Making fun of those accents is how I stay sane

Photo: Photo: Presidencia de la Nación Argentina. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

With sword, in her capacity as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. Life really is absurd, isn’t it? Maybe Falklanders see less humor here.

Argentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (CFK) went to a trade event in China during a state visit. Not her first visit there. Noting the large attendance, she tweeted, “Más de 1.000 asistentes al evento… ¿Serán todos de “La Cámpola” y vinieron sólo por el aloz y el petlóleo?…”

Let the BBC translate: “More than 1,000 attendees at the event… Are they all from the “Cámpola” and only here for the lice and petloleum?”

If your response is “What?” the answer is that she’s mocking Chinese accents in pronouncing Cámpora (the youth wing of her party) as Cámpola, rice (arroz) as aloz, and oil (petróleo) as petlóleo.

Tacky thing for a head of state to do. Unwise, when you want your hosts to make investments. She quickly apologized.

Thus: “Sorry. ¿Sabes qué? Es que es tanto el exceso del ridículo y el absurdo, que sólo se digiere con humor. Sino son muy, pero muy tóxicos.”

Or (approximately):

Sorry. You know what? The excesses of ridiculousness and absurdity are so much, they can only be digested with humor. If not, this excess can be very, very toxic.

Terrible apology. She shrugs off all responsibility. ‘I was kidding! I had to! Because I SUFFER to the edge of MADNESS.’

Photo: Presidencia de la Nación Argentina. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Bursting into giggles? Staying sane?

No matter how annoying protocol and pageantry are, that’s no reason to mock people’s accents when, by the way, THEY ARE SPEAKING YOUR LANGUAGE. There’s no reason to suppose that CFK has a perfect Mandarin accent. Or that she tries to speak Mandarin.

Questlove Jenkins did the same thing when touring Japan, but he came back with a great apology, one that showed he got it about ethnocentrism.

Nor does it seem that CFK’s apologizing to the people she mocked – she’s apologizing to her (Spanish-speaking) Twitter followers, and apparently assumes there’s no overlap – Chinese speakers won’t know they’re being mocked, so they don’t get an apology.

Wrong. They know.

Going to absurdly pompous and time-consuming events is part of a president’s job, so is CFK up to something here?

Evan Osnos suggests she’s on “what appears to be her rigorous campaign to become her hemisphere’s most eccentric head of state”, isn’t “operating at full steam,” and is “vying for a new standard as the world’s most awkward V.I.P.” Or maybe she doesn’t care, because she’s @CFKArgentina and figures she doesn’t have to care. But some suggest she’s trying to distract Argentineans from serious scandal at home.

Very serious scandal – someone shot dead prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who’d accused CFK of “conspiring with Iran to cover up responsibility for the bombing of a Jewish community center…” All Argentina is talking about it, and I doubt that daffy insults about the way foreigners talk can distract from that one. Maybe she thought it was worth a try. She’s now stressing all the Great! Trade! Deals! she made with China.

Could be she’ll have less luck with that next time.

Photo: Presidencia de la Nación Argentina. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Ingrid Betancourt, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and Madonna. How could I not use this picture?



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