March 19, 2011

Shots Fired: Alexandra Wallace and Jimmy Wong

There’s been a lot of talk about civility in our political discourse, certainly since Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot back in January at a public rally. Folks famous and not have commented on how mean we are to each other, or how mean our political symbols are, and how there’s all this bullying going on. I’ve posted on it myself – and it’s not just political speech, it’s pretty much any article or event or thought or new item that can ‘inspire’ vitriol, spite, hate, and just general lack of respect, and to me that’s a shame. I think we can do better than that.

Some folks react by getting rid of the symbols, as politicians removed ‘targets’ from their websites (Sarah Palin’s PAC, most famously); some react by getting rid of the people who express opinions that don’t stay within expectations (Juan Williams, also famously), and others react by simply removing the comments as if they were never made.

This happened to me not long ago. A friend removed some links to articles on insanely stupid shootings as WalMart stores that I had posted in response to a pro-gun post of hers. I was within my rights to put them up, and she was clearly within her rights to remove them. What we didn’t do, to our credit, was digress into a shouting match, calling each other names, arguing red-faced in front of friends and family and carrying on like a couple of politicians..er, uh cable news pundits, er, uh, um, idiots. 

The latest famous casualty of the firing process is Gilbert Gottfried, the voice of the Aflac duck. Aflac, which I read does something like 75% of their business in Japan, was not even remotely tolerant of a tweet or two that Gottfried made after the twin disasters hit a week ago. Clearly it’s too soon to be making tsunami jokes, and clearly when you’re the spokesvoice of a company, you should know who you quack for and have some understanding of what that company would consider reasonable behavior. Or, maybe he just was tired of the role and wanted out – who knows.

But there is another option, other than shouting or firing or pretending the issue doesn't exist, and this video exchange is a priceless illustration of that.

In the first video, a blond American girl, UCLA student Alexandra Wallace  posts her thoughts about the "hordes of Asian people" that attend UCLA, their families and weekend habits. She then kicks it up notch and complains about them talking on their cell phones in the UCLA library – as she’s “on the verge of an epiphany” in her Political Science studies – presumably to family members in Japan about the "tsunami-thing." She also describes herself (accurately) as not being very politically correct but also as being well-raised.  She displays a sing-song, generic Asian dialect (ching-chong, ting-tong, ling-long and so on) to imitate the students on their phones.

Now don’t get me wrong, folks shouldn’t be talking on their cell phones in a library –she’s right on that point. The rest of it – well, maybe not so much.

In the second video, a young Chinese musician named Jimmy Wong responds via song to Alexandra, in what can only be described as hysterically creative and scathing. He mocks her Asian stereotypes, he mocks her studying (his line about her epiphanies is a beauty) and then translates her fake Asian words into a love song, complete with harmonies and instrumentation. Through his use of her own words, he turns the whole thing  around on her.

It's a perfect response, and one I wish we all had the creativity to dream up.