Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Ballad of Zhong Yao Ren

               The American immigration experience wasn't always easy if you weren't white. I'm going to tell you a story, but change the name because his descendents still live in Arizona. It's a story that unfortunately is a part of American history. He was of Chinese heritage  so let's call this the Ballad of Zhong Yao Ren.
               A second generation American, Zhong owned a grocery store in Phoenix, Arizona. He was at a gas station near his market when a deputy sheriff came over and, without cause, beat him so badly he spent a week in the hospital. Phoenix didn't help with the medical bills. Later they let this deputy sheriff go. But back then in Arizona there was going to be no acknowledgment of a racially motivated beating.
               A patriotic man, Zhong loved America and all it stood for. He was proud and thought he should be accorded the same respect as any other man born in this country or naturalized here.
               One day he was in his new grocery store in a town outside of Phoenix (we won't mention the name of the town). All of a sudden this former deputy sheriff, who had turned into a common drunk, walked into the market. Zhong asked the man if he recognized him. The white man said no. At that point Zhong, who was cutting meet with a cleaver, raised his arm and chased the white man out the door, his cleaver above his head.
               He died a year ago, leaving behind his very successful children. They've never questioned their rights as Americans. My family came on the Mayflower, but Zhong knew what being American was all about. It doesn't matter when you arrived here; what color your skin is; or what your beliefs are. Everyone in this country deserves respect and Zhong Yao Ren never forgot that.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

China: Where Supression of Infomation makesThings Worse for the Government and the People

In China, which has autocratic rule, you can shut down the channels of information available in most countries. In the Middle Kingdom, you can pretty much say what you want in an e-mail to one other person. The problem comes when you try to make a statement to multiple people. Your Internet provider will have to quickly step in and make sure this e-mail won't make political waves. China used to be very good at shutting down the flow of information, but just lately a crash of a new high-speed train got wider notice than party leaders expected.
The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have very good coverage of China and the Wall Street Journal translates its stories into Chinese and posts them on a website. I read both papers, and from conversations with Chinese friends on the Mainland, seem to know more than they do about what's going on with Bo Xilai and the death of a British citizen.
It has all the ingredients of Greek Tragedy. An ambitious wife with a lust for power and money, combined with the death of a British citizen who was apparently helping the party leader of Chongqing get money out of the country to foreign bank accounts. However, when you listen to the stories many Chinese immigrants pass from person to person, you hear about sexual activities by both Bo and his wife, multiple murders and vast amounts of money. The stories defy credibility.
This is all because China has worked so hard to keep information from its people. Rumors abound when there is a lack of freedom of information. Whatever strange things happened in Chongqing, the rumors have taken over. Suppressing information only makes people want to know more. And in a country in which gossip is on a world class level, the most lurid is bound to get the most attention. At a crucial moment of change in the leadership of China, rumors only fuel an instability where citizens imagine the worst

Sunday, April 8, 2012

ADHD and Memories of Unfulfilled Dreams

For those of us with ADHD there is a compensation. I call it memories of unfulfilled dreams.

I guess it really started in the hammock strung between two trees on our farm. Because I was seven I was allowed to lay in it and travel to different worlds as my mind wandered off. But mostly my mind focused on the future of living on the farm, learning about life from my dad, and how perfect it would be.

Then I got a mild case of polio, which my dad caught, and within five days he was gone. Because of a pre-existing condition my father had no insurance. The farm and all the equipment, that hadn't been stolen in the night by neighbors, was sold off. However, to this day, I have a memory about the world I created while lying in the hammock. When things were tough, and if I didn't know if the Social Security check was going to feed us until the end of the month, I'd  go back to that memory, as if life had really turned out like that.

Later on I got ready for college.  Because of all the old movies I saw on television I envisioned Proms where they played "Deep Purple," and you met the girl next door and started life together. We'd go to the bonfire and then to the big game and life would be idyllic. There are less and less days in which I allow myself to drift back to that memory of unrealized expectations. I became a college Prof., a University VP and saw that the politics played in academia were probably more vicious than that involved in reaching the CEO position at Exxon.  However, for years, during those frequent  days as I fought that inner railroad train that wouldn't stop, they could be  forgotten by letting my mind drift back to those perfect worlds I'd created that never had a reality to match.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Knock on the Door That Never Came

The other day I was talking to a friend in mainland China. I was complaining about the gridlock in Washington. We talked for a bit about Bo Xilai and how little the Chinese people knew about what was going on.
He then said to me, "I think you live in a very good country."
Those words brought back my perspective. As much as I criticize politics in this country, I can never forget why my ancestors came here in 1620. And it isn't just religious freedom that marks our country as a fine place. People still can be outspoken about any subject they want and about any one of our leaders.
 Some time ago, when I was in China, I picked up the Chinese name for GW. He was called Xiao (little) Bush because his father was Da (big) Bush. Bringing that concept back to America I put it in a very different context, one that the Chinese never intended. But I could denigrate his decisions in a college classroom. In China, denigrating Hu Jin Tao could end you in the slammer.
Calling him little Bush was a cheap shot, but I took it. They never came in the night to take me away.
I think I live in a very good country