Thursday, April 19, 2012

The President, Culture, and Eating Dogs

Wow... Mitt Romney mentioned that the President ate dog as a child. My first reaction is, "Who gives a flying frack?" But then, after thinking about it for a moment, it speaks to a larger cultural issue, and American ignorance of other lands.

In the United States, for the most part, dog is not seen as livestock. They aren't even chattel, as you can go to jail for "mistreating" them. They have a special semi-human status. So, the vast vast majority of people in the U.S.A. have not, and will never eat dog meat. This is not so in many other cultures. In many Asian cultures the consumption of dog meat is normal practice. Asian cultures such as Indonesia, where the President spent some of his childhood, and in Korea where I enjoyed soup made from dog meat.

When I travel, I attempt to do very much as the "Romans" do. I want to eat all of the national foods, hang out in the local cafes, and open myself up to a culture that is very different from my own. It is part of the fun of traveling internationally. Therefore, when I was in Korea, eating dog was very high on my list. Dog is very big in the Martial Arts community in Korea, as dog meat is said to promote strength, and quicken recovery. So, I wanted to make sure that I experienced this unusual, to me, practice. The dog soup came in a spicy, kimchee based soup with vegetables and hard boiled eggs. The dog meat itself tasted like beef, but with a more concentrated beef flavor. It was very good. I would eat it again, and not blink an eye.

In Japan, I have eaten just about everything that they serve. Whale, raw fish of every kind, fermented beans (natto), and... live squid. Live squid is served in a shot glass of sea water. You use chop sticks to grab the squid and shove it in to your mouth. You try to chew, but live squid is very rubbery, and you end up just swallowing it whole. That isn't the strange part... The strange part is that the squid tries to escape. As you try to chew, the squid will be moving around, grabbing your tongue with its tentacles, and doing exactly what you would expect a live animal would do to prevent being eaten alive. The STRANGEST feeling, yes it gets better, is that it will fight for a few moments when it is in your stomach. Yes, you can feel it struggle. The psychological impact of that sensation is that you pretty much feel it moving long after it has been digested... I feel it move as I write this...

The point of all of this rambling about strange, to me, foods is that other places do not share the same culture as the United States. Therefore anyone who holds the fact that the President ate dog, in a foreign land where it is perfectly acceptable, against him is a complete ignorant fool. I'm not sure what Mitt was trying to get at when he made the comment... For a guy who has had such exposure to other cultures in his work with the Olympics and as Governor of Massachusetts, this seems terribly silly of him to mention. Especially for a guy who wants you to ignore his own "unusual" upbringing as a Mormon.
Romney seems to want to tell people that the President is "different" from everybody else. That brings up another point. All actions that occur outside of your own culture need to be looked through the prism of THAT culture, not of yours.

Bad form Mr. Romney. Bad form indeed.

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