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Cultures lay claim to 'Linsanity'

News is what the people like to talk about, according to the celebrated editor of Hearst newspapers, William Randolph Hearst, as the people, not just in the United States but in Taiwan and China as well, are talking about Jeremy Lin of the National Baseball Association's New York Knicks. Linsanity is news, all news, nothing but the news in Taipei.

One of the people in Taipei bit by the Lin bug is President Ma Ying-jeou. He began to talk about the NBA phenomenon after the American-born Knicks point guard of Chinese descent started Linsanity in the United States. And last Tuesday while receiving an American Congressional delegation at his office, President Ma blurted out his praise of Jeremy Lin. He said the peoples of the Republic of China in Taiwan and the United States share the same values such as democracy, human rights and peace, adding “We all appreciate Jeremy Lin's play.”

The additional remark was made by the president as a Lin fan. To Ma's surprise, Eni Faleomavaega, head of the Congressional delegation, tried to remind him that Jeremy is an American. As soon as Ma had finished his remarks, the non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from American Samoa's at-large Congressional district, said he had to tell the president Jeremy Lin “is blue-blood born American, OK?” Ma had to give a strained laugh, saying “That's right.”

Faleomavaega certainly is very proud of Jeremy being an American. Of course, the 23-year-old basketball superstar is a born American citizen. But Jeremy's parents are Chinese who emigrated to the United States from Taiwan. Ethnically, Jeremy is Chinese. Culturally, however, Lin — born and brought up in Palo Alto, California — is American. He is one of what the people of Taiwan used to call ABC's (American born Chinese) or bananas, because they are white inside though their skin is yellow. Jeremy admits he has no working command of Chinese. His mother tongue is English.

Language is culture. So he is culturally all American. But he said in a YouTube video interview conducted by Elie Seckbach the other day, “I'm really proud of being Chinese. I'm really proud of my parents being from Taiwan. I just thank God for the opportunity (to play in the NBA).” He is proud of his ethnicity. Being a pious Christian, Jeremy truly believes God gave him a chance to play for the Knicks and wishes to become a pastor after he retires.

The Samoan-born Honorable Faleomavaega calls Jeremy a blue-blood American. Well, blue blood as an adjective in English means “of aristocratic or high birth.” America is a plebian society and the Lins aren't of high birth, like Franklin D. Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy. Before his meteoric rise to create Linsanity, Jeremy was just an American of Chinese descent, or a banana to the people of Taiwan, or a “chink,” the derogatory name an American sports correspondent used to refer to him, and for putting the unsavory headline “Chink in the Armor” in reporting the Knicks' loss to the Hornets an ESPN correspondent was disciplined. Of course, Faleomavaega isn't an American ethnocentric bigot, and all he wants is to claim Jeremy is 100-percent American.

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