Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Letting go of preconceived notions - Part 2

Through most of my life, I've hated politics with a passion. And nothing reminds me more of why I normally hate discussing this sort of stuff more than what I've been seeing on the news lately. And the issue that caused me to sound off about this is how some people are amazingly good at making a scandal out of nothing but their own prejudice.

Getting straight to the point, I'm very disappointed in the kind of small-mindedness that seems to be popping up on the web when it comes to the picture of Sen. Barack Obama in the traditional African garb of his father's people. I'm amazed at how many idiots are using that as a rallying cry to take offense and call him a Muslim secret agent and things like that. I'm amazed at how many times the picture of him was circulated with his hand by his side when the other candidates were supposedly pledging allegiance to the flag. I'm amazed at the kind of closedminded presumptuousness that a supposedly openminded and free country like the USA is showing in many of its people during times like this.

Let's face facts...

As a US senator, Barack Obama has to pledge allegiance to our flag, and I'm sure there are no shortage of people (including his peers in the Congress) who have seen him put his hand over his heart to say the pledge, as was written in a recent news article. Whether it was an issue of simply the timing, or a photoshopped alteration, let's not twist things out of context just to make a point.

As an African-American whose father was an African-born immigrant, what shame is there in Sen. Obama visiting his father's people and showing respect for them by donning their traditional garb? People accuse him of selling out on America by doing that, so let me turn the issue around and ask them if they've ever donned a karate uniform gi, a chef's hat, dressed up as a pilgrim, or worn a piece of clothing with non-English script on it.

Again, people are being a little too good at letting their prejudices rule their behaviors......

- The last two Popes have prayed in mosques, and plenty of martial arts instructors wear Indonesian pentjak silat uniforms. Does that make them Muslim?
- Plenty of steak-and-potatoes-eating Americans have dressed in kung-fu uniforms while studying Wing Chun gung-fu or wear shorts that have Thai script or blessings embroidered on them while training in Thai boxing. Does that make them Buddhists?
- So many Americans (from the average Joe to the US Secret Service Agents) are using Russian kettlebell training methods. Are they Communists?

See, once that sort of thought process is turned around on you, it's easy to say, "Oh, but that's different!" No, it isn't.

Whether it's directed towards you or towards someone you don't particularly like, it's still stupidity, still smallmindedness, still prejudicial, still a breeding ground for distrust and fear, still potentially grounds for violence.

In my old Yahoo blog, I wrote a post about the responsibility of being Asian American, or in my case, Chinese-American. Regardless of our ethnic origin, as Americans in the modern era, we have a unique responsibility to take whatever has been handed down to us as a cultural heritage and look at it with a discerning eye.

We live in the information age - cable TV, the internet, Youtube, whatever. There's no shortage of knowledge around us. And access to knowledge means that we have a responsibility to research the truth of a matter before spouting off condemnations about people or issues. We also have the unique responsibility as modern Americans to use our discerning eyes and intelligent minds to see where our weaknesses and prejudices hinder our growth, and then shore up those weak and ugly parts of ourselves with the best information that we have available to us.

And for those of you who are reading this blog from overseas, what I've written here can apply to you too. There is no monopoly on either ignorance or common sense.


Rannoch Donald said...

Well said Mark. It's so easy to become part of an ignorant majority, spreading disinformation as soundbites across the internet.

The gift of all this information brings with it the responsibility to analyse, understand and to question. Otherwise we are simply mouthpieces for someone elses agenda.

The biggest challenge of all is to think for yourself.



Take One Stripper Pole said...

Dr. Cheng-

I discovered your blog through my online research on kettlebells.

I really enjoyed your post today. I grew up as a military brat and spent a huge chunk of my adult life as a global nomad. I have had the experience of being asked to leave an establishment for the color of my skin and ignored due to the fact that I was an American.

The world would be a much better place if we just accepted each other for who we are as individuals ... not color, race, sex or religion.

This election is going to get interesting.

Enjoy your week!

Unknown said...

Thank you for those kind words, my friend.

Power is a gift, but also a responsibility. If we don't make the most of the powers we're given, including our powers of deductive reasoning, we're shirking our responsibility and falling into the patterns of doing nothing more than promoting evil.

Looking forward to breathing new life into US-Scottish relations in just a couple of weeks!

Rannoch Donald said...

It struck me this morning that...

We attack those who question our position and beliefs and expose our weakness then resort to cliche and stereo-type because we have nothing of real value to contribute.

Shine a light!