passive aggression is respectful

Viola Cordova’s cultural background was half Hispanic, half Apache. What I think is interesting about this passage is that the behavior she’s describing would normally be described as passive-aggressive, lacking in assertiveness. The behavior DOES make sense in the context of a culture that values interpersonal harmony, where mutual empathy and caretaking can be expected.

For example, I cannot ask for anything. I cannot command others to do my bidding. “Your room is messy!” I announce to my children. “The garbage can is full!” Shortly after my announcements someone begins to clean a room or rush out the door with the garbage can. That is the way it is supposed to happen…One day my husband says to me, with much annoyance, “Do you want me to take out the garbage? If you do, then say so.” I am shocked. I’ve been found out. I actually did want someone to take the garbage can out for me. I should not have said anything. “No,” I mutter, somewhat confused–“I’ll take it out.” But he knows that I don’t want to take out the garbage. I am busy, I am cooking. “Why can’t you just ask?” he says. Why can’t I?

My value system is built around the concept of a human being that says that all humans are equal and therefore deserving of respect. Who am I to command another to do my bidding?…Just as one cannot tell another person what to do, one can also not ask for anything. To ask for something is to imply an inability to be independent. To ask for anything is to imply to the person asked that he or she failed to be perceptive to the other’s existence or needs. Telling another what to do implies a position of command that no human being, or no real human being, would presume to take upon him- or herself.