Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Things My Friend Doesn't Get . . .

One of my fellow expatriates responded to my “I don’t Get It” post with an email. Like all good opinions, I find his his very thought provoking (and substantial!) and I feel they deserve their own post. I’m not with him on everything, but I defer to his personal knowledge on much of what he observes, since this guy has done nothing but travel the world since the war in Vietnam. He taught himself Spanish and Portuguese, has lived off and-on-south of the US border for much of his life, and he has had more experiences than most could hope to have in two or three lifetimes. I have a LOT of respect for this guy. He speaks from his heart, his mind, and from his life encounters. He gave me permission to post his thoughts in my Blog, but I hope someday he will post similarly in his own.

Phil, Good post there, lots of thought-provoking items.


I agree fully. I grew up in Minnesota and saw it the same way; I never hunted deer. We lived up north by the Canadian border and every year there'd be this massive migration of Minneapolis businessmen coming our way to kill deer. And that silly ritual of tying the carcass to the fender of the car!


If I had a Blog I'd be ready to deal with this issue big time. Americans take care of our people. You remember barn raisings from the old days? Somebody's barn burns down and the next weekend every neighbor for miles around is there to help this guy put up a new one; women and kids there too to feed 'em.

Onetime when I was a kid, my dad about burned himself outworking full time and building a new house out on ourfarm. He suddenly got so sick he ended up beinghospitalized for two years. It was September and thehouse was uncovered, just the basement exposed but allthe lumber and other things inside it. Next weekend everybody we knew, and some we didn't, showed up withall their tools and put up the floor on the house so it would be a temporary roof and then tarpapered it so that it would be protected during the winter.

It's called being neighborly. We've sort of lost this in the urban setting, but it's still part of our nature.We just take care of our people. Other cultures refuse to get involved. We see somebody beating a woman or acting up, we get in there and help or call the cops. That's who we are. We are Americans and everybody around us is our responsibility.

One time in Mexico I heard a nasty fight in another apartment in our building. I had just moved in and had a phone but no phone book, had no idea how to call thecops. It was Sunday morning and I ran out to the main avenue and flagged one down, and rode back with them.When I got there my neighbors were outside the building, they told the cops the fight was over and the people had left the building. I look up and see an arm come out of the window from that apartment to open it to see what's going on. Lying fools were coveringfor the bad guys and keeping the cops at bay. The just don't get involved even if somebody's life is atstake.

I see snatchers here in the jeepneys and people just let them do their thing and don't get involved. Cops have told me that's typical because they fear retaliation. It takes courage to be involved and WE do it. They don't here. . . or in other countries.

I've tried to tell these liberals that that's the reason we are in Iraq and other places. We are Americans and we help out our neighbors. That's what Americans do. Our neighbors include other nations too, and not just our own family and "tribe." Those people who criticize us for getting involved see us as meddling but it's not meddling; it's helping our neighbors.

The first time I ever saw the Independence Day parade in Mexico, I didn't know Spanish yet. A girl fainted near me and all the locals did was form a circle around her and stare. Nobody moved! I ran and found the first aid station and motioned the guys to come with me. What is this with these cultures andtheir non-involvement? I don't get it. Why do Americans take charge and others don't?

Another time I was riding a crowded bus in Mexico City. I saw a woman nearby with her bag over her shoulder and the top open. From the mass of humanity around me I saw a hand come out and reach for the bag; I couldn't even tell where the hand came from. Others had to have seen it but did nothing. I yelled out,"Hey everybody, please watch your bags! There are thieves on this bus!" The woman then shifted and put the bag in front of her and closed it. We are a different kind of people than most folks onthis planet are. Everybody is our neighbor and we are bold enough to get involved. Liberals say it isn't any of our business. THEY just don't get it.


I fight with this too. I've been the victim too many times of Mexican abuse. I, like you, am NOT a racist, but I have to admit that some cultures do have a greater propensity to crime than others. I haven't had much interaction with blacks but generally speakingwhat I've had has been more negative than positive. I can speak very knowledgeably about Latinos though and there are a lot of really negative things to say. I tell my Filipino friends that Blacks and Latinos each compose 13% of the American population. Yet, blacks are 45% of the prison population; Hispanics are about 30%.

I have a friend in Brazil, a real live member of a communist party (we do have some interesting e-mails) and she once went on and on that this was evidence of racism in the US. I said no, it's not evidence of racism; it's that these folks are doing the crimes. Period. Another interesting tidbit: Asians are about 6% of America, but less than half of one percent are in the prisons. That tells me Asians are pretty good immigrants, have strong family cultures that keeps kids from going wrong.

Looking back to the above I see that I wasn't very structured in writing it; it's cuz I was on a rant, I'm pretty passionate about this issue. Again, you and I are not racists but refuse to be cowed by the PC defeatist liberals who want us to feel guilty about those stats. Hey, you do the crime; you do the time!That's the way it's supposed to be.


Still thinking about your last Blog. I was a poor upstate Minnesota boy, really naive, small-town type, never saw a black man until I was 16. . . and he was African and not even American. Started college in Minneapolis when I finished high school and I'm soooooo incredibly shocked at how the blacks used the mo-fo words in EVERY sentence. Then shortly after that, just 3 weeks in college I think, I joined the army.

Over the years I guess I've gotten so used to it that it no longer surprises me but I still find it disgusting. What a horrible thing to say! I wonder if this came about as a form of expressing their outrage against Whitey. Just for the shock value. But then again they do it when we're not around too.

In Spain, even the most elite and educated types continually use "coño" (vagina) in every sentence, and perhaps as often as our blacks use mo-fo. In the case of the Spanish I can sort of understand the psychology of it because they were under an oppressive catholic church until Franco died. And that's just 30 years ago. They didn't talk like that in Franco's day, I can assure you! Now they're free of the church and this is perhaps a way of sticking it to their former oppressor.

I have to say you really are good at the give and take of debating, and evidently get a lot of pleasure from it. If I were as good at it as you are I'd even consider getting into politics. I do have some strong opinions about many subjects and would love to be able to express them in the public arena. Especially this latest immigration issue . . . this one really can make me passionate. I do envy your ability to come up with immediate counter arguments and examples to support your theses.


Nick Ballesteros said...

I read about your comment in the previous post about squirrel hunting. That is an outrage! I feel angry at what they have done.

*sigh* I know the Philippines is none the wiser when it comes to animal welfare but hearing these stories ... I don't really get it.

Ed said...

This would have been an excellent argument if the author didn't have to keep throwing in the word "liberals" to make it political. Worst part is that he offered no support that all these incidents were caused by liberals. The author comes across as a typical knee jerk radical republican.

Ed said...

Having grown up on a farm, I lived with hunting all around me. My hunting experience has been limited to some squirels, a couple dozen pheasants, a few geese and one deer. In all cases, I went for instant death and ate all that I killed. I didn't particularly enjoy the killing part but did enjoy the taste experience. But I would say that I am rare and that is why I have pretty much given it up. I just don't want to be associated with people that do things like in your squirrel story. My gun is oiled and stored away. Maybe someday I might go out for some more pheasants but then again, maybe I will just go out with my camera instead. I much more enjoy that kind of "shooting."

PhilippinesPhil said...

My dad used to say that as well. He hunted a lot as a kid in the Saginaw, Michigan area. As he got older he said that he used hunting as more of an "excuse" to get out into the woods, and didn't really care if he killed anything.

I used to tramp through the woods and fields behind our house every single day. It was the quickest way to get into town more than a mile away as the crow flies. I learned to walk very quietly, and whenever I came to the top of a hummock or made a turn around a woodlot I'd sneak up to it. I never knew what I was going to see...maybe a varmint of some sort or a flock of something. It was all the same to me; I never grew tired of it.

Ed said...

Reminds me of a time when I was walking from my grandfather's place towards home through the fields. In a brushy draw, I took a step and the ground beneath me took off. I had stepped on a deer. If I had been older than 13 or 14 at the time, I probably would have died of a heart attack!

PhilippinesPhil said...

Deer are the weirdest! I have scads of deer stories... There are so many in most states now that I'm not even sure they should be continued to be classified as wild...

Anonymous said...

This is Alec, a friend of Phil's, and the one whose email he quoted above. In future, I'll just post here any comments like that instead of sending it on privately to Phil.

I'm glad you're here Ed, and take the time to contribute; your input makes this more fun and dynamic. And you were correct in saying that I used the term liberal in a way that made me sound like a "knee-jerk Republican". I wrote that just as a personal rant to Phil; I'd have been more careful about that if I'd written it as a post where others might see it. After Phil asked if I'd mind his posting it I said sure. I guess I should have offered to do a rewrite first. Okay, it's true I misapplied the term liberal. I had in mind the anti-war crowd that is constantly ankle-biting at the Bush administration. I will try to be more precise in labeling in future. In fact I do have a lot of respect for liberal thought in America: one, I oppose capital punishment and, two, I believe that the early socialist and sindicalist movements were part of the reason we are today prosperous and live perhaps more comfortably than many other people do.

But back to the theme. Ed, I think you're incorrect in putting all those cases under one category. As for the civilians, like that American kid in Singapore who got caned, I say that's fine. If that's Singapore law, well then let him suffer that indignity. The kid was a punk, the son of an American executive who worked there, and he spray painted some cars. Yes, Clinton did make the appeal but that's just for American consumption; he surely didn't think he'd change Singapore's legal system. All leaders talk like that on local TV.

I do agree with you about foreigners getting tried in our legal system. I say extradition is fine for crimes committed in the US but when the crime occurs outside US jurisdiction they should be left for the locals to deal with. I don't believe justice is really served by having former Panamanian leader Noriega or Columbian drug lords in our prisons. It in fact, undermines the rule of law.

But the military is a different issue. The military has its own judicial system and it works just fine. Our troops have an extremely tough job to do, and it requires fast and instinctual reaction to do it effectively and to save lives. Yes, sometimes mistakes happen and civilians get killed or hurt. It's sad but that's how war is. Military members would surely lose their effectiveness and morale if they knew they could be turned over to capricious local officials on dubious claims.

Phil mentioned the case of the US marines being tried for rape here in the Philippines. This is not about an event in war but about military members on leave in an allied nation. I've been following this case in the press and there are a lot of odd things about it, and contradictions. It just smells too much like a set up. I'm not defending rapists, mind you, and I say they go to jail if they're guilty. But this case would be laughable if the future lives of these marines were not at stake here.

Last November the US and the Philippines had some joint military exercises. While off duty four marines rented a van with a local driver to go bar hopping. Sometime during the evening a Filipina left a bar with them and got in the van. The next day the press was filled with reports with an undercurrent implying evil Americans come here to exploit innocent Filipinas. The four marines and the driver were arrested. The marines gave statements to the cops that yes, there had been sex but it was not a rape. The driver signed a statement that he witnessed a rape. The driver was released and then promptly told the press he was forced to sign that statement and that in fact there was no rape but consenusal sex. The driver was then re-arrested and again the cops issued a new rape statement, supposedly from him. And that was just the first days of this case. It's been like this ever since. You read the press and between the lines you just have this feeling it's all so much drama with either extortion and / or distorted nationalism behind it.

Now in this case, if convicted these kids (now only three; one was released) will go to a prison here in the Philippines. And if they're really guilty, I'd say that's okay. They are not yet in Philippine custody however. As Phil said, the only thing the US can do for them is keep them detained at the embassy and they only leave to go back and forth to the trial site. If convicted they will be turned over to local authorities. This is not some kind of imperial extra-territoriality here; the US really is respecting local law under their mutual understanding, the status of forces agreement.

This is a case of off-duty military people supposedly involved in a crime. You can see how capricious locals can be, and not really interested in serving justice. And I'm sure you can see how this would all play out in a war zone. Events that occur while on duty and in a war zone clearly need to be judged by our justice system. It would be chaos having these people subject to the whims of others, who may not have justice in mind. Our military justice system really is fair. I for one, would really not want to be in the military if I had to fear going to an Iraqi prison for several years.

And no, I don't see this as at all hypocritical. Sure, Bush and others call the new Iraqi government democratic but they surely know better. Democracy is a state of mind, a willingness to share space and time with others, no matter whether their ideas or religion or color is different from our's. It is not just government. Sure, Iraq now has a republican government (Saddam's was a republic too!) with some really basic democratic goals. They will take a very long time to mature.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Hey there SMART "Alec," what you really need to do is to start your own blogspot... You have waaaay to much to say to waste it on a comments section! Get to work on that buddy.

Ed said...

Thanks for the response Alec. I second Phil's motion for you to start up a blog.

As I told Phil on my blog, I certainly wouldn't want our soldiers handed over to Iraq for a fair trial, which I don't think exists over there yet. If I had my way, they would remain in U.S. custody during their trial and only after the U.S. determines their guilt, they would then be handed over to Iraqi authorities for punishment. It sounds like through SOFA agreements, this is basically what we do not. But, I still feel that it makes a hypocritical since we don't do the same for some foreign prisoners in our prisons.

My whole point was that sometimes the United States expects certain things from other countries that we wouldn't do if the tables were turned. These soldiers in Iraq were just a medium to get my message across.

By the way, I've been following the rape case in the RP too and it has seemed suspicious to me as well. But as I do with everything I read in the media, I take it with a grain of salt until it is all over with.

Jonathan said...

as a half black, I can admit, the american 'black' culture is very much in the cultural waste bin (direct immigrants from africa, haiti, brazil, and the delightful people of the gulf region excluded as they are some of the hardest working and cheerful people I have had the pleasure to have worked with in any field.).

The well to do smart American blacks, and the fodder for the ganster-rap image/ sell tool, (just where the NAACP wants them to be it seems at times) and even within the well to do for themselves group even is split apart. forming a sort of trifecta of evil, in which the lower gang glorified fodder members drain on the network of black society and often do end up in jail. the sympathizers who reside in the well to do (typically members that by luck and/or exploitation have risen on the backs of the weaker members of their own society with a good number as well in my experiance legitimate business owners), and the crowning group that have done well but either can not, or choose not to aide and invest in their own community (either by being only 'middle class' which provides little philantropic options compounded by the often lack of actual goods produced by the black culture that is not glorified villiany and thuggery put to lyrics and a drum machine. or in the case of those that have profitted off of the drum machine and hip hop lyrics , often only invest in their own glorification, rather than aiding communities in even a small part which usually resides in a lack of proper education themselves and appreciation of such.

then you have the outside men who play the game, and become the greats, such as oprah, bill, condi, george, thomas, and alan, even 'usher' has played the game and is winning at it.

invertedly this is why the asian immigrants have done so well, they invest in themselves, they buy their own products and services, and sell to all other communities who need their services (notice that rap didn't start making money till 'white' people started listening and purchasing albums en mass). it is the tight knit unity, but willingness to play the game that provides them the growing status in american culture.

that is why the black communities are being trounced by the asian communities, even though the former has been more long standing in the united states.

which from my perspective is quite sad to see such an important part of america-- and many proud and able members who are merely attached to it due to their commitments (the few that do tie themselves to their communities end as if stones were tied to them from the first ignorant group of young blacks).

the day that they realize that perhaps bill cosby hasn't lost his mind. and perhaps hip hop mentality is not the answer to their problems and it is not selling out to the white man-- but rather joining the game and being the best at it; can they progress at the same pace as the rest of american culture.

and to add, the majority of costa ricans, guatamalans, hondurans and other people from latin america I have met and worked with agree that people of mexico are ''odd'' and frankly, lazy in many cases (not all, I say not just trying to cover my tail-- some of the finest business men I have known are from direct mexican lines and actively drive against that stigma and remain staples in the local economy and true examples of Americans, sans prefixual hyphens).

not rising up to help one another is not just fear, but a profound laziness of virtue, value and deed.

PhilippinesPhil said...

That's deep Jonathon. Your assessment of the different levels of black culture is interesting.

I fully realize that not all blacks have the uncivil attitude of "gangster," my point is that like it or not, this subculture is American, and I'm ashamed that it is.

I'm glad there are many black voices speaking against its continuation, but it will do no good. It seems the only way people attracted to this crap leave it is by growing out of it or by dying.

Did you see one of the latest Eminem news items? He is being accused of attacking some stranger in a little club where he is from in Detroit on the infamous "8 Mile." These people have a lot to live "down to" it seems. The culture calls for one to be hard and intimidating, to use violence and menace as a matter of course. That is the world they have created and that is the world they prefer. White, Black, Chicano...it doesn't matter; if they ascribe to gangster, then antisocial behavior is always going to be the result. Sheer idiocy.