January 12th, 2013

Let Me Tell You Why That's Bullshit

My Country Tis Of Thee

The problem with reacting to the news is that, oftentimes, your reaction does not match anyone else's.

Take, for example, loving your country.  If an American loves America and declares it the greatest country in the world, they are a "patriot".  But if someone else says that their own country that happens to not be America is the greatest country in the world, they are "nationalists."  Patriotism is good, nationalism is bad.  And what something is depends entirely on which side of the fence you are standing on.

Regionalistic emotionalism happens everywhere (oftentimes, it doesn't even need to be a country as anyone who has dealt with Texans or us Chicagoans will attest).  And while sometimes it's the result of simple isolationism, that people don't know or care to know what life in other countries is like, sometimes it's nothing more than rooting for the home team.

Now, please note this does not mean that people who love their country excuse the bad stuff done in its name.  If you love your country, you try to do right.  For example, true American patriots support equal rights because it is extending the rights guaranteed to everyone in the Constitution to people a bunch of discriminatory assholes say shouldn't get it because they say so.  You want your country to be a shining example to the world, and work to make it such.  You don't just say it is and overlook the bad just because your country is so awesome.

I bring this up because EVERYBODY has national pride.  Americans can't see to grasp the idea that the image we have of America is not the image other countries have of us.  The British view us differently.  The French view us differently.  The Japanese.  The Russians.  Everybody.  And they all love their own countries for whatever reasons.  So if someone doesn't think America is the greatest thing in the world, that's just what those people think.  Just like America being the greatest thing in the world is just what you think.

I bring this up because of the gap in awareness created by pop culture.  Lots of anime nuts are surprised to find out that Americans are not greeted with open arms in Japan (as the JET murders demonstrated).  And since most people are entertainers, people project their own values onto them and are surprised when the real person underneath says or does something they disagree with on a fundamental level.

The first recent hint of this was the hubbub surrounding Korean rapper PSY.  His song Gangnam Style was a runaway hit, he was appearing on US TV, the video went viral...then someone dug up that he had done an anti-American protest song.  Well, to me, that figures, given US involvement in the Korean War and our odd diplomacy afterwards (and let's face it -- we didn't do ourselves any favors in Vietnam, either).  Given Gangnam Style is basically a cultural insult, I would have been very surprised if PSY had NOT done a US protest song.  He apologized, although I think that was just to smooth ruffled feathers than an actual change of heart (hey, American celebrities get away with that stuff all the time, why can't he?).  Either way, he has the right to think what he does about America, and you can agree, disagree, or ignore.  I chose to ignore because PSY's success doesn't matter to me -- Gangnam Style is nothing more than the new Macarena.

That was pretty much it for a while, until one of the most beloved international movie stars ever got caught up.  I am talking about the greatest action movie star of all time, Jackie Chan (okay, those of you siding with Jet Li, I'll give you your point, but you won't change my mind).  Chan has always been careful about how he markets himself, licensing his movies and images in a variety of ways, such as Rumble In The Bronx bubble bath (no, that's not obscene, just silly.  The Hello Kitty vibrator is obscene).  All those fancy sports cars at the start of City Hunter?  Those weren't on loan for the scene, they are his, bought and paid for.  Chan learned early on to keep certain opinions to himself.  Us longtime fans are aware he has rather...old fashioned views of women and their place in the world.  He will apparently discuss this when the microphones are off and Michelle Yeoh is not around (no kidding -- she has joked in interviews that he won't say that stuff to her because he's afraid she'll kick his ass).  There was also his recent comment about the Chinese having "too much freedom" and needing to be controlled by the government.  Finding out about this was disappointing because I love Jackie and his movies -- he's entertaining and a humble and decent guy.  But no one will ever be an exact copy of me, he's entitled to think as he wishes, so I have to let it go.

Well, it seems that Americans, who have been bashing China since the Clinton Administration, can't take it when it's their turn in the barrel.  Jackie Chan recently said in an interview on Chinese television --

Jackie Chan: The New China. The real success has been made in the past dozen of years. Our country’s president also admits they have the corruption problem, and some other stuff, but we are making progress. What I can see is our country is continuously making progress and learning. If you talk about corruption, the entire world, the United State, has no corruption?

Host: America.

Chan: The most corrupt in the world.

Host: Really?

Chan: Of course. Where does this Great Breakdown [financial crisis] come from? It started exactly from the world, the United States. When I was interviewed in the U.S., people asked me, I said the same thing. I said now that China has become strong, everyone is making an issue of China. If our own countrymen don’t support our country, who will support our country? We know our country has many problems. We [can] talk about it when the door is closed. To outsiders, [we should say] “our country is the best.”

Host: So he can’t get enough of his more than 20 ambassador titles. I think the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should ask him to be the ambassador to the United States.

Chan: Seriously, I am always like, when the door is closed, “Our country is like this and this. Who and who is not good.” But outside, “Our country is the best, like so and so, is the best.” You cannot say our country has problems [when you are outside], like “Yes, our country is bad.”

This is revealing a blatant hypocrisy, and not on Jackie's part.  People are saying that Chan doesn't know what he's talking about.  Please note these are the same people who make jokes about how corrupt and old boy network Capitol Hill is.  Apparently, they subscribe to Jackie's philosophy of defend your country while attacking another.  Same thing, only the countries are reversed.

It's silly to think you know someone like a buddy just because they make entertainment you like.  It's even dumber when everybody has to have the same values you do when those values are not based on universal absolutes (don't kill, don't steal) and are based on regionalism or relativism.  Should Jackie have said that?  Well, why shouldn't he have said that stuff?  It's just ironic that Americans who brag about our freedom of speech won't extend the courtesy to someone they disagree with.