Oh no. Here she goes again.
For those who weren't already aware, I have been in Manchester, England for the last month now spending time with the Japanese side of my family.
There was something quite relieving stepping onto the plane from Seattle, knowing I was going to get off the plane somewhere where a lot of the things plaguing my mind couldn't fully follow me. The mass continual issues around gun legislation and tragedies have been making me feel rather hopeless, so when my mother asked if I wanted to hop a plane and head to Manchester, my answer? I left two days later.
After arriving to England on arguably the most beautiful day I've seen in England to date, I felt at peace. Like I said, a lot of the things that bother me right now in the U.S. can't physically follow me.
What I didn't expect however was running into awkward, and generally rude comments by people here in Manchester.
*** Something to note about this area, there is a large Chinese population here. Much larger than the Japanese population. ***
One day, as I went to the neighborhood pub with my grandfather, he wanted to get his favorite whiskey. He has lived in the area for more than 40 years, so he knew exactly what it was he was getting before we even left our own home.
As he asked the bartender- in English- whether they had certain whiskey types, we had a great conversation with another man who made all kinds of helpful suggestions. Yet again, this entire conversation between bartender, my grandfather, the stranger at the bar, and myself, was in English.
As we were standing at the bar, a man who had been to our left approached me and my grandfather and said in poorly spoken Chinese, "Ni Hao". For a second I almost thought I was imagining it. I had never had a stranger back home in Seattle say Ni Hao to me, because generally speaking that is considered rude. I couldn't help but feel uncomfortable and simply told the man we are Japanese, so we say "Konnichiwa". After that I walked away.
A side note: I actually happen to speak some Chinese because many of my friends are from Hong Kong, Taiwan and China. However, the stranger of course didn't know that.
My grandfather and I did eventually get our drinks sorted, him with whatever whiskey they had, and me with far too much gin in my gin and tonic. As we outside to sit and converse, I saw the same man who had said, "ni hao" to us, playing with his children, dog and wife, laughing happily in the garden. I thought to myself, "surely, he can't be... racist right? He seems like a well-spirited, happy family man". I asked my friends here in England what they thought, but none of them are Southeast Asian, so it was hard to know if their experiences could truly be compared to mine.
So, I started asking the tough questions to the people it really matters to, British Southeast Asians located right here in Manchester. Mostly after a few drinks, outside a pub, or on the sidewalks of Manchester, I've stopped complete strangers and asked them this one question.
Has a stranger ever come up to you in England and said, "Ni Hao".
I first asked a young girl who was half- southeast Asian like myself. She told me that she hd never had that experience in all of her time living in England, but she did also say that she doesn't necessarily look as Asian as I do, so she didn't know if it was fair to really compare. Fair enough.
After that night, I almost let it go entirely.
It wasn't until I went into the local TK Maxx (not TJ, it's TK in England), and had a cashier ask me if my signature was in Chinese, (it's a simple, "SR") that I really began to wonder; how implicit is racial ignorance in England?
So, I let myself continue asking the hard questions, and what I found didn't surprise me all that much. Of 10 Southeast Asian Manchester folk, 9 of them have told me something similar has happened to them in England. The only person who has not experienced this, was my fellow half-Asian friend I mentioned earlier.
What does all of this mean? Are people in England racist or simply ignorant?
Don't look to me for any answers, I'm only here to tell you what I and other Southeast Asians experience in England.
If you haven't heard of it, you aren't alone. A lot of Americans have no idea what causes excruciating political gridlock, so let me break it down for you.
Legislation presented to congress often follows the general preferential path of whatever party holds the House majority. It is known that many partisan bills never make it to the house floor simply due to not gaining enough supporters from the majority party at the time.
However, a less-known tradition known as the Hastert Rule, plagues the ability to bring forth legislation that is not supported by the majority of the majority party, often resulting in the progression of legislation that solely aligns with the Speaker of the House and their respective party.
The widespread acceptance of the Hastert Rule being applied to American politics is an inefficient tradition that stalls legislation, as well as blocks the ability for bipartisanship, ultimately resulting in political gridlock which goes against the foundation of our democracy.
The Hastert Rule has quickly become deeply ingrained within American politics, yet was only introduced in 2004 by Dennis Hastert. At the time, Dennis Hastert- a Republican from Illinois- was serving as the 51st Speaker of the House and still holds the title as the longest serving Republican Speaker.
As one blog stated for the reason Hastert first introduced this tradition in the house, “The logic behind the Hastert rule is that a Speaker first and foremost wants to remain Speaker.” The reason it is observed by the Republican party, is to maintain their control of the House, but in turn, Hastert put greater importance on keeping the majority party- which at the time was Republican- happy, as opposed to upholding the very foundation of American democracy. By prioritizing the Speaker keeping his or her seat, the minority party ultimately faces a system that works to ensure that their legislation never makes it to a committee hearing, and therefore creates a system in which bipartisanship is nearly impossible, ultimately giving the position of Speaker more direct influence than stated within the text of the constitution.
In more ways than one, there are strong reasons behind why the Hastert Rule was originally created and is now still observed. As defined by Taegan Goddard’s political dictionary, The Hastert Rule effectively created a system where, “Democrats were prevented from passing bills with the assistance of a small number of members of the majority party.” In turn, in order for the Democrats at the time to bring forth successful legislation, bills could not lean too heavily towards progressing solely the Democratic agenda, because the bill would not gain the support necessary from majority party members to be presented on the house floor. In September of 2013, tensions circulated around stripping provisions for Obamacare, which placed Speaker of the House, John Boehner, in a position of receiving incredible amounts of scrutiny from his caucus.
Although it can be argued that since the majority is elected directly by the people, that their legislation represents their constituents, yet sadly, this is simply not the case. Regardless of its intentions, the truth remains that due to the process of partisan gerrymandering, congressional redistricting often doesn’t end up accurately capturing constituents interests, which invalidates the legitimacy behind the claim that Hastert’s Rule places the interests of the American people first, before party politics.
There's many arguments for why the Hastert rule is often still observed in American politics today, with most of them focussing around whichever party is in control’s overall want to maintain the closest form of absolute power possible over the opposite respective party.
Through claiming the Hastert Rule for what legislation is presented, this ensures the majority of the majority is constantly pleased with the Speaker, as they are bringing forth legislation that has a greater chance of being passed, but also may face greater scrutiny from the minority party.
Additionally, although the Hastert Rule has the potential to quicken the process of the passage of bills, since the system has been in place, legislation has only been passed at an even slower rate than prior to Hastert’s term as Speaker. Prior to Hastert’s term, it was common for Congress at the time to enact over 600 pieces of legislation throughout their congressional cycle. Following his appointment, Congress peaked at 504 pieces of legislation being enacted by the 108th congress, comparatively however, only 1% of legislation has been enacted during the current 115th Congress.
The implementation of the Hastert rule within American politics, grants the Speaker of the House more power than allocated to him/her within the actual text of the United States Constitution. In turn, by allocating excessive amounts of power not explicitly stated within the constitution to the Speaker of the House, the system of checks and balances becomes skewed in favor of one individual and his/her’s respective party, which serves as an even greater threat than it skewing in favor of solely one branch.
Despite claims of the Hastert Rule progressing legislative agendas, the very construct of one individual determining what legislation is voted upon goes against the foundation of American democracy, by prioritizing the majority party’s agenda over the American people’s. Finally, by allowing for the Hastert Rule to be overlooked, House minority members opt to lose essential privileges- such as the ability to bring forth legislation for a vote- explicitly granted to them, resulting in the loss of their positions being recognized as significant.
So yeah. It sucks.
Hot take, I know. I get that it's catchy or whatever. but in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing...it had to be said.
No, this isn't some misogynistic, right-wing person saying this to try and once again devalue women and their future accomplishments. This is me, a leftist, "woke", young woman, tired of hearing a phrase that devalues women of the past and the present.
Every time I hear someone say "The Future is Female", I think about how it neglects to acknowledge the extraordinary women of our past, and present that have often hidden in the shadow of their male counterparts.
Women have for too long been silenced.
Need we not forget that so many accomplishments have been led, created and driven by females. Back to the Apollo thing.
I hope the next time you hear,"The Future is Female", you think of often overlooked, incredible women from the past like Margaret Hamilton. The woman who wrote code as tall as herself- by hand- for the Apollo Project.
Yesterday, I was driving on the I-5 freeway from West Seattle heading home after a company softball game. We had just lost the game in the bottom of the last inning, 11-12. Regardless, during and after that game I was the happiest I had been in weeks.
As I let my mind wander listening to my favorite (self-shoutout) me-crafted, Spotify playlist for driving, I had a few realizations that drove me to write this post. (p.s. dropping the link to that playlist here -->)
Vibey Music For a Long Drive- Spotify Playlist
I consider myself politically active. During campaign seasons, I volunteer canvassing and phone banking for candidates in my spare time. When asked about the issues that I find closest to my heart, one that always comes to mind is mental health. The importance of mental health could never be overstated in my opinion. How you are mentally will shape how you view the world around you, how you treat your neighbors and loved ones, and ultimately how you sleep with your thoughts at night.
For many people, mental illness is a deeply personal issue, one that needs drastic support and recognition from the American government. Now, back to driving down I-5.
As I drove down the freeway, my mind wandering post softball game loss, I realized I'm depressed. No, I didn't self-diagnose myself in a fury of feelings due to losing in the last inning (although I wish it were that simple), I realized once again, that I am still depressed. From my last two years attending University, it's become abundantly clear to me how quiet I truly have been about my clinical depression. My closest friends tell me that I used to be the bubbliest person in the world, but somewhere along the way things changed. For someone who deeply cares about fighting the stigma around mental illness, I've been awfully quiet about my own experiences living with it.
Now at this point, if you struggle with depression you may understand the feeling I'm getting at here. The feeling of having a wonderful day, life, career, family, or relationship and still not physically be able to produce enough happy to meet other people's energy. Or, the feeling of going from being extremely happy, to extremely sad in a matter of seconds. For me, having both depression & anxiety feels as though I'm never doing enough or constantly imagining worst case scenarios. Whereas depression often feels like a muted, toned down version of the person I am. A shell of the bubbly person my friends recall from our younger years.
I was officially diagnosed with depression when I was in my mid-teens. Thinking back on those years, I spent a lot of time trying to fit a mold I thought was expected of me and I was scared of being noticed for falling out of a universal path. Maybe it was my academically rigorous public high school, but the pressure became overwhelming. I think it's difficult for people who don't have any form of mental illness to fully understand something they've physically never felt before. Constantly feeling like a piece of your energy and desire to live are both missing.
Now, this has been a long blog post and it's the first of more honest truths and stories dealing with mental illness I'll be sharing here. I'll talk about my experiences dealing with mental illness in the "real" working world, medications and therapies I've tried, and the ways I find time for my own self care.
Thank you for being here and for reading part of my story.
If you read this and know me, please let me know: was I really that bubbly?
Political Side Note: Also, I'll be talking about just how true the image below is. Many groups - low income, people of color, people with physical disabilities, etc.- dealing with mental illness are at even greater risk to commit suicide due to undiagnosed or untreated mental illness.
Born to a Japanese Mother and American father, Seattle, Washington has for almost entirety been my home. Seattle is known as being pretty openly progressive politically, and I guess sort of racially diverse. Seattle was one of the first States to legalize recreational marijuana, and has two female Democratic Senators.
However, I grew up in the suburbs which lacked Latinx/ African American representation. Look to the left for the racial makeup of my hometown.
Growing up, I didn't really know where I fit in. I didn't really care about what I wore until I was probably in midle School. I had a solid few friends when I was young and in middle school came across a problem.
I didn't really know anyone besides my core elementary friends, and they faded out of my life. As new friends appeared I started to notice a trend that my family members began to notice as well, all of my friends with the exclusion of a handful are Asian Americans. The spaces I would occupy and feel most comfortable were the ones where I was surrounded by other Asian Americans.
One of my close friends, Masaaki, who was a study abroad student here in Washington from Japan for a year asked me once for my thoughts. He said, "Sara, I don't understand why Japanese Americans don't really speak the language here." I explained to him the history of World War II and the Pacific Northwest' s incarceration of Japanese Americans following the Pearl Harbor attacks. Many people believe that much of the language was lost during that time period for Japanese Americans, due to fear of being suspected of spying on the U.S. My family immigrated here long after World War II, so this particular historical aspect didn't affect my family's language. That conversation with Masa really stuck with me, and I think about how detrimental government officials and laws can ultimately be to shaping history. The law isn't always right. In fact, from the past we've learned that it's in great part been wrong. If laws were always perfectly made, we wouldn't ever have to create new ones or make adjustments. Just something to thing about.
As mentioned previously, I grew up in the suburbs where everyone knew everyone to an extent, and I still find myself making hometown connections all over the world to this day. Let me say however, to be fair, the majority of my graduating class attends the University of Washington, where I am as well.
P.S. Here are just some of the craziest times I've used the words, "Small World" :
- When my dad was in the hospital downtown and had scan done by a woman who was my friend's mother.
- Nearly six years later, at a different hospital when one of my classmates was doing rounds as a hospital intern and waltzed into my father's room.
- My Congressional Representative? Kim Schrier. Also known as my pediatrician for more than 16 years.
Overall? I would be lying if I said I know 100% who I am, since I think it's largely dependent on the space I'm in. Growing up with two parents both in sales, you learn how to overcome objections and talk to essentially everyone. Confidence is often associated with being an extrovert, but that's not me anymore.
When I was younger, I would say hi to everyone and anyone, because I genuinely wanted to. I think that's the biggest difference between between introverted/ or extroverted (I consider, "ambivert" to be a valid middle-ground, however I still think everyone identifies more with one or the other).Anyways, my point is, that when I was younger I wanted to run into people, to engage and socialize and be that person. Nowadays, I still talk to just about everyone, but often I do it for the sake of others to almost solidify who they see- and if they've known me a long time, who they've grown to expect- me to be, rather than my own desire to often keep to myself.
Check up on my blog to read as I attempt to figure this roller-coaster of a thing called life.
So, here's to moving forward.