Just before Christmas in 1999, I got off a flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco with a frail, 13-month-old baby girl in my arms. Until a week before, that baby had lived in a Chinese orphanage after being abandoned at a railway station, with little care or nourishment in her first year of life. But now she was about to spend the rest of her life as my daughter, and a citizen of the United States. When we got off the plane after what had been an arduous, emotional and unexpectedly life-changing journey, I held that baby up to the window of the galley way so she could catch a glimpse of America.
"Baby", I whispered in her ear, "look. You're home now, you're free." She put her hand up to the porthole window and touched the glass, reaching for what she saw beyond. In that moment, I was so happy for her that I thought my heart would burst out of my chest. She would now live her life in a country where she would not be politically or socially repressed; where she would not be subject to a government that was unaccountable to her or anyone; and in a society that cared about individuals and protecting their rights.
The future for her, I felt sure, would be far different now that she was in America. She, along with uncounted others, had literally been thrown away, by a family, a government and a society that does not value girls and women, and does not value individual choice. China had been a dangerous place for her and my dream was that the United States would be her safe haven.
So when I woke up to find a picture on the front page of the Washington Post, showing a tee shirt in a shop in Beijing depicting the President of the United States, Barack Obama, as "Oba-Mao", something wrenched deep in my heart. I stood blinking for a few moments in my driveway, unable to process what I was seeing. The image of our President melded with that of the Communist dictator who presided over the deaths of 70 million of his own countrymen was sickening. I felt like the innocent and unsuspecting Cindy-Lou Who, waking up on Christmas morning to find the Grinch had stolen Christmas. What I read in this picture was that China had stolen the presidency, along with our wealth, our freedom and our power. It was gone and there was nothing we could do about it. Actually, we all know it wasn't stolen; we sold it, gave it away really, for flat screen TV's, low mortgage interest rates and millions of plastic toys sold in Wal-mart. What a trade-off!
And it seems no one cares to know the nature of whom we have so carelessly sold our collective selves, our values and our children's futures to. Our President went out of his way to assure his Chinese hosts this week that Americans no longer feel that freedom, democracy and human rights are morally superior to tyranny, totalitarianism and force. They surely are happy to hear this. Getting us to give that up was easier than the Grinch snatching that one last candy cane from the grip of the dreaming Cindy-Lou.
Because the Chinese now have money, and have spent at least a trillion of it buying U.S. Treasury debt, we dare not speak about values. Forgotten is the fact that the Chinese government is rich precisely because it does not spend money on its people, and it does not spend money on its people because it doesn't have to. It doesn't have to because it is not a democracy and the people cannot demand it through free and fair elections. Democracy matters in very practical economic terms when you consider that our government, which has to spend money on things like Social Security, Medicare, unemployment and the like, is competing with a government that is free to spend its riches buying us. What could that trillion dollars have done for the hundreds of millions of Chinese still eking out a living in poverty? One could argue that it is immoral for us to take money to fund our social services from a government that refuses to spend money on its own. Our Chinese-owned debt is not only economically burdensome but also morally repugnant when seen in that light.
At the staged 'town hall' meeting, the casualness with which the President spoke of 'women in America' who suffer because some men still have 'traditional views' of their roles was stunning. He seemed to be equating the self-indulgent gripes of privileged women in this country with the abject misery of baby girls in China who are abandoned by the thousands just because they are female, or the horror of late term forced abortions when a woman exceeds the one-child quota. One wonders if he knows what he is talking about; but it's certain he does not know whom he is talking to.
I am afraid that I do; I saw the victims of them and their policies in Tiananmen Square where I witnessed peaceful protestors beaten and dragged away by Chinese police. 'Community organizing' activities are not received well there. Most heartbreakingly, I also saw their victims in an orphanage in rural China, and I will never get them out of my mind. I am raising two gorgeous, precious girls, about the same ages as the President's own daughters, who came from there, and whom would not have had a chance at life had they stayed. Ironically, it is now our government, retirees and food stamp recipients who benefit from the lack of Chinese funding for the other girls left behind.
I told them when I brought them home that they were now free. When I saw the 'Oba-Mao' picture I realized, it isn't true. They, along with President Obama and the rest of us, are now wholly owned subsidiaries of The People's Republic of China. Is this what we want? Someday I will have to try to explain to my daughters why this has happened, but how? How will any of us, when our children ask?