The Japanese have been zealous in buying up American symbols: golf courses, movie studios. Rockefeller Center, the Mariners. Recently, however, they are beginning to learn that cosmopolitanism can be a two-way street. In January, American sumo wrestler Chad Rowan became the first foreigner to be awarded the rank of “Exalted Grand Champion.” Six feet five inches and 45S pounds. Rowan is able to dominate the smaller Japanese wrestlers, and a century-old cultural tradition, deeply embedded in Shintoism, may soon be as American as Coca Cola, jeans, and Cheap Trick.

The internationalist press in the United States is absolutely thrilled, not only because this proves the sincerity of the Japanese promise to open their markets to foreign competition, but, more importantly, because American sumo wrestlers strike a blow for bland uniformity in the New World of women clergymen, homosexual marines, girl boyscouts, white bluesmen, and Korean cellists. If the pygmies had wrestling events, they would probably have to open them up to the bloated behemoths of the WFL.

The entire United States sometimes seems like a million-mile-long strip mall studded with Chi Chi’s, Olive Gardens, Pizza Huts, and TGI Friday’s serving the same microwaved compost with a light ethnic accent. Processed white cheese and tomato paste make it Italian, chili powder makes it Mexican. The great American melting pot turns out to contain Hamburger Helper, and if a cook serves ribs on Martin Luther King’s birthday, he is engaging in “negative stereotyping.” We have lost the right to be different, because being really different means the ability to discriminate and to exclude. Orthodox Jews cannot remain orthodox if they allow women to become rabbis, and a Christian fraternity may not admit Jews without ceasing to be Christian. When black scholars claim that only they can interpret the “black experience,” they may be forfeiting their academic status, but they are staking a claim on the more solid ground of authenticity. Of course, we are all human beings, and we can all make educated guesses as to what it is like to be black or Chinese or Southern Protestant, but the native knows things from experience that no gifted outsider can ever figure out. If Americans were not so poorly educated, they would know this, but our journalists and politicians manage to graduate from college unscathed by the histories, languages, and literatures of any people, including their own. If they were to read this screed, they would take to outputting their files on human rights and the global village. “You, you’re laughing,” says Horace, “but the joke’s on you.”

To insist upon openness and equality is to deny others the right to be themselves. “I am what I am and that’s all that I am,” was the creed of Popeye the sailorman, but in today’s world Olive and Bluto and Swee’pea would all be lodging suits alleging victimization, discrimination against bullies, and spinach deprivation. Besides, Popeye’s conduct after Pearl Harbor constitutes Japan-bashing and race-baiting.

America has come a long way since the 1940’s, and the NBA recently inducted Ulyona Semvonova, a 7’2″ Russian female, into its Hall of Fame. What nation, exactly, does the NBA represent?

If the Japanese are smart, they will do more than impose the weight limit they arc contemplating. They will find some apparently innocent way to declare, in their charmingly xenophobic way, that sumo wrestling is a Japanese folk art that is not open to foreigners. Men wanted, no foreign devils need apply. The Japanese, as we have known them for the past hundred years, are an enemy worth our admiration and, occasionally, deserving of our animosity. If they arc foolish enough to open themselves up to an American takeover, they will deserve the contempt we ordinarily reserve for ourselves, who have practically nothing left to sell out.