Honolulu Lite


Monday, July 23, 2001

Open mouth, extract
foot, reinsert foot

I wasn't the only person to note the irony of local chef Chai Chaowasaree being deported just as a national dialogue begins about granting amnesty to 3 million illegal Mexican laborers.

But I'm the only one who managed to malign the 3 million Mexicans in my defense of Chai in a recent column.

I always feel bad when I'm accused of blackguarding 3 million of anybody and I try not to. After all, I wouldn't want some columnist in Mexico lumping me in with 2,999,999 other Americans just to make a point.

When I pointed out the irony of the situation, I was trying to stick up for Chai, not step down on the Mexicans, but not all readers saw it that way.

"When I read your column regarding the case of Chai Chaowasaree, I felt my throat tighten and a sick feeling washed over me," wrote Claudia Parras. "Your comparison of Chef Chaowasaree's predicament and that of Mexican workers who also entered the USA illegally was unnecessarily brutal ... How can it be that their work contribution within the United States is not as important as that of a restaurant owner?"

I rarely am unnecessarily brutal, preferring instead the more direct, necessarily brutal route. In this case, however, I believe I might have been INADVERTENTLY brutal, which is another matter entirely.

To infer that many of the illegal Mexican laborers worked in the U.S. in order to send money back to their families in their homeland and not to start a new life in America was kind of brutal. That it wasn't intended that way doesn't really matter, since a reader's perception is a reader's reality. I violated the Hillary Clinton Rule of Defense: Don't insult a perfectly innocent third party while coming to the defense of another party.

You may remember, Hillary did so when she spoke up for her no-good Tom Cat husband when allegations first surfaced that he was fooling around on her. She said she supported him because she believed he was innocent, not because she was some "Stand By Your Man" backwoods Okie house frau, or something like that. By doing so, she unnecessarily insulted legendary country music performer Tammy Wynette, not to mention about 3 million country music enthusiasts (aka "voters") who consider "Stand By Your Man" a sort of rustic domestic anthem.

Likewise, in sticking up for Chef Chai, I didn't mean to disparage any hard-working Mexicans who wouldn't even be in the U.S. if farmers and ranch managers paid laborers what they deserve.

There, I did it again. I just brutalized the nation's farmers and ranch managers. What I mean is that if Americans weren't such tightwads and were willing to pay the true cost of a head of lettuce, which is to say, about $5.57 per, then farmers wouldn't have to exploit alien workers.

And of course, I mean "tightwads" in the most unbrutal sense of the word, because the last thing I want to do is disparage 260 Americans.

I think I better stop my defense of Chef Chai at this point before several other nations become involved.

Alo-Ha! Friday compiles odd bits of news from Hawaii
and the world to get your weekend off to an entertaining start.
Charles Memminger also writes Honolulu Lite Mondays,
Wednesdays and Sundays. Send ideas to him at the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210,
Honolulu 96813, phone 235-6490 or e-mail

The Honolulu Lite online archive is at:

E-mail to Features Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin