19 4 mins 13 yrs

I welcomed in the Year of the Ox over the weekend at a Chinese New Year celebration. The party came complete with an Announcer who described himself as an “ABC” (acronym for American Born Chinese) and a student-written-and-performed skit, playfully mocking a lazy Brahmin Bull sitting in traffic blocking the road, a violent Bull from Southern Spain looking for a fight, and a Wall St. Bull that was actually a Bear.

With good humor, the ABC Announcer opened up the generous self-serve buffet (Lucky Jumbo Shrimp, Long Life Pan Fried Noodles and Prosperous Ham and Egg Fried Rice) by requesting that the throngs of red-clad children, and their parents, not to behave as if it were a Chinese Fire Drill.

For those of you who didn’t grow up in a car culture like LA, a Chinese Fire Drill is a car game. It goes something like this: It’s raining. Traffic is crawling. A driver, with a car full of kids, pulls up to a light, comes to a full stop, and yells, “Chinese Fire Drill!” Kids fly out of the car, and run circles around the car – fast, before the light changes. Chaotic hilarity. And, a Chinese cultural stereotype.

Are you getting the impression that this event was totally off the charts regarding present day acceptable politically correct conduct? It was. And no one noticed. Victim status has not been conferred on, nor courted by, the Asian community. You see…Asians in Los Angeles (primarily Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese) are extremely successful.

And it’s not because they are lucky.

The door prize was not the usual family pass to Disneyland, nor a golf weekend in Palm Springs. The door prize was a grueling 16 week tutoring course for a national college entrance exam. Note also that there was a group of high school students selling t-shirts to benefit their tutoring project downtown in LA’s old Chinatown. After school, these high school students tutor small ABC children needing extra help with their school work, especially English, because most of their parents speak little English.

Some statistics: only 11.4% of the Los Angeles population is Asian, but a whopping 37% of all students enrolling at UCLA are Asian.  Hispanics are 48.5% of Los Angeles’s population, but only 16% of the UCLA student body is Hispanic.

The final bit of entertainment was a dance solo performed by a beautiful Chinese American girl. Balletic and graceful, lithe with her long black hair streaming out behind her, she flew from one end of the stage to the next, turning and twisting, pausing in flight, and posing, nimble as a bird.

And, she performed all of her acrobatics with a large sword. Always a sword.

Is the Western “War Is Not The Answer” crowd aware that much of the world doesn’t give a damn about the “Give Peace a Chance” movement?

Well, anyway… It’s 2009, Year of the Ox, a year in which patience, and hard work will pay off. Gong Xi Fa Cai!

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19 thoughts on “Chinese Fire Drill

  1. I have never quite understood why Orientals are Asians in America, but Oriental over here – and why in America Oriental is such a non-PC term.
    It’s a mystery.

  2. Patty:

    "Is the Western “War Is Not The Answer” crowd aware that much of the world doesn’t give a damn about the “Give Peace a Chance” movement?"

    You’ve asked them all, have you?

  3. Jaz: "Oriental is such a non-PC term"

    I wasn’t aware that Oriental wasn’t PC. The word reminds me of the 1920’s. It just isn’t currently used to describe the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese population. . We use "Asian."

    Irish Barry: yes, I have.

  4. "Is the Western “War Is Not The Answer” crowd aware that much of the world doesn’t give a damn about the “Give Peace a Chance” movement?"

    What was the point of that comment Patty ? What relevence does it have to your otherwise entertaining and interesting post about these Chinese New Year celebrations.

  5. "Is the Western “War Is Not The Answer” crowd aware that much of the world doesn’t give a damn about the “Give Peace a Chance” movement?"

    I imagine they’d be more concerned about the "Give War a Chance" movement.

  6. Colm: It’s a critical point actually.

    I believe that many in the West live very narcissistic lifes – believing that everyone would be just like us – if only they had the material possibilities.

    This egocentrism is best exemplified by the "Give Peace a Chance" movement which seems to believe that everyone is basically good, and that through sheer will-power and force of thought, peace will come.

    This willful blindness treats much of the world as if it doesn’t exist. The liberal notion of utopia does not take the world seriously.

    And it is the root of that nonsense question: "Why do they hate us? Hate us enough to fly planes into our buildings?"

    This is narcissistic navel gazing. And, besides, they have told us why they hate us. And why they fly planes into our buildings. Numerous times they have told us. And it’s not because of Bush.

    The Chinese do not seem self-absorbed like this.

  7. But what message was Patty trying to put across there. Is she saying that sword waving at a Chinese ceremony is proof that Asian-Americans are pro-Iraq war ?

  8. Patty

    Our posts crossed. All I can say is that you read a hell of a lot into a little girl waving a sword around in a ceremonial fashion.

  9. "Damn it Walter, I am not talking about the guy who built the railroad here!" The Big Lebowski, quoted from bemused memory.

    Of course Chinese New Years always puts me in mind of the shortcomings of other ethnic groups. Isn’t that what New Years is all about?

  10. Colm: I’m not saying the Chinese are waging war at the Chinese New Year celebration. I’m part of this community through friends and study – they are great people.

    I guess I’m saying that I think liberal "anti-War, anti-West" Westerners are clueless really about the rest of the world. Romanticizing Africa. Ignoring beheadings. Seeing China as one big cheap factory.

    I find it interesting that there is always a sword in Chinese – in their characters, in their ceremonies – always a sword.

    Coincidence? Or, perhaps a cultural symbol of something? Hmmm…wonder what..oh well, back to navel gazing.

  11. Patty

    It’s more likely it’s the Right, Conservative free marketeers who see China as just one big factory, not the anti-war lefties who wouldn;t even think of China in those terms anyway.

    You’d have been better just leaving your post as a tribute to Asian-Americans without introducing left-right political digs into it.

  12. ‘This egocentrism is best exemplified by the "Give Peace a Chance" movement which seems to believe that everyone is basically good, and that through sheer will-power and force of thought, peace will come.

    Who do you think hates you? You think that you are so special that the whole world automatically hates you for no reason?

    Sweet jebus, can you not think about it, what do you have against critical thinking? Do you have any idea of cause and effect? Can you not objectively analysis a situation? This bloody conservative celebration of ignorance really pisses me off. It is the dumbing down of humanity.

    Humans are not inherently good or evil; that’s just stupid religious clap-trap. We are social beings and have the ability to live together and get along, IF we work at it. That’s common sense

  13. >> I find it interesting that there is always a sword in Chinese – in their characters, in their ceremonies – always a sword.

    Coincidence? Or, perhaps a cultural symbol of something? Hmmm…wonder what..oh well, back to navel gazing.<<

    You should gaze a bit lower than the navel, Patty, as for the Chinese the sword is an obvious phallic symbol, just as the fan stands for the tender vaginal trap.

    This was all exploited masterfully throughout the cartoon Mulan. Note, however, how the sword is retuned to its rightful owner just as the lovers experience the fireworks!

    Good to see you are still writing something, by the way!

  14. Noel: "You should gaze a bit lower than the navel, Patty, as for the Chinese the sword is an obvious phallic symbol, just as the fan stands for the tender vaginal trap."

    What!?!?!

    Oh, mon dieu….seriously. Mon dieu. A regular Freudian study I am.

    Too bad I have to get into my big car (Vroom! vroom!) and drive over some hills, and valleys, through a couple of tunnels… arriving downtown with the large, imposing, sky scrapers reaching up, and up…is there no relief?

  15. well Patty, sometimes you need to ride that car for 50 minutes before relief comes, sometimes just 5 minutes… depends how you control that steering wheel 😉

  16. Colm, I think it’s a shame she has to drive it herself. Should get someone to drive her out to those mountains, take her to some interesting peaks.

  17. But not in one of those American automatics. I prefer the control a gear stick gives you.

    Besides, US automobiles are all size, but cumbersome, and tend to break down as you take her up the hill.
    European models on the other hand are built for both speed and distance.

  18. why in America Oriental is such a non-PC term

    I know a few Chinese and Chinese-Americans, some for a quarter century, and may be able to field this.

    I’d think that very few would see the word Oriental as used to Asian people as an insult – but the young, especially the educated don’t like it.

    They don’t like it because it harkens images from the 19th century when Asians were seen as " exotics " who spoke a silly sing song language, ate " chop suey " ( a silly concoction that whites thought was authentic Chinese food) and wore pigtails and conical hats. Even deep into the 20th Century, you had the exotic inscrutable Oriental of the Charlie Chan books and films the slit eyed, pigtailed Ching Chow cartoon figure who appeared for decades in NY’s Daily News and in newspapers throughout the country.

    A lot of Chinese owned businesses ( and boy do they love to start businesses ) use the word " Oriental ", as in " Oriental Palace Restaurant ". But they don’t particularly care for to have the word used to describe a person. ( " See that Oriental man over there"? ) The preferred word is Asian. They don’t make a big deal about it, but that’s their preference, and I’m cool with that.

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