I was standing around in an airport terminal Friday night when I saw the news story about Obama addressing congress about his vision of health care. He was saying that illegal aliens wouldn’t get any when Joe Wilson shouted, "You lie!" Nancy Pelosi’s eyes went all Nazi on astroturf and I thought it was great. I said yay, I want MY representative to say Obama lies, too.
Illegal aliens are already getting health care. They have been getting health care all along. Why should we believe otherwise? But that’s just one issue.
Monday night I was watching the new Jay Leno and saw him speaking with a very quiet and sullen Kanye West. I had no idea what had taken place on the VMA awards earlier, but I found out soon enough that he had interrupted the 17-year-old Taylor Swift’s very genuine thank-you for an award to express HIS opinion about a different artist in the same category. Nobody does that. Whazzaaaap??!?
Both Joe and Kanye have been well-hammered for their outbursts but since I’m not seeing them both the same way, I thought I’d address this obvious pattern. We live in a time when if you indicate an awareness of cultures, ethnicities, or national origins other than your own, you run the risk of having someone say you are a racist. At the same time, if you indicate absolutely no interest in any culture, ethnicity, or national origin other than your own, you also run the risk of having someone say you are a racist. Where do you draw the line?
I’m going to tell you where I draw the line. I draw the line in the same place they drew it when we were in engineering school, which is about the same place they drew it in the army. In both places, they might keep you too busy to think about your culture, ethnicity, or national origin. Culture, ethnicity, and national origin don’t necessarily factor into your success or failure there. The instructor, drill sergeant, company commander, the dean, they don’t really give a hoot about your culture, or your ethnicity, or your national origin.
What matters there is whether or not you GET IT. If you GET IT, that’s good. If you DON’T get it, that’s not so good. If you DO get it, sure enough, they move you on to something else that you don’t get, and you get to work on that. But it’s all about whether or not you get it. At no time will you ever hear a hint or suggestion that your culture, ethnicity, or national origin is a factor in whether or not you GET IT. You will see people with a variety of cultures, ethnicities, and national origins who GET IT and who DON’T get it. Usually if you GET IT, others might seek you out because you GET IT. If you DON’T get it, maybe that’s why no one is seeking you out.
That’s not to say culture and ethnicity and national origin have zero influence. I remember in school there were people who went skiing on the weekend. They had plans to go skiing, and no plans to study while they were skiing, so they were taking a little risk there. Sure enough, when they got back, there was something they didn’t get because they didn’t study. They just took it in stride, that they didn’t GET IT, because they didn’t study, and went skiing instead. They didn’t get any bonus points for their culture or ethnicity or national origin. They lost points because they didn’t GET IT.
There was one young man who was mathematically gifted. He always got it. Instructors would single him out and praise him in class for his uncanny and unique ability to get it. We would all marvel at this guy. His name was Thu Vu. He was from Viet Nam.
There were occasions when I’d hang out with Thu Vu. One day he told me about how he used to live in Saigon. He said he sat on the roof of his house once and watched the Tet offensive. Rockets, fire, things going boom in the night out there. He watched it from the roof of his house.
When the Americans abandoned Saigon, Thu Vu was one of the many people who rushed down to the docks to get on a boat, any boat, to escape the communists. All the boats leaving the harbor were packed with people trying to get away. When his boat got out on the high seas, it was attacked by pirates. Real pirates. The pirates were busy killing everybody on the boat, but Thu Vu hid from the pirates in the bottom of the boat, underneath the dead bodies of some of the other passengers who had already been killed by the pirates. Imagine that.
So Thu Vu was a highly motivated young man. But his culture and ethnicity and national origin didn’t matter to the instructors. What mattered was that he GOT IT. With amazing regularity.
What mattered the night of the VMA awards was that Taylor Swift GOT IT. Mr. West clearly did NOT get it, and has demonstrated on several occasions that he does not get it. This could be just a matter of opinion. Similarly, Obama, Pelosi, Biden, they don’t get it either. What they don’t get is that the purpose of government is not to take over the auto industry, the banking industry, the health care industry, and so on. But there will be people who read race into that, because they don’t get it either.