On Sunday, Nov. 24, President Obama flew into Seattle, and the big news focused on the traffic disruptions and the amazing cost of tickets to his private fundraising events in North Seattle and Medina. Noticeable things like cops on every I-5 overpass from SeaTac to Northgate and beyond, completely empty express lanes, and 45-minute waits on 520 while the president drove by were among the semi-creepy, semi-thrilling citizen reports.
In fact, the bigger news was that our multiethnic, born-in-Hawaii, partly-raised-in-Indonesia, half-brother-to-an-Indonesian-sister and brother-in-law-to-a-Chinese, “let’s-pivot-to-Asia” president failed to visit what is considered by many to be the world’s awesomest Chinatown outside of (or maybe including) China: Seattle’s own International District.
Mr. Obama is a busy man. Who isn’t? He’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders, but really, who doesn’t, in their own way? But if the leader of the free world wants to pivot U.S. foreign policy toward Asia, as well as pass massive immigration reform here at home, he needs to stop and smell the fish sauce vapors blowing out the air vents at Mike’s Noodle House. Asia is everywhere, and it’s fantastically represented in the I.D.
Obama would do well to reconnect with his Asian roots right here. He could show off his athletic prowess with a rousing game of ping pong or his brainy creds playing giant chess in Hing Hay Park. He could choose from a literal world of affordable lunch offerings. He could climb the Danny Woo steps or play vintage pinball. He could brave the pigeon bombs falling from the sky on King Street between Fifth and Sixth. He could stay after dark and fish around for packets of drugs in the various hidden corners of the Seattle I.D. OK, that last one isn’t just an I.D. thing.
It turns out that after Obama flew out of Seattle on Monday, he flew into San Francisco and visited their Chinatown, where he talked about immigration and got yelled at by an Asian guy in the audience. That’s because there was an audience. There was no audience here for the president. His choice, not ours. And sure, San Francisco’s Chinatown is pretty awesome. Warmer, too, probably. Close to North Beach.
The point is, why would anyone come to Seattle and miss an opportunity to pivot to the International District? That ping pong table could very well be the center of the known universe.
We know you need money, Mr. President, to get those votes for next year’s round of Democrats. But what we need is an ear. Your ear. Your big ear. (end)