This week is going to go down in my life story as the week I became a conservative
. Yeah, I'm serious. I don't know exactly how it happened, but it happened.
For starters, I should explain that I'm working on a big project right now: the establishment of an Asian cultural institute at my school, the University of Florida. It is easily the biggest political shitfest I have ever been involved in. One faction wants the institute to focus on the needs of "Asian-American" students, while another wants to incorporate students who are actually Asian as well. And as you might expect, the East Asians are having their voices heard far and above the South Asians and Middle Easterners.
So the story starts on Monday. Our president invited a young Filipino-American woman from Washington, DC to visit us and host a workshop on "student activism." I had good feelings about her until she opened her mouth and began talking. God, what a mistake.
"I brought some cough drops with me in case you all want some," she said. "As leaders, you have to keep yourselves healthy. In balance." So far, so good. Then came the kicker: "And you know, when I went to buy these, I had to choose between like thirty different kinds! That's capitalism for you... so many useless choices."
What does that have to do with anything? I was thinking.
Anyway, she went through some babble, nothing too extraordinary or enlightening, and then started talking about race relations. I immediately knew that something bad was probably going to happen, seeing as I was the only Caucasian in the room besides the reporter from the school paper.
"What they don't realize," she said, "is that we grow up with identity problems. And they have no clue how that feels."
"Uh, excuse me," I said. I was tempted to say something about walking outside my Japanese high school and being called "yankii" behind my back, but I decided to make it simpler. "Everyone has identity problems when they grow up. Your race doesn't matter. Nobody knows what the hell they're supposed to be when they're young, and many people don't know what they're supposed to be when they're older, either."
She was taken aback. Good, I thought, now she knows how I feel.
I was walking out of the conference and talking to my good friend luminuxious, one of the chairs of the committee. "That was bad," I said.
"I know," he said.
On Wednesday, we sat down with two deans and the leaders of several other student groups to discuss how our institute would be set up. There were people there from the Asian Student Union, Black Student Union, Hispanic-Latino Student Council, and a number of smaller ethnic organizations as well.
As the meeting drug on, I quickly realized that everyone in the room was working for themselves—for the narrow interests of their own groups. I was there trying to be a good guy, trying to speak in favor of the common interests of the student body, while everyone else was bickering over which group would have primacy.
When I got home, I sat down in front of the computer and began goofing off, trying to get the issues out of my mind. Then, I stumbled upon the PBS Frontline website, and began watching the special on the war on Iraq, which focused on the ideological divide in the administration leading up to the conflict.
As I listened to Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle blab on about realpolitik, I suddenly stopped and blinked. "Jesus Christ, I almost agree with the motherfuckers!"
Over dinner with luminuxious that night, I said, "There's a problem. I'm turning into a conservative. First I was defending the white race against that stupid-ass activist, then I found myself in agreement with the neocon elite! What am I going to do next, picket an abortion clinic?"
The next morning in class, we were discussing the Youngstown
case, and the dialogue turned to the broader issue of labor laws: specifically, how the President could order airline
employees to return to work in the event of a strike
. Nominally, I would be against the idea. My father, after all, was a steward
in the Transport Workers Union
, and would bitch about any such action despite being a devout Republican.
But someone started talking about the airlines, and I suddenly chime in: "The law is about security. Labor rights are important, but if the airlines stop flying, it cripples the economy, and the economy is vital to national security."
The Rastafarian who objected to the strike-busting in the first place looked surprised. "You think the economy is so important in terms of national security?"
"It is! The economy is more important than just about anything else! And even a small stoppage can wreck the flow of individuals and freight... look at 9/11 or..." Then it hit me: I invoked 9/11 to defend corporate interests against organized labor!
Now I'm working on a constitution
for the organ that will supervise our institute. The constitution is the most clever legal document I will probably ever get to write: it disenfranchises everyone in as many ways as possible to keep any individual from messing up the status quo that will be established by our initial cadre of leaders.
"Damn it, I really am a conservative now," I said today. "Damn it all to hell."
luminuxious was supportive. "Cheer up, man. You can still be like ze Governator of Cahl-ee-fornia."
Update: I just had my car towed from a downtown parking lot. While I was walking across the ghetto to fetch it at 3 in the morning, I realized that I wasn't mad at money-grubbing capitalism: I was mad that they were grubbing my money for no good reason.
Sheesh, I'm a hopeless case.