Wednesday, October 8, 2008

John McCain and the "G" Word

OK, you now know from the title that this is an explicitly political post. But this isn't just a random political post -- this is about racism and racist speech and my children from China, which is what this blog is about.

So now that you know what's coming, you can avoid it by clicking away RIGHT NOW and by not scrolling down any further! Danger, Will Robinson, Danger! Run Away! Run Awaaaaay!

Eight years ago, I thought John McCain was a great candidate with a compelling personal story and a maverick approach. Then he said this: "I hated the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live."

McCain refused, at first, to apologize. He said he only meant the horrible prison guards who tortured him during his captivity during the VietNam war. He said he couldn't come up with a more polite term to call his captors. I thought at the time, "Why not call them 'my captors?' 'sadists?' 'torturers?' 'the enemy?' Why that word? Why does your anger spill over from that justifiably directed at your inhumane captors to all Asians?" As Katie Hong pointed out, he called them Asians, because that is what gook means:
Contrary to McCain's attempt to narrowly define "gook" to mean only his "sadistic" captors, this term has historically been used to describe all Asians. McCain said that "gook" was the most "polite" term he could find to describe his captors, but because it is simply a pejorative term for Asians, he insulted his captors simply by calling them "Asians" -- a clearly disturbing message. To the Asian American community, the term is akin to the racist word "nigger." A friend of mine, a white male Vietnam veteran, pointed out that veterans, especially Vietnam veterans, know how spiteful the term "gook" is. It has everything to do with labeling someone as "other," the enemy and yellow. McCain sent the message that all Asians are foreigners and remain forever the "other" and the enemy.
For what it is worth, I will point out that he did eventually apologize. But it was one of those "I'm sorry IF I offended anyone" apologies. And he said he wouldn't say it again because "some people" find it offensive. Doesn't exactly sound like an epiphany, a recognition that he was not simply angry at his captors, which was justifiable, he was also harboring some hateful attitudes toward Asians.

Some people might point out in defense of McCain that this happened 8 years ago, and that it isn't relevant today. I hope those same people see McCain's attempts to link Obama to Bill Ayers, a tenuous connection that ended ten years ago, as equally irrelevant!

I'll also add that maybe this isn't the sin of the century; maybe it isn't reason enough not to vote for a candidate you otherwise love. But if so, I think we have to ask why it's ok. Do you agree that if he had said the n-word that he shouldn't be a candidate today? Or maybe you just think he wouldn't be a candidate if he'd used the n-word because politically that would be suicide. If so, why is it ok to say gook, but not the n-word?

Or perhaps you think it is justifiable that McCain harbor negative attitudes toward Asians in light of what he experienced in captivity. Sorry, I'm not willing to give him a pass on that when he wants to be President of ALL Americans. If his experience, which was truly awful, makes him hate Asians for as long as he lives, then he needs to look for another line of work.

Here's a recent reaction from one young man to this racial slur:

I agree with him. I would find it really troublesome to have as President a man who looks at my daughters and sees "gooks."

UPDATE: I don't know what happened, but the comments disappeared! I promise, I didn't delete them! I have had trouble in the past with comments being disabled when I post a YouTube video, but comments definitely worked at first on this one. I don't know where they went. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

UPDATE UPDATE: They're back! No idea why. Hopefully they'll stay this time!


Wendy said...

I agree with the young man in the video and you as well.

I cannot understand why people are backing this man for president. He has demonstrated his hatred of Asians in comments and also, imo, the way he is using his captivity for political gain (there is question of his "maverick" ways from men he served with and in all reality, captivity does not equate with presidential material). Instead of support from fellow imprisoned comrades, there have been accusations that he was a spoiled brat who came with ideals of priveledge while trying to live up to his father and grandfather.

He also fails to mention that he confessed while others were tortured for maintaining silence. I would never deny the man of his service and the torture he faced; however, I think of his time imprisoned as a detriment due to the hatred he is now filled with. If he did confess I don't really care, he was facing extreme violence and possible death, but playing the maverick hero with fellow Americans/Vietnam veterans is beyond acceptable, especially those who suffered silently or who's service was just as heroic as your own. He is no way any more or less capable of leading the country than any other veteran if military service is the standard.

My father is a Vietnam veteran as well and he will tell you there is no way or doubt that McCain did not know he was only referring to his captors, but instead, insulting Asian Americans--this term was used to also represent Chinese in the country at the time, Cambodians, those from Laos, etc. There is no way John McCain did not and does not know the impact of that term; he obviously doesn't care. He has proved he does not care who he offends, look at his running mate who is spewing hatred and rallying the "bottom of the barrel" "Joe sixpack", "Christian religion or no religion" racists among us to come out and vote against Obama merely because of the color of his skin. McCain can have her call out the rallying cry to keep his hands clean--however, have we seen him condone her behavior and that of those attending the events calling out racial slurs? No.

The point is this, whoever wins the election will represent 100% of the American people--those who believe differently and have various backgrounds. If he will hate g*&^s the rest of his life, how will he represent them (including our kids) in a fair and unbiased way? How can we trust him (or her, as she is a heartbeat away with a very old man) to protect the interests of all Americans if having or rallying hatred is used as a last ditched attempt to win an election they are clearly out of if only the issues are discussed?

IMO, this topic is under the rug, yet again, because Asians are not fully represented in our country and make up such a low percentage in the overall population, along with the stereotype of total assimilation, model minority, take not speak it attitudes. Absolutely if he had used the N word publically he would not be the nominee; why the double standard? I guess we will have to wait and see what he thinks about Arab Americans and other minority groups. That being said, people who hate tend to hate equally against those not perceived to be like themselves, I guess you better hope you stay on those two's good sides.

Off my soapbox now, but still mad as hell he is even being considered when there are so many other qualified candidates who would discuss the issues from the party in which I don't belong.

Wendy said...

Forgot to address his daughter, I have heard people say he cannot be a racist because of his TRA daughter. Uh, did you see how they threw her under the bus at the convention by making her the poster child for international adoptees who need "rescued"? I am not saying he has racist attitudes toward her, but have we all not heard someone say "I have black friends." "One of my best friends is Asian." Sometimes people will move against a large group, but like some its individual members--not to mention they have "assimilated" her into their family; thereby making her different from the others. I am seeing no love from Cindy McCain for her daughter's homeland, I only hope privately they feel differently and their behavior is a show.

Anonymous said...

My dad spent all of WWII as a sailor in the south Pacific. He hated Japanese people for the rest of his life. I remember he would never allow a product built in Japan into our house, and particularly hated anything by Mitsubishi (they made the Zero fighter planes). My dad was a wonderful guy and everyone who knew him loved him. But he obviously saw such atrocities during the war that there were things burned into his head that he could never recover from. I have never encountered or lived through anything like what my dad saw or what John McCain saw. So I don't feel that I can stand in judgement of someone who has gone through such things and cry because his feelings are not politically correct.

Elizabeth J.

Wendy said...


I don't think anyone is crying for him not being politically correct or denying him his feelings or his hatred (as you cannot make someone sees others as people or individuals, you can only hope they do). However, we are saying he should not represent a diverse nation--EVER. If you cannot represent those you govern, you shouldn't govern. Military service does not equate to good governing. It is the same for many professions--case in point, those working to help people with counseling, etc. have to be in counseling themselves to make sure they are not projecting their own issues and/or they have to show that they have dealt with their own demons before they take on others. As individuals we need to know our limits, representing everyone is beyond what John McCain can do; therefore, he should step aside.

Anonymous said...

There is no candidate in the running who can represent every factor. I am vehemently opposed to abortion, and I was disgusted when Obama spinelessly said that voicing an opinion as to when life begins was above his pay grade. Obama certainly would not be representing me if he ends up winning the election, and I am as appalled by his views and statements as you seem to be by McCain's.

Elizabeth J.

Wendy said...

I understand that you may not agree with abortion, as don't a great many people and others who believe it should be an option in certain circumstances. Here is the difference, you don't have to have an abortion. You can choose not too. People who are born from a specific ethnic group cannot change that.
The two arguments do not compare. Representation does not equate to agreement, it equates to allowing for differences of opinion. You cannot allow differences if you put hate into the mix.

malinda said...

I very much appreciate the civility of the comments on both sides! I don't know if it's my personality or my profession that makes me a fan of spirited debate. I like hearing from people who agree with me, of course (I am, after all, human!), but I ALSO LOVE hearing from people who disagree with me!

One point about political correctness. If this was a matter of asking him to call people Asian-Americans rather than "Orientals," we'd be talking political correctness. But the use of racial epithets goes way beyond politically incorrect.

Political correctness is misused by both liberals and conservatives to chill speech they disagree with, and when used in that way, I condemn it.

But gook, nigger, spick, kike, jap, etc., are not MERELY politically incorrect -- that characterization makes light of out-and-out hate speech.

Wendy said...

Thank you Malinda, you brought something to light that I failed to mention--hate speech vs. political correctness.

I think my career choice also leads me to enjoy debate as it brings light to new ideas and information. I can respect people's opinions if they are not shrouded in hate based ideas or if they have some semblance of recognizing that not everyone thinks the way they do (thereby allowing others to live their personal freedoms not dictated by factions--religion, race, socioeconomic class); it is when those in power have the all or nothing, your with us or not, we don't negotiate, us vs. them attitudes that I just cannot abide sitting back. Attitudes such as these must be questioned and examined.

If you are willing to throw the hate, you have to be willing to take the heat of scrutiny. If you are asking to govern a diverse body, you MUST concede that you will have to allow for ideas that do not represent your own--the old adage that majority rules does not apply in governing a diverse population. Those old ideas are what ruled our country in the past: furthering division, hate, lack of representation, and white priviledge. It has to end and playing fear politics only sets us back to a past I don't think many people today want to embrace as something worth re-living.

G & K said...

The McCains hate Asians? I don't think so.

Just one small example:

If that's all you have on McCain, 99% of Americans wouldn't be able to run for president because no one is perfect and we all have said things we shouldn't have.

malinda said...

Thanks for your comment G & K!

Of course, I didn't say anything about "the McCains." I don't subscribe to the ancient theory that married people are "ONE!" I was addressing John McCain's use of a racial epithet.

And I'm sorry that you've been hanging around with people who use racial slurs. I don't, my friends don't. I don't see why it's unreasonable to want my leaders to avoid hate speech.

Now, you suggest this is the "worst" I could say about McCain, and somehow that isn't bad enough. I consider it bad. But you're right, there is much worse to say about McCain.

But I've committed to a particular topic on this blog -- adoption, transracial adoption issues, including race, China. So, I examine EVERY post to see if it fits that narrow guideline. John McCain's use of the word gook qualifies. His generally wrong-headed policies do not.

G & K said...

malinda said,
"And I'm sorry that you've been hanging around with people who use racial slurs. I don't, my friends don't. I don't see why it's unreasonable to want my leaders to avoid hate speech."

I said,
" one is perfect and we all have said things we shouldn't have."

So there's no reason for malinda to be sorry because I did not say what malinda inferred in her post.

Now, about John McCain. Let me see if I have this right. Just John McCain hates Asians, but his wife does humanitarian work in the country where he suffered unspeakable atrocities, just so she can pour a little salt in his wounds.

Nope, I'm not buying it. Nice try, though.

Well, at least we can agree he has many wrong-headed policies. His stance on illegal immigration, campaign finance reform, Gitmo, waterboarding, voting against the Bush tax cuts, buying into the global warming hype, not wanting to drill in ANWR, etc. are definitely wrong-headed. But at least he's not a socialist.

malinda said...

Thanks for posting again, G & K!

You don't need to buy anything, because I'm not selling!

And pardon my cynicism, but is it possible that someone would do well-publicized charity as a campaign ploy?! You'd never believe that of any politician, I'm sure. But the thought has crossed my mind . . . .

And no, John McCain isn't a socialist. . . . except for maybe that buying-up-mortgages thing, and that $700 billion-buyout thing. Looks like you have no one to vote for in this election if you object to socialists!

So, have you read anything else on the blog? I'd love to hear your opinions on adoption issues, too!

G & K said...

malinda said,
"And pardon my cynicism, but is it possible that someone would do well-publicized charity as a campaign ploy?! You'd never believe that of any politician, I'm sure. But the thought has crossed my mind . . . ."

You really should do some research into the McCains. Unlike the Obamas, who's charitable giving greatly increased when it became clear he'd be running for president, Cindy actually has a decades-long history of humanitarian work.

The Obamas:
Charitable contributions-
2006: 6.1%
2005: 4.7%
2004: 1.2%
2003: 1.4%
2002: 0.4%
2001: 0.5%
2000: 0.9%
And they were making well over $200,000 in those early years, so it wasn't like they were barely making it.

On the other hand, Cindy founded and ran the American Voluntary Medical Team, leading 55 medical missions around the world in the late 80s and early 90s. She works with the HALO trust that works to remove landmines. She was involved with Operation Smile long before this campaign. And the list goes on. So being cynical is fine, but it doesn't change the facts. You just have to search them out.

Sorry, I forgot to add those most recent items to my list of McCain wrong-headed policies. Obviously, we aren't going to agree with everything a candidate supports or does, but we only have two choices and McCain is far behind Obama on the socialist scale.

And whereas I pretty much don't agree with Obama on anything, McCain has it right when it comes to national defense, the 2nd Amendment, protecting babies who are the most vulnerable among us, winning in Iraq instead of surrendering like Obama wanted to do at one time, but now Obama basically states what has been the goal all along as his policy and tries to take credit, and probably the most important item for me is future supreme court appointees.

And in 2012 we can have President Palin for 8 years. I can see it now, opening day of deer season would be a national holiday. Awesome.

I'll have to get to the rest of your blog another day. I have to get to bed now. It's been fun. Take care.

malinda said...

Actually, I was quite aware of Cindy McCain's charity work -- after all, she touts it often enough. And her lovely "rescue" speech at the RNC, which must have made Bridget feel like a real charity case, just another of her mother's rescue missions -- you know, the one Mother Teresa encouraged her to do, even though Mother Teresa wasn't even in the country and had never met Cindy McCain?

And yes, I would expect a different level of giving from the McCains, the millionaires, who own so many houses they don't even know how many they have!

And then if you want to get to issues for a change, you get McCain voting along with your pal, George Bush, 90% of the time. And what do we have to show for it? An UNWINNABLE war if the definition of winning is a stable Iraqi government that isn't run by Muslim extremists. A financial MELTDOWN of epic proportion. An interest in fetuses that doesn't extend to caring for living children by giving their parents a decent wage or funding an educational system that might actually have poor children well educated like their rich brethren. A contempt for "elitism" that fosters mediocrity, including a vice-presidential candidate that is an embarassment to the Republican Party.

Yeah, when I think of Reagan's famous question -- Are you better off now than you were four years ago -- I know what my answer is!

Why reward 8 years of incompetent, dishonest, Republican stewardship with 4 more years?

Oh, yes, I can see the appeal!

And deer season as a national holiday? I've already had students who've asked me if opening day of dove season is an excused absence -- after all, hunting is far more important than education!

BTW, I enjoyed looking at your blog -- cute kids!