Monday, October 20, 2014

SHOULDN'T "MULTICULTURALISM" WORK BOTH WAYS?

Warning: If you're squeamish and cringe whenever you read something that isn't politically correct, or that contains unsavory language, I suggest that you skip this post.


I am not a happy camper. I realize that some of my crankiness is because of my present financial situation, plus the fact that I was out of some of the meds I'm supposed to be taking every day, but I have to admit that lately I've been having days chock-full of things that get on my nerves, and I've gotta vent. Now, I don't want to read a single word about how I'm lumping all immigrants into one pile and condemning them, or how some of the crap that I'm complaining about is also widespread among native-born Americans, or any such. I know that. But I am going to complain about some things that I've started seeing happen over and over and over again --- primarily in immigrant and underclass American communities (such as those in which I've lived for most of the last three decades). If I live to be normal, I won't understand why so many immigrants --- especially, the young --- seem to think that absolutely the worst examples of underclass American attitudes and behavior represent "America" and "American," and they try to emulate them.

Most of the people who will criticize or condemn me for the things I'm going to complain about will do that while they're safely and securely  away from all of this crap. Oh sure, now and then they'll put on their scruffy clothes (each single outfit of which cost them more than the really scruffy, poor folks paid for all of their clothes) and go down to skid row and really "relate" to all of the less fortunate folks down there, but...oh, really...

Anyway:


I guess to be fair, maybe I should start off with a couple of things that immigrants have brought to America that I think are good things --- although I, personally, find it very difficult to do those things. First of all, is the social bowing. Frankly, I think that it's charming, and it's certainly more sanitary than the handshaking that we're used to here. But I just can't get into bowing; and, as I understand it, there are nuances peculiar to the various bowing-oriented Asian cultures that I don't grasp, so when I may think that I'm being nice and respectful to someone by bowing to that person in a certain way, maybe I'm actually telling that person that I think he or she is a piece of shit, or that I want that person to kiss my ass. I don't know! At my age, though, I don't think that I'm supposed to bow below anyone else; I think there is a certain respect for old people that crosses cultural lines. but I'm not sure. I want to learn.



And, speaking of being more sanitary, I definitely believe that the practice of "dapping" or "bumping" that I see among the Hispanic immigrants is more sanitary than the hand-shaking that I'm used to doing. But, I just don't understand how I'm supposed to do it: Bump or dap once, with my clenched fist, bump the top then the back of the other person's clenched fist or whatever. I reach my hand out for the other guy to shake, he looks at me funny, then MAYBE he reluctantly takes it in a limp, weak shake; or, more likely, he sticks his fist out to dap or bump mine, and when I do what I THINK I'm supposed to do, he looks at me like I'm crazy. Although I definitely see how this is more sanitary than handshaking, I just can't get into it.



Enough of the good stuff, already. Now I want to rant:

The first thing I want to complain about is all the horn-honking I see immigrants do. Again, I'm not saying that native-born Americans don't honk their horns excessively, ever, but just about every time I see a red light change to green, and the driver of the second car in line start blaring impatiently immediately --- I mean, like the very millisecond the light changes --- the second driver almost always looks, well, foreign. What it always reminds me most of is what I've seen in Tel Aviv or Mexico City or Cairo...folks seeming to be trying to SAY something by blowing their horns. You almost want to call out, "Yeah, I KNOW you have a horn, and it's a nice, loud horn...so STOPPIT already!"


I don't drive anymore (glaucoma, macular generation, and other problems of advanced age --- remember, I'm OLD!); I use public transportation. But three things I've started seeing more and more on buses absolutely do the boogy-woogy on my last nerve: The first is where people sit. When I sit on a completely empty seat, I always sit next to the window so anyone getting on the bus after me and needing a seat can easily sit down; I mean common courtesy would suggest that's what you'd do, right? Well, what I've started seeing more and more often --- especially, in immigrant-rich areas such as the one where I live --- is that people get on the bus and plop their asses onto the aisle seat, and either pretend not to see people needing to sit down, or glare menacingly so people are afraid to ask to sit next to them. I remember once, a few weeks ago when I was off my meds and my understanding was about a millimeter long, I got on a bus and a guy was sitting next to the aisle with an empty space on the seat next to him. "Excuse me," I said, as I tried to sit. He pretended not to hear (or understand) me, and didn't move. "Excuse me," I repeated, marginally louder. He glared up at me, looked around, then made the Big Mistake of saying to me (in perfect, unaccented English, no less!), "There's a seat back there," indicating a place toward the back, next to another donkey-hole who was sitting on the aisle. I saw red. Quite loudly, I said to him, "If the driver tells me that you paid TWO fares for TWO seats, I'll go back there. But if you paid no more than the ONE fare that I paid, I want to sit right THERE, and I WILL." He moved.



The second thing I'm seeing more and more on buses is people either grabbing the first pole or strap as soon as they get on, then just standing there looking stupid (and glaring angrily at anyone who touches them as they have to try to squeeze by to move beyond them), or crowding around the back door --- and looking angrily at anyone who touches them as they try to get off the bus. The other Saturday, I was mightily annoyed as I had to squeeze by some of those idiots to get to the back of the bus, then by another group as I tried to get off. A guy made a Big Mistake again: "Excuse you," he said as he stood his ground in the middle of the exit area. "Excuse ME?" I asked. "Excuse YOU for standing your fat ass right where people need to get off this damned bus!" And I'm a Christian, remember? I wonder what St. Peter would've said (or done) to him! (After all, the Bible tells us that St. Peter often "spoke with curses"; I do, too)



The third thing which so annoys me that the only time I'll stand up to let a woman with a small child sit on a crowded bus is if she's pregnant. What has happened to me over and over is that I stand, then the woman plops her CHILD in the seat I've just vacated, and she stands. Pardon me? I didn't stand my old ass up to let some 6-year-old sit down. Why can't SHE sit, then maybe hold the kid in her lap?



Another thing which bothers the hell out of me is the huge number of street corner merchants in some neighborhoods. I mean, not only is it unattractive, but it's often very difficult to weave your way through the huge numbers of people on the street selling everything from freshly-squeezed juices to false ID to electronics to clothing to cosmetics, and just about anything else you can imagine. If you live in or near Los Angeles, go any day or evening around the MacArthur Park area --- especially, along Alvarado between 6th and 7th Streets, or along 6th Street from Burlington to Alvarado; the corner of Wilshire and Alvarado seems to be the epicenter. I swear, you'd think you were in a raggedy part of San Salvador or some other slum in Central America (I tend to agree with the MTA operator who used to announce as he drove into that area, "Now, ladies and gentlemen, we're entering Skid Row West"). It might not bother me so much if those people  weren't selling their stuff right in front of stores that try to sell the same things. The brick-and-mortar stores have to pay rent, taxes, employees, and all that, while the only overhead the streetcorner vendors have is the "tax" they have to pay the local gangbangers. So it's not only downright ugly, but it's unfair. If there was anyone who was more bothered by this phenomenon than I am, it was a friend of mine, now deceased, who was from an aristocratic South American family; he HATED that.


I rarely saw much of any of those behaviors before we started being inundated with people from countries where those patterns of behavior were the norm. Just about the only time I saw them here was in areas heaviily populated with people from our "underclass." Why do people come to this country and try to be more like THEM?

I guess the thing that gets on my nerves most, though, is the spitting. I am old enough to remember that it was a given here in America that Men Spit, and most public places had spittoons. I clearly remember the brass ones in Mr. Lister's barber shop where my father and I went every Saturday morning. But spittoons were everywhere --- in banks, court houses, stores, everywhere. It was just a given: Men spit. 


At some point, we here in America learned, though, that decent humans --- men OR women --- do NOT spit; it's unsanitary, it's just plain nasty; it just Isn't Done. So the spittoons disappeared rapidly (I wish I knew where to find those from the barber shop; I'll bet they'd be worth hundreds of dollars each now). Only in the worst areas of the worst ghettoes do you see native-born American men spitting. But go to any area where there are poor immigrant men, and each will spit every few seconds. And the nose-blowing; they'll turn their head and blow a glob of snot out of their nose, then pull out a handkerchief and dry their nose. Why the hell didn't they pull the handkerchief out and blow their damned noses into the handkerchief in the first place? Spitting or blowing snot out of your nose, it seems, is a mark of masculinity in some cultures; well it isn't here. All it says to people here is that you're nasty.



And one more thing I want to complain about while I'm on a roll: The fact that people --- men and women --- from certain cultures are averse to using deodorant; they find human funk to be more natural, more attractive than smelling like flowers or the ocean or whatever. Fairly recently, I had a young Armenian husband; like most young Armenian men, he was exceedingly handsome, very hirsute, and smiled so rarely that when he did, it made a statement. But he had a fairly strong body odor, and I don't understand why; he showered twice a day, and always put on clean clothes. His feet didn't smell, nor did his crotch (don't ask me how I knew; I knew), but his underarms did. The second evening he was in my (our) apartment, I had bought some toiletries, and I tactfully told him, "There's toothpaste and shampoo and hair gel in the bag there on the bathroom counter. That's all yours. I didn't know whether you prefer roll-on or stick deodorant, so there's one of each in the bag." "Armenians don't use deodorant," he said quickly, crisply, and in a tone that discouraged my saying another syllable about that. I didn't.



Well, I guess I'm through complaining --- for today. Remember, I'm OLD, so I know I'll have something else to complain about tomorrow!