Saturday, October 07, 2006

Greetings from Iowa!

I'm currently sitting at Panera getting really hyper on free refills of iced tea. I'm supposed to be "working on my MPH thesis" but this has so far entailed googling myself and everyone I know and shopping for shoes on Bluefly. And now I can't find an outlet to plug my laptop into so I'll just keep typing until my laptop dies. Hi!

I was home in Centralia for a night a few days ago and got to visit with Reflux. Apparently my parents noticed him walking around in circles and hiding under the table and barking at a table leg nonstop, so they decided to take him to the vet. Reflux is now the proud owner of the diagnosis of senile dementia and, on top of Detrol for urinary incontinence, Tylenol Arthritis, and baby aspirin to prevent heart disease, he now also gets Benadryl PRN for uncontrollable barking. I do believe this is more for my parents' benefit than anything else, because once he gets his 1/8 tablet of Benadryl, he passes right out. [As a side note, this is much like what meth addicts do when they come down off a high -- they give their kids Benadryl so everyone passes out together. It's about the FAMILY, ya'll.]

Also, last weekend at a bar in Iowa, somebody called me "a dirty Mexican" right after I turned down his proposition to teach me "how to dance American." [This prompted a huge reaction of disgust from me; like first of all at least use a race-appropriate slur on me, and I am an American and probably contribute more to American society and the economy than you ever will YOU IGNORANT RACIST FUCKING ASSHOLE. Anyway, I'm over it. Let's move on.] I was relating this lighthearted story to Nikki on the phone this morning at my friend's house in Iowa City when somebody knocked on the door. I was the only person in the house so I answered the door thinking it was one of my hosts who forgot his keys or something. It was actually a young rough-lookin' white dude.

R: Uh...can I help you?

Rough lookin' white dude: Supreme look of confusion on his face. Are you American?

R: Oh. No. He. DI'ENT. Bitch, you came knocking on my door! I don't speak retard. [Ok, I totally stole that from A N N A and intend to find a way to incorporate it into every one of my conversations from now on.] Well, no. That is what I would have like to say, but instead I was sort of caught off-guard.

N: Who is it? What's going on?

R: Ew! This a-hole at the door just asked me if I was American!

RLWD: Uh, I just wanted to know if you had seen this big black dude named Darnell?

N: What is he talking about?

R: I have no idea. To RLWD: Uh, no I don't. Thanks for stopping by. Buh-bye now. To Nikki: I swear it's not usually like this.

N: Laughing riotously. Well what else do you expect from Iowa?

Ok, and that is completely, 100% not true. I have had nothing but very good experiences and met lots of lovely people in Iowa, and the truth is I'm more sort of confused and astonished at these two completely isolated experiences. After careful thought, I have come to some conclusions. 1) The incident at the bar was some frustrated drunk asshole who wanted some booty to rub up on, and if I wasn't brown-skinned, he would have come up with some other way to humiliate me after I said no. 2) The dude at the door wasn't hateful, just really fucking ignorant. 3) I am tired of having to prove to people that I am American! I am Indian-American, that is what I identify myself as first and foremost. I am fully Indian by blood and fully American by my environment. Must they be so mutually exclusive?

I remember after 9.11 I mounted a small American flag on my dashboard, but my parents insisted that I also affix a patriotic bumper sticker to my bumper and display another American flag in my back window. My mom also bought several American flags to hang on the inside of every window of our house in Centralia. I totally understood why we did it, but it made me feel really, really hollow and kind of cheap inside that I had to blatantly advertise a feeling that already existed so strongly inside of me, lest I not be ostensibly "patriotic" enough, because that would clearly mean I was one of "them." It killed me. Did white people assume that just because I was brown, seeing those planes crash into those towers on TV that morning wasn't as devastating, as heartbreaking as it was to them? My family's history in America dates back to 1979. Does that mean the roots of flesh and blood we have here are any less genuine?

I grew up in Southern Illinois and have lived my whole life in the heartland. I love the midwest and I am as fiercely loyal to and proud of where I'm from as I am of what my heritage and ancestry are. I just hate having to explain it all the time, as if to justify my existence here or make my presence here more tolerable. Whew. Sorry to emote all over you, Internet.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am brown too and I completely understand what you mean...I don't check the "White/Caucasion" box, so I have to put on an extra show of patriotism just to show that I am not "antiAmerican," because, really, nowadays, you are "with us or you are against us." I think "Us" here, means white american? I'm not sure though.

Anonymous said...

As a large white man, I recognize and appreciate the contribution of Asians (including Indinas, of course) to this country.

trAcy said...

i hate we all have to be so defensive about our "patriotism," too. i don't know what it's like on the inside to be perceived as "other." keep educating the freaks who encounter you.

maybe some of the perception problem is that usually people assume that indians and arabs and probably other asians are only in the united states during their college years and are not "real americans," people who grew up here or intend to put down roots and stay.

and then there's that whole mexican thing that has narrow-thinkers all up in arms about "defending."

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