See “EdgeLeft: Taking China’s Side” by David McReynolds below
It Was a Good Reminder for Me
By Diane Stirling-Stevens / The Rag Blog / August 10, 2008
Since my family came from Germany (my mom’s side in 1631; my dad’s in 1710), and I clearly remember being told how the Germans and Chinese worked side-by-side building the railroads, this article struck ‘home’ with me. Maybe having the funny name of Rambow; being extremely poor growing up, and living in a town that was 90% German where they felt ‘safe’ (pretty clannish actually), there were lots of ‘tales’ about ‘other folk’ that were either of different religion; color, or origin. It took moving away from that small town – living in large cities and in different parts of the United States, for me to fully understand the necessity of eliminating prejudice; bigotry, and setting arbitrary standards that often (I think) are based on family folk lore, hear-say, and tradition.
I got my first real chance to learn more about the Negro when I moved to Cincinnati in 1974. Nearly all of the friends I’ve kept in touch with (and visit there), after 34 years, are my black friends (and I have 3 that live near me now, that I’m very close to). I’ve been taught so much by them; their history – enjoyed their traditional foods, and heard their viewpoints about the slave situation; how they felt when they could finally vote, and of course their reaction to the improvement in the way our country is now incorporating the black American into business/entertainment/politics/society, as it should have done.
When I lived in California for almost 20 years, I had a chance to visit China town; various parts of both Southern, and Northern California where the Vietnamese create their little ‘territories’ – again, they not only offer excellent food, but their neighborhoods are clean – they are diligent shop-owners, and very conscious of the work they perform. I learned more about the Mexican way of life; my youngest son married a beautiful Mexican lady in 2002 – another son married a beautiful Cuban woman back in 1990, so I know all of my children benefited from learning to appreciate the ways and customs of not just we ‘white German immigrants’ aka Americans.
Getting into the electronics industry in 1980 (Seattle, Washington), I again got a chance to see the exceptional workmanship of the Asian – learned more about our Indian nations; the Eskimo nation, and I think by that time I was truly beginning to ‘balance’ my reaction and be much less willing to accept the historical ‘slander’ done to some races of people, by other races of people. In fact, I’ve come to love the ‘mix’ of we Americans; the colors of our America, and chose to move next to the Mohave Indian reservation back in 2000 because I knew they’d never build up the land the way many of the white ‘developers’ choose to plunder the land. I have to say ‘white’ builders, because I’ve never met any other kind (imagine there are some of course). It’s sad to think how all the ‘colors of the rainbow’ have built up this country, and I’m sure you’ve noticed it’s only been pretty much the leadership of the ‘white good old boys’, that have put us in this condition we’re in today.
The world is big now; communications are faster than they’ve ever been, and I’m hoping all of this will help us learn to understand each other better, not start conflicts and fight wars more efficiently. What I’m guessing is we have to get a few other ‘colors’ of people into our leadership/administration, and not allow our media (who also is predominately white guys and gals) feed us propaganda. In fact, I bet the Rag Blog and its many writers, could easily create a powerful piece on how the media does (and does not) deliver the news that we REALLY need. If you look at the ‘faces’ of those who are spewing the daily headlines and ‘breaking news’, more often than not it’s a white person – very well made up; a suit or lovely dress with jewelry, and all are photogenic! In fact as I type this, it strikes me many of the comedy shows have over-weight and not-so-good-looking stars and cast. Even if some are handsome or pretty to look at, they’ve usually got a ‘fall guy or gal’, who isn’t nearly as attractive.
Hey, if I don’t stop right now and let you read the great article Alan sent, this will turn into a book. My mind is traveling to a place that says: “Hey, Diane, since you rarely watch television why don’t you make it a project, and see just how many shows have minorities, and what parts do they play….” I guess I’ll do that this coming week …
EdgeLeft: Taking China’s Side
by David McReynolds
There has been an enormous amount of China-bashing in recent months, leading up to the Olympics. I’d like to put in a good word for China, something not that politically correct these days.
Sure, I wish the Chinese did not eat dogs, but we have pigs on our menu, and they are just as smart as dogs. Yes, I wish the Dalai Lama could return to Tibet, though the issue of Tibet is more complex than either the Chinese or the Dalai Lama make it out to be. And the history of Tibet under the Buddhists not as ideal as some in the West believe.
Perhaps most of all I wish the Chinese would use strong pressure on Sudan regarding Darfur. And, of course, as a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, and a lifelong American dissident, I support the full and complete extension of human rights to every human being on this planet.
However, much of the coverage I’ve seen overlooks some painful Western history. I fell in love with China as a kid in Los Angeles, before ever tasting Chinese food. Why, I’m not sure. Perhaps it was reading Pearl Buck’s Good Earth. Perhaps it was because I loved fireworks and firecrackers, and the ones we bought for July 4th were made in China. Whatever the reason, it certainly wasn’t the culture of California, riddled with anti-Chinese and anti-Asian attitudes.
Let’s remember, as Americans, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was “progressive racism”. At the time of our Gold Rush there was a flood of poor Chinese who came here, provided low wage labor, built our railways, did our laundry, but also became a scapegoat for low income workers who saw Chinese labor as competition. Some of the slogans of the time are chilling to remember:
“We want no slaves or artistocrats
The Coolie Labor System Leaves us No Alternative
Starvation or Disgrace Mark the Man who Would Crush Us To the Level of the Mongolian Slave
We All Vote
Women’s Rights and No More Chinese Chambermaids”
These were slogans carried by anti-Chinese demonstrators. In 1882, after decades of such agitation, and with the support of the progressives of the day, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed, making it all but impossible for Chinese to come to this country.
But this was small change compared to what the rest of the world was doing to China. The Opium Wars of 1839 and 1856 resulted from a struggle between the Qing Dynasty of China, which sought to suppress the use of opium, and the British who had a monopoly on the opium trade and were determined to push that addiction on the Chinese.
China lost both wars, and had to grant the British “extraterritorial rights” (similar to the rights the Americans in Iraq enjoy today). So the civilized British who, like our own half-civilized President, today lectures the Chinese on human rights, have forgotten that, for a profit, they were delighted to deal in opium.
The Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the last century saw an uprising by members of the “Chinese Society of Right and Harmonious Fists” against foreign influence. (They took the name “boxer” from the martial arts they used). The rebellion against foreign influence was serious enough. According to Wikipedia “In June 1900, the Boxers invaded Beijing and killed 230 foreign diplomats and foreigners.”
Chinese Christians – who had also been targeted – and Westerners retreated to the legation quarter, putting up a two month struggle until a “multinational coalition rushed 20,000 troops to the rescue”. The Boxer Rebellion was a serious challenge to outside influence and those outsiders (including Japan) were enthusiastic in sharing the burden of crushing the Chinese. There were 51 warships sent in (18 of them being Japanese, 10 being Russian). At least 55,000 troops were sent (Japan, with 20,300, sent the most, the Russians with 12,400 were second, and the British with 10,000 came in third. The Americans, not yet a world power, sent only 2 warships and fewer than 3500 troops.
China was crushed, humiliated, the last Chinese dynasty ended. Let me quote Kaiser Wilhelm II’s July 27th order to his troops: “Make the name German remembered in China for a thousand years so that no Chinaman will ever again dare to even squint at a German.”
Western intervention paved the way for the rise of Sun Yat-sen, who overthrew the Mancu (Qing) dynasty and established the Chinese Republic. But the Chinese Republic had a short and turbulent life. World War II did not begin in Europe – it began on July 7th, 1937, when the Empire of Japan launched a full scale invasion of China. It was this which I remember as a child, when our bubble gum came wrapped in horrific (and pro-Chinese) illustrations of Japanese atrocities. (Perhaps the chewing gum was made in China?). The infamous Rape of Nanking, in which thousands of Chinese civilians were raped and murdered by the Japanese military forces, still rankles in Chinese minds.
For a time Chiang Kai-Shek, who had succeeded Sun Yat-sen, cooperated with Mao and the Communists in fighting the Japanese. But at a crucial point Chiang turned on the Chinese, massacred thousands in a surprise attack, and the Chinese Civil War began in earnest, continuing until 1949, when Chiang retreated to Taiwan and the Chinese Revolution was complete. (Throughout that war, the US sided with Chiang Kai-Shek, supplying him with weapons and using US air power to move Nationalist troops into position against the Communists).
My sense is that there is a general agreement by military historians that Mao and his forces did a better job of fighting the Japanese than Chiang’s Nationalists.
But the West was hardly ready to deal ith China, a nation far more civilized than our own, or any nation in Western Europe. We denied China its seat in the Security Council. The US refused to “recognize” China. It was not until the famous visit to China by Richard Nixon that relations were finally normalized.
My view of China is not shaped by an enthusiasm for Maoism. (I do recommend Edgar Snow’s Red Star Over China for a sympathetic view of the Chinese Communists, and I know my father, who served with Army Air Force Intelligence during the war, and was in China more than once, was deeply impressed by the Chinese. More than that, my father, a devout Christian and political conservative, was baffled that the Chinese, in all their poverty and hunger, had a dignity and “sense of worth” that impressed him).
It is not the current Chinese State I endorse, but the long history of China, its remarkable accomplishments over thousands of years. I am embarrassed when the West chides China today, at a time when NATO is killing civilians in Afghanistan, and the US and Great Britain have, between them, laid waste to Iraq, one of the cradles of civilization in the Middle East.
It had long been my hope to visit China. I know, as the years pass, that goal won’t be achieved. But from afar, and long before the Chinese Revolution, I was on the side of China. I don’t even like sports, but I am glad the Olympics is a success. I compare the speed with which China dealt with the horrible disaster of its great earthquake this year with the total failure of George Bush to cope with Katrina.
I believe in human rights – but one of the most basic of human rights is the right to eat. China has paid a high price for its swift industrialization but it has given many of the people of China a chance at what we would call “the good life”. I live in a country with the highest number of men and women behind bars of any nation in the world – I hesitate to make human rights in China my first priority. China is now one of the emerging great powers. It would be to our advantage to treat it with a sense of respect to which its several thousand years of civilization entitles it.
[David McReynolds worked for many years for War Resisters League, was at one time Chair of War Resisters International, and was the Socialist Party’s Presidential candidate in 1980 and 2000. He retired in 1999 and lives on the Lower East side with his cats. He can be reached by email at: email@example.com].
Source / EdgeLeft