A Chinese friend who has become increasingly less friendly in recent months again sent me silly nationalist propaganda the other day. After reading a story in Newsweek by Mary Hennock and Melinda Liu, which very lightly mentions that the Sichuan earthquake might eventually shake things up politically as well, the individual became incensed and scrolled the Newsweek comments until finding an acceptable one, which said friend later sent to me:
Comment: Geez, Melinda Liu, would it kill you to leave the politics out for ONCE? Instead of criticizing the Chinese government, could you not have taken a more humane perspective? 20,000 people are dead, much more are suffering and family-less, and you are more concerned with analyzing the motives of Chinese leaders. Once again, you have taken a biased standpoint against China. Why not just throw away your supposed Chinese heritage altogether, since you are so ashamed of it? Change your last name to Smith or Jones so that you can become an American. You, madam, are the epitome of the "biased western media" that we've been hearing so much about.
Let me just address this pap, quite representative of a growing sentiment here, even though it's hardly worth my breath.
Americans -- that's right, even AMERICANS NAMED LIU, of which there are now as probably as many as the Smiths or Jones -- rarely leave out politics. Not when it comes to China, not when it comes to the United States. Examples? What about the thousands killed in Iraq? Does that mean we as Americans have no right to question the war? Sounds like nutso right-wing punditry to me.
That's different because it's a war we started on others' sovereign territory? Okay, what about Hurricane Katrina? We BLASTED our hebetudinous head of state over that. We BLASTED lackadaisical local officials. We wanted justice. We wanted action beyond mere remedy of present circumstance.
Maybe that's not China's way, but I distinctly recall it being China's way for lots of folks to say Sept. 11 was a long-time coming.
But that's a little off topic. Let's get back to the idea that if someone disagrees or speaks against the government that they should, "just throw away your supposed Chinese heritage altogether" because this is where it gets scary -- whether it's the flag pin hounds in the States or the burqa police in Saudi Arabia. This urgency for homogenization of thought doesn't seem to be as unifying as it is fascist. While it has a pull and sheen similar to that of enlightenment, there is no good end to it. There is no conflict between seeking the truth and honoring the dead. On the contrary, the two are inexorably linked. State media and many Chinese citizens seem to believe, however, that these are irreconcilable concepts. When questioned regarding it, they fall back into the "YOU" paradigm.
There must be time to mourn, it is true. What has happened has brought me to tears over the paper every day, and the world should reach out its loving arms to a nation and people in need. But there is a very different mindset between the victim and the errant victimized. Those who take advantage of this disaster to support dogmatic truths and the destruction of individual voice might as well shovel dirt over the deads' faces and see them all as Mao and the communists once did: meaningless bodies martyred for a nebulous cause.