Instead Of Assimilation: Multicultural Chutzpah
June 06, 2011, 03:05 PM
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The 30-second campaign-ad video for Dan Adler opens with a thirty-ish man of north-Asian descent complaining to Adler, in perfect, unaccented English, "Asians are 15% of voters here. Politicians don`t speak to our issues." So the complainer, probably born here and, anyway, looking fully compatible with the American grunge culture of Southern California — please check out the video! — identifies with "Asian issues." Given his apparently complete assimilation, why would a person of Asian descent have Asian-specific "issues." What might those be? The ad doesn`t explore that question, jumping instead to an older woman, of north-Asian origin and with a heavy accent, who says "I have issues!" Asked for her input by Adler, she says "Medicare!" Medicare is an Asian-American issue?? That doesn`t get asked, either. As Adler begins to reply, the woman interrupts, "I`m Korean!" Adler mentions that his wife is Korean, so the Korean-American woman says, uncertainly, "You Jewish!" After Adler acknowledges that his family is Jewish, the woman concludes, while gesturing back and forth, "We minorities should stick together."

So, anyway, who is Adler? He ran in the May 17th special election to replace long-time Congresswoman Jane Harman, who had resigned her seat representing California`s 36th congressional district (Torrance, the "beach cities," and Venice) in late February to head up the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. One of 16 [!!!] candidates in the race, Adler amassed 0.5% of the vote, falling a bit short of the vote totals for the two top finishers, Democrat Janice Hahn (24%) and Republican Graig Huey (22%), who will compete in the July 12th runoff election. What`s really rich, though, is Adler`s use of a campaign ad peddling the notion that Jews in California are marginalized, so that they need to stick together with other minorities. California`s current congressional delegation includes U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both Jewish, and the following six U.S. Representatives (out of 53, total) who are Jewish: Brad Sherman (27th District), Howard Berman (28th), Adam Schiff (29th), Henry Waxman (30th), Bob Filner (51st), and Susan Davis (53rd). And there were seven Jewish representatives from California before Harman resigned! So the Adler campaign video demonstrates chutzpah all around — the assimilated man of Asian descent reflexively bleating about "Asian issues," the Korean-American woman focusing first on everyone`s ethnicity, and the Jewish candidate implicitly agreeing that Jews and other minorities need to stick together. (Though to be fair, in a following voiceover Adler says "I will represent everyone in the 36th District.") Those uncertain about the meaning of the Yiddish word "chutzpah" can get the idea from the joking — we hope! — example that chutzpah is demonstrated when a man murders both of his parents and, after being convicted of the foul deed, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he`s an orphan. Disclosure: "Nachman" is, indeed, a Jewish name. I`m half-Jewish, entirely on my late father`s side. But I`m an atheist, and I know little enough about Judaism that I`d never even heard of the Talmud (the massive body of rabbinic commentaries on the Torah) until I was in my twenties. On the other hand, I do know some pretty great Jewish jokes (of which Jews aren`t the butt, unlike the relation between, say, Poles and Polish jokes).