that in most cases of black victims suffer at the hands perpetrators of their own race I will argue that for black denizens of the ‘hood the in-group is almost nonexistent. There is something wrong with America and guns are not the issue, they are merely the mechanism in which it is manifested. The problem lies in our deeply rooted inability to perceive other groups, within our own border as well as without, as fully human and deserving of respect and expectations of basic human rights.

The most current example of this effect is America’s response to ISIS. I am not surprised that most Americans agree with areal bombardment and drone attacks against ISIS. I am surprised at the callous disregard by many Americans when it comes to the outrages committed against Yazidis, Christians, Shia, and moderate Sunnis of Iraq. That many people can see the images of modern day crucifixions and beheadings and see entire populations displaced and argue against putting boots on the ground because that is their problem to take care of says to me that humanity has not yet reached where we need to be from an ethical perspective. Under normal circumstances people are not ethically bound to help one another but there is such a thing the ethics of emergencies. Please note when you have someone as callous and indifferent as teh Mexigogue questioning your level of compassion SOMETHING IS FUCKING WRONG WITH YOU!!!! And with that, I think I’ve wrapped up today’s contribution.

Then, Now, Us and Them

When I was a child the landscape of downtown Lansing was very different than it is today. There used to be two theaters in the downtown area, the Knapps, JC Penny, and Walgreen stores were thriving businesses, and the Radisson Hotel and Lansing Centers had not yet been built. In many ways the downtown area is foreign to me and I sometimes think to myself that this isn’t the real Lansing. In my mind the city is supposed to be the way I knew it to be. The more I think along this line, however, I am forced to concede that the “real” Lansing of 1978 must have been new and foreign to the people who preceded me and furthermore for the generations after me the real Lansing is and should be the way it was in the 90s or in the way it has evolved in the new millennium. One could argue that we are all right in our own way but that would be stupid. I prefer that we are all wrong. There is no true or right way for Lansing to be, it is constantly evolving subject to new social and economic pressures and events. Our conceptual biases notwithstanding, there is no point of stasis.

I mention this as a tangential point for the subject of US race, culture, and immigration. In my lifetime the US has experienced massive influxes of Hispanic, Asian, and now Arab immigrants. Inasmuch as these three populations have, unlike European immigrants, to some degree retained some aspects of their cultures of origins there has been a backlash of popular sentiment and sometimes outright alarm with many decrying what they say is the end of America as we know it. It is curious to note, however, that when they say that the non European immigrants are resisting assimilation into the American melting pot they don’t seem to acknowledge or even realize that each immigrant group including all the European ones throughout this nation’s history have changed someone’s America. There were people opposed to the influx of Italians, Jews, Poles, Irish, and German populations at some point in time. That these groups influenced the course of American history is undeniable and what is equally true is that the true nature of America’s melting pot is not assimilation, it is an addition and alteration of whatever was in the pot. If you don’t believe me then go watch a movie from the Humphrey Bogart era and tell me if you recognize that America and I’m not even talking about the presence of minorities. White people today don’t look, act, dress, or sound like the people from that era.

Change is perpetual, inevitable, and undeniable and the only reason people resist it is the fact that xenophobia is an inherent part of the human condition. To varying degrees human beings are resistant to cultural change and are suspicious of people we regard as not belonging to our in-group. For better or for worse, however, people are now thinking of the world being an entire global community and as we regard other populations of the world as belonging to one giant in-group it would seem logical that we should resist our xenophobic impulses.

Ok I’m out of time and I forgot my point. I’m sure I must have had one. This seems like a good starting point for something and maybe I’ll finish this thought this weekend.

Ruminations

My daughter is away now at a four year university. I am extremely proud and happy for her and of course, as always, I want the best for her. At the same time, I can’t help feeling somewhat sad for myself at times. There are elements of her personality for which I find commonalities not present in any other of circle of family or acquaintances. Parenthetically, this is not to deprecate my relationships with any others as there are ways in which I relate to my other close family members in friends which are unique as such but I digress. Suffice it say I will miss our frequent discussions about the nuances of particular language variants and her specifically weird sense of humor.

I’ve felt a little out of sorts of late, a condition I attribute not so much to depression so much as to the fact that I feel burnt out from constant work. This is a situation that might be alleviated in the near future but until that time I hardly get a minute to myself to think, much less to blog. There are some events that occur which I might have occasion to write about, most notably the fact that the finest girl working at my job actually took a bite out of a cookie as I was holding it out in my hand offering it to her. I can say without exaggeration it was the single most unexpected and awesome thing that has ever happened to anyone in this history of anywhere and for the next two hours I could have chopped my fingers off along with the vegetables and I might not have noticed it. Add to that the fact that she studies Arabic and is going to give me her old Arabic textbooks from MSU and it appears evident (to me at least) that my current burn-out from work has been well compensated, at least in the present.

I also have been offered the opportunity to sit in at MSU Arabic language tutorial sessions which is more than I could have ever hoped for in getting hired at my current job. More on this situation to come as this situation develops. I must go at the moment.

Grilled Hot Dogs (Halal)

The other day I brought a package of halal all beef hotdogs into work and cooked them on the grill. I put the hotdog buns face down on the grill until they got nice and toasted and garnished enfixened them with mustard, pickles, diced onions and jalapeño. I topped it off with a nice side of fries and that was my Friday meal.

On a funny note my Iraqi co-worker took some of the hotdogs home and gave them to his mother. He assured her that the hot dogs were halal. Immediately after she finished them he said they were lahm khanzir (pork) at which point she went Islamically ballistic and he had to calm her down saying that he was just joking and they were indeed halal. Saif has a strange sense of humor.

Ahhhh what to cook next time? I wish I knew how to make samosa. Oh wait, there’s a link! :D

Visit

Bigby lady (to Kristen): Do you have a Bigby card?
Me: She’s never been to a Bigbys before. She’s from the internet!

American Food

I was in Phoenix in 2007 when my friend Guy in a UNLV Jacket’s wife was visited by a good friend from her native Botswana. The friend (I cannot remember her name at this point) complained after eating at an airport restaurant that she didn’t like American food. “An airport restaurant isn’t going to give you a good example of American food”, Guy tells her. “We’re going to have to take you out for tacos.”

Tacos. . . American food. At first I laughed but the more I thought about it it made sense. Mexican cuisine has become a significant part of the American foodscape for at least as long as I’ve been alive (yes foodscape is a real part of the English lexicon because I don’t feel like looking up culinary vocabulary.) Not only is Mexican food legitimately part of American culture, it has largely (especially in the case of the Tex-Mex variety) evolved as something distinctly different from the original cuisine of Mexico itself. Tacos are at least as American as apple pie and now, with the advent of a truly multicultural United States, if you want truly exotic cuisine you don’t think Mexican, you think Korean or Indian.

I recently made the acquaintance of a Saudi student who eats at the restaurant where I work every day. At first I thought it was because it’s middle eastern food which would make it kind of like home but then it occurred to me that it might also be because we exclusively use meat that is butchered according to Islamic standards. When I asked her if she only eats at restaurants that serve halal meat she replied in the affirmative. “That means you’ve never eaten Mexican food?” She replied that she had not. That seemed to be incredibly sad. The next time I saw her after she greeted me I said “Sooooo if I made Mexican food with halal meat you would eat it?” She smiled and said yes. I said “I should make Mexican food with halal meat and I’ll bring you some.” Her eyes kind of widened in awe and she said “That is so nice!” Yes that’s me, Mr. Nice Guy.

I might be a cultural ambassador of tacos. I’m thinking shredded beef, Spanish rice, and guacamole.

Heh

I was talking to this Saudi customer at work who wears hijab and eats there every day. I asked her (in Arabic) what her name was. She said “Fatimah” and I was like “:D” and she was all like “????”. What are the chances. Pretty high actually, it’s a popular name but still. She was impressed with my Arabic language skills. Working there is fun!

Trading Specialization

This is not a post about what a nice guy I am for fixing my co-worker’s computer. It’s a post about the efficiency of trading expertise.

I have a 19 year old co-worker from Iraq who has about half a year’s worth of English language skills under his belt. A few months ago he bought a laptop which he began using prolifically to (what else?) use Facebook, access music, and do whatever else it is that the average young adult does with the internet. One day, however, the computer became virtually unusable. “Computer fucked up man”, he said dejectedly. Apparently he had resigned himself to the fact that his once beloved laptop was now useless and there was nothing to be done. Apparently he had no idea who the fuck I was.

“I don’t work Tuesday” I said, “but I will come in to work. Bring your laptop. I will fix it.” He appeared doubtful at first although I assured him I knew what I was doing. His doubt quickly changed to hope and on the designated day I came in to work, created a little work station for myself, and proceeded to do my thing.

He thought it was a virus. As I suspected it was really just a shitload of malware along with some debilitating toolbars and addons. When I first opened up a web browser other tabs started popping open on their own with a lethal quickness. I can only imagine the difficulty he had trying to troubleshoot a computer with a lack of experience and a language barrier. What was next to impossible for him was simple for me and after disabling the addons and toolbars, uninstalling the malicious programs that come bundled with intentional downloads, and installing and running anti-malware, I got the computer running once again in good condition.

I returned the laptop to my co-worker and pronounced the problems fixed. A couple of days later at work, he pulled me aside to thank me for the work and said the computer is running very well. “No problem”, I said. “I put two Arabic songs on your computer desktop. Did you see them?”

“Yes.”

“Just listen to those songs and type the lyrics for me in Arabic script. That’s all I want in return.”

He laughed but I assure him that this will be a big help to me. I’m good at reading Arabic but absorbing and understanding it verbally is still something of a problem. What I traded with this guy was my ability to troubleshoot his laptop, which he couldn’t easily afford if I charged him money, for his expertise at Arabic language which would have cost too much for me if I had to pay an actual language specialist. This is yet another example of how trade is not a zero sum game.

:D

I saw her again. . . . like 2 days ago. Yay!