Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Research? Who Needs Research?

Disclaimer: I just re-read this and want to make sure you all know that I wrote it in a hurry and I actually have a ton of work to do today, so if it doesn't make a lick of sense to you, feel free to ignore the man behind the curtain. Thanks.

Most blogs I read post well researched entries. Blogger-boy has a point he wants to make and he goes out and relentlessly finds documents to back up his point and then provides massive linkage to those documents. Even Jim, "I'm not a fucking journalist" Wright, backs up his opinions while reminding us repeatedly that he's stating opinion and you can disagree, but here's why you're a moron, just look at the link, dammit!

I'm not like that. I've got no time to be researching this. Besides, I want to talk about an impression I've gotten, and I don't need any stinking facts.

While watching the Olympics the last couple of nights, I've come away with an impression. I have absolutely nothing to back this up and I'll even provide some info that contradicts my impression, but I've got it nonetheless, so live with it. (Be forewarned; this isn't exactly earth-shattering stuff I'm about to get into).

Anyway, when you watch the coverage, you'll see a Chinese team that looks distinctly Chinese. The Japanese teams look very Japanese. Same with the Koreans. (I actually learned years ago how to tell them apart because insinuating that someone might be Korean when they're really of Japanese descent is a grave insult. Reconcilliation has still got a long way to go from what I've seen.) When I watched the opening ceremonies, I recall being surprised when I saw a white face among the African teams. To carry this further, the Russians look noticeably Slavic and the French look noticeably snooty. Yeah, you can just tell. The Italians look like they're about to replace their government for the 5000th time since the end of WWII.

What do the Americans look like? Everybody else! If you watched the Men's Gymnastics competition last night, you saw two or three white guys. You saw one Chinese guy. You saw one kid who's father immigrated from Russia. And you saw Raj, the Indian kid. (At one point, NBC had the mics trained on these kids pumping each other up and if you listened, you'd have heard Raj spewing jingoistic twaddle in his best Surfer-dude lingo and not a hint of Apu. Yeah, one generation in and this kid's got it down pat.)

(To contradict everything I'm saying, I'll admit that the Women's Swim Team is about as white and blonde as you can get, and the Men's Swim Team does have one black guy, but I've only seen him once in a relay. I'm sure more variety will show up as the games go on, but stick with me kids...I said this was all about impression.)

So moving on to the impression I got, at one point they were showing some of the medal ceremonies that have happened so far. (Of course, there was an American on the top step for each one, but there were some other nationalities represented.) I was kind of stopped in my tracks when it dawned on me that there wasn't a single face in evidence that I'd find out of place on a Manhattan street any day of the week. I'm know there are parts of the country where some of those faces would, at the very least, be noticed, but not in the America I live in. And I started to just watch faces and try to ignore what color uniform anybody had on.

Their elation at a good performance looks exactly the same. They're high-fiving and chest bumping just like any kid from Kansas. Ignore the uniform and they all look like Americans!

I like that. And just to prove that I'm as much of a Nationalistic ass as the next guy, an utterly contradictory thought occurs to me. Only the American team can say that all the other teams look just like us. How's that for exclusivity in your inclusiveness.

And feel free to tell me I'm completely wrong, but don't try to refute my facts since I haven't provided any. See? There's a method to my madness.


Random Michelle K said...

1) Looking up from my desk I see one Indian woman, and one American looking brunette. (It's a slow morning.)

2) Canada also has a diverse population, for many of the same reasons to the US does.

3) Years ago a virtual friend, who was 1st generation American, talked about American nationalism, and said our diversity is why things like the pledge of allegiance and the flag and the national anthem are so important. Because Americans are so diverse, the only thing that truly bonds us together is nationalism.

We don't have a long shared history. We don't have a shared religion. We don't have a shared race. We don't have a shared ethnicity. We're simply Americans.

It's also, I think, why many of us are so bothered by groups that prefer to segregate themselves from the rest of the population.

We're all Americans, so we should not have separate enclaves and ghettos for each distinct racial/ethnic group.

It's also, I think, why the public school system is so important, because it forces children on a daily basis to interact with those who are different from themselves.

And currently:
One Pakistani woman, two Pakistani men, two American-looking brunettes, one blonde (from a bottle), one woman from Taiwan, and one woman of African descent who speaks with a thick foreign accent. (I've helped her repeatedly, but never asked what country she was from, and can't distinguish African accents.)

Of course I freely admit that next week those numbers of American-looking blondes and brunettes will skyrocket. But I wanted to point out that diversity isn't necessarily limited to NY. :)

Nathan said...

Actually, I wasn't thinking of your region Michelle. And any University town is going to be more diverse (Brigham Young excepted).

And I'd go so far as to say that we're all Americans because we (or our ancestors) chose to be. (I know the history of slavery contradicts that but all generalizations have exceptions. I'd also guess that most people who had slaves as ancestors continue to be here by choice. Read previous sentence again to account for those in poverty with no choice.)

Anyway, I just thought it was pretty cool that you could watch the Olympics and believe that every face could be an American you might run into next week at the grocery store.

Ilya said...

I am sure that if you wanted to do research, you would find the words "melting pot" used to describe America and the Big Apple in particular thousands of times, while being rarely - if ever - applied to other parts of the world (hell, the entire wiki entry seems to be mostly about US). That's all the proof you need for your spot-on impression, IMHO.

neurondoc said...

Nathan, my dad and I were watching men's gymnastics the other night and came to the same conclusion as you did. Neat.

John the Scientist said...

With the exception of a few black French athletes, I noticed this in the last games, too.

A serious outcome of this is the simmering relations of the Euros with their immigrant ghettoes. They decided to ape the US and let in a bunch of foreigners, but they had no clue what that actually means in the US - their societies thought that tossing those people welfare instead of allowing them to participate fully in their society was a good thing to do. It wasn't. And the fact that they have few of their immigrants on their athletic teams just shows how little those newcomers participate in society as a whole.

Being a Jacksonian (who paradoxically loathes Andrew Jackson) married to a foreigner, this quote is particularly apt:

The slow, slow fading of the color line is one of the most important long-term trends in America's self-understanding--the inexorable expansion of who gets to be part of the American folk community. Once, Irish Catholics, Italians, and Czechs couldn't take part in the Jacksonian tradition. Now they're the heart and soul of it. Hispanics are now headed in that direction.

So are half-Chinese kids whose first English song was from "Hee-Haw" :p

John the Scientist said...

Hey, the Chinese team is diverse - they use all ages - while all of our athletes are at least 16.

Nathan said...


I've thought the commentators have been hysterical the way they keep picking at that question.

"The rules say a competitor has to turn 16 years of age in the same year the Olympics are held to be eligible. This little cutie has a passport that says she's 47...the oldest gymnast in the games."

Anonymous said...

Haven't heard much about Native Americans on the US teams. Okay, to go along with the post, I haven't researched that fact.

But still, could be our melting pot smothered the fire pit. Or some equally lame analogy. Ahem. Oh, look, the Olympics is on.

Nathan said...


I'm gonna stick with being mildly proud of the whole polyglot thing.

Yeah, I realize history refutes me in any number of ways, but hey, get over it.

(That's really a lot more glib than I mean it to be, but it's early and I'm in a shitty mood.)