If there was a college course on generation classification, I definitely never took it. I took very few college courses, actually, far fewer than you fancy-schmancy “graduates.” And while my life has, by the letter of the law, spanned several decades, not one person I’ve met has ever spent any time with me to help me understand how the whole generation system works. What the hell is a generation? Everybody’s born at different times, so how does anyone get classified properly? How many years does a generation span? Is it like a decade? Is it 20 years? I’m not a baby-boomer, so I’m far too young for Generation X and I know that I’m too old for Generation Y. I think I once heard someone describe my generation as Generation Why Bother. Cute, but it doesn’t help me understand exactly where I fit in this nebulous system. So, since nobody’s helping out, I’ll just describe myself as a happy member of Generation After-School Specials.
I have fond memories of the final sliver of the 1970s and even fonder memories well into the 1980s as my mind was enriched and developed. It was a proud generation full of valuable television programs, often shown after school was over, but before the evening news. The programs explained very convincingly that we needn’t any longer refer to someone as “darkies” or “fags” or “retarded,” you could simply refer to that person as Ron or Lindsey or Paul because, holy shit, he or she was a real person! Really? Yes really!
Still, because I was influenced by polarized mid-afternoon socio-political propaganda, and as I am a de facto member of the After-School Special Generation, I have been conditioned to get a little nervous when I hear someone use the word Oriental. My mom used it recently in a conversation we’d had. I got nervous. I slipped in the idea that “we don’t say Oriental anymore.” She had a reasonable counter-argument and at that point it didn’t seem to matter to me anymore. And, as I am prone to lose interest in the topic at hand to parse another bit of datum, I started thinking about Orientals and my stream of consciousness took me to the opposite of Oriental, which is Occidental. Occidental means, essentially, that something is Western, i.e., from the western hemisphere. Oriental means Eastern. People refer to Americans as Westerners. People refer to things Asian as being Eastern. So why is Oriental bad when Westerner is okay? Do people practice Oriental medicine if it means the same thing as Eastern medicine? If I started a company called Western Petroleum would I get sued by Occidental Petroleum? If I dated an American of Asian descent, would she be an Occidental-Oriental? A Western-Easterner? Some of these adjectives just don’t carry over, I guess.
It all beats the shit out of me, and that’s why I’m just a lowly humor blogger pointlessly flagellating amidst an illuminated crowd of intellectuals. Maybe you can help me out with your vast knowledge because I still get fucking nervous when I hear “Oriental.”
[c] 2009 Russ of America