Oh no. Here she goes again.
(I made a video on this)-->youtu.be/l6hbZSgbjMQ
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.