Saturday, September 5, 2009

Never Trust a Foreigner

A few weeks ago I was in a nearby port city here on my Philippine island, and I was approached by another foreigner, another American in fact, who introduced himself and then set about telling me all the reasons why this country is "crazy". I just stood there and let him have his say, and when he was done, or realized that I had heard enough, he invited me to a local expat hangout where I could regain my sanity and catch up on the generally scabrous adventures of the tiny expat community.

Needless to say, but I didn't take him up on his invitation. Whenever I encounter an expat who insists on pointing out to me how this country cannot get anything right or that it doesn't make any sense, I remind myself of the lines from two American films (both of which were directed by foreigners). The first line is from The Falcon and the Snowman, and is spoken by a Mexican policeman to Sean Penn (as the "Snowman" Daulton Lee) after Penn tells him angrily, upon being interrogated for days and made to wear only his underwear, "You can't do this to me! I'm an American!" To which the Mexican replies dryly, "This is not America." It is a warning not to expect anyone to give a damn what nationality you are.

The second line is from Chinatown, and is spoken to Jack Nicholson (as Jake Gittes) by his partner at the very end of the film when Jake turns to utter some choice words to a corrupt cop: "Forget it Jake. It's Chinatown." It is a reminder to keep one's counsel and to observe the proverb, "a soft answer turneth away wrath".* Or, better still, no answer at all.

*Proberbs, 15:1

Department of Corrections: I was contacted recently by someone eager to point out to me that the titles of two of my posts are inaccurate. "Shouldn't it be three cheers for democracy and three cheers for the Nobel Prize?" he asked ingenuously. It should indeed be three. Except that, in both bases, my subjects were deserving of only two. Thanks, Mr. Helper.

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