June 12, 2008

The 3rd Most Dangerous Job in the AA Blogosphere

In terms of reputation, being a 44's blogger is probably the third most dangerous job in the Asian American blogosphere (behind Reappropriate Jenn and 8Asians Bo, though the latter is almost entirely self-inflicted). Because I'm fairly prolific on the site, I'm bound to present some views that people aren't going to agree with. In many ways, the game is stacked against me. The more I post, the more opportunities I have to piss people off. It's a low odds game, and it doesn't always pack that large of a payoff.

So I have a few follow up words about my last blog post. I don't expect to change any views, but there are just a few things that need to be said.

1. Negativity: There are a few points that I need to make about someone's statement that "most ideological blog entries here have to be about what things aren’t." My last blog post wasn't about "what things aren't" but rather about what things are and what we need to do to fight against a dangerous philosophy and a dangerous demogogue. I'll pull back from the demogogue thing if it makes people more comfortable, but I still think it's a dangerous philosophy.

Still, if I'm reading everyone's complaints correctly, people want a more positive message.

I agree with everyone about positive messages, but I think it's also important to talk about where we are today. I'm reading the "Feminine Mystique" right now. I'm more than halfway done, and I've not yet read a single constructive, prescriptive suggestion from Friedan in the entire first half of the book. So far it's nothing but complaining about how oppressed women are, how Freudian thought oppresses women, and how housework stifles the mind. "Why We Can't Wait" by Martin Luther King started out the same way--it was all about how things are so bad that "We Can't Wait." It's about how white people oppress black people with laws and violence. It's really quite depressing, and the negativity is crazy.

However, most activist literature is similar. Activists start by describing the problem. That's how most solutions are framed. Those books are well read because they tell the truth. In my view, you can't really talk strategy until you know where you're at. So if I'm negative, it's because we're in a negative situation. And we need to recognize the status quo before we can change it. I'm really not all that out-of-the-ordinary in how I describe this.

2. Negativity 2: I think people also need to realize that negative news sells better than positive news. I've looked through my blog posts, and whenever I write about people like Daniel Inouye, Khoi Vinh, Helen Zia, or Ruby Chow (and they're there--just look for them), I never get any comments (props to Lopan for saying something about Vinh). These people are leaders and trailblazers in our community, but no one says anything about them. Natalise has more comments than Senator Dan Inouye, Khoi Vinh, Helen Zia, and Ruby Chow combined! I rarely break double digit posts unless I say something about Hong Kingston or feminism or anything else that gives people a reason to fight.

This is just the way things are, so no need to change; I'm just pointing it out. Other blogs are like this too--dailykos and gawker operate the same way. But please realize too that I'm being positive too. It's just that my positivity usually goes unnoticed, as it does on virtually all the other sites out there.

The only exception, of course, is when I post things either about Obama or Ultimate Fighting. All I can say is "Thank God for Ultimate Fighting." At least there's one place where I can find love for my posts. Thank you kimtae and Rebel for supporting me when I post on this stuff. Dana White for President.

3. Strategy: I think I've mentioned many times before, but strategy can't be done over the internet. This blog is good for news, and it's good for sharing views and intelligence. If we're going to strategize, we do that in person. The internet format just doesn't lend itself well to that kind of activism. Even net warriors like Obama for America meet in person. I hope people are not blaming me for the limits of the internet, and I hope we can take it to the next step when we meet in August.


The last thing I want to remark on is my thesis itself, the idea that Kingstonism must be stopped.

I've fulfilled my promise of shutting up and listening, but still, after three or four days of me not posting, no one has posted anything positive that Kingston has contributed other than just being there and drawing attention to Asian people, a criteria which could be applied to just about any Asian American, including Michelle Malkin, John Yoo, and all the other "disgrasians."

I imagine that Maxine Hong Kingston, were she the main character in "It's a Wonderful Life," would jump off the bridge only to see a world where Asian men and Asian women were represented together in media, where we had a thriving intellectual culture, where we lived with trust and happiness, where Asian American women avoided the suicide problem, and where Asian American people had the confidence to become great athletes, politicians, and whatever else they would want to become. Michael Lohman would be too damn scared of Asian women to pull off any of that disgusting fluid nonsense. I'd probably be arguing FOR Falling For Grace since it would be so rare to see a WM/AF in the movies. Fallout Central would be a TV show because the media would be dying to hire Asian guys.

I'm joking, of course, but if you look at the historical record, it was definitely heading in this direction until the early 70's when "Woman Warrior" came out. Sessue Hayakawa was a leading man pre-Kingston, as was Bruce Lee. Asian American culture began thriving with Frank Chin, Shawn Wong, Connie Young Yu, and others. We were on the road to great intellectual achievements. And then the great hijack took place.

I'll try to make my arguments less personal, but as you can probably tell, I'm very much a big believer that Orientalism is a problem, and I wouldn't have pointed the finger at Kingstonism if I didn't believe it was at the heart of the problem. As you all know, we're raising money for Frank Chin to come to Portland, and I can't tell you how many times Asian Americans have said that they want someone more mainstream. It's not even white people who object; a lot of times it's our "own" people. Certain people have explicitly voiced their preference for something more "mainstream," and "Kingston" and "Tan" have come up. Some might say that it's a function of white America that they're popular, but I think that denies agency to the Asian American people who have helped to re-create and enforce this system of orientalism.

Contrast this to the fanfare that was in the air when Amy Tan visited. It may sound like I'm talking about a harmless trend, but this orientalism affects everyone here in spirit, energy, and money (and I can tell you a thing or two about this). I don't think people can understand the depth of Kingstonian thought until people have been on the ground trying to raise money, talking to people, and seeing how the politics take place. It's ironic that most would consider a book like "Joy Luck Club," where women cut off their flesh for soup, more mainstream than "Banana Boys," a story of Asian people just going through life. As they say, money talks, and it's true. Comparing this years fundraising efforts with last year's Vincent Chin event, it's clear to me that people won't go against the status quo unless some Chinese person literally dies. I just think that's too late. Why should we wait for culture to reach a boiling point before acting against the status quo? I was remarking to William from Fallout Central that had I known the market for Asian American gender representation, maybe I would've opted for something more mainstream. Maybe we could have had a "Falling for Grace" or "Joy Luck Club" fundraiser for our event. Shit, maybe I could just dye my hair blonde and become a rice chaser. We put so much effort into our activism only to have a dangerous philosophy sideswipe our efforts.

So this is my view. If we still disagree, I hope we can do so respectfully.

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