Friday, July 22, 2011

Reading Through the Anger

Hubby posted an article on a message board/e-mail listerserve. Basically it's a place where his colleagues can rant. The article was talking about what poor people in the US have. Hubby's point is that poverty in America isn't always real poverty. The article talked about how many poor people have stuff from cable/satellite tv, cellphones, fridges, to jacuzzis (it's .5 percent of them).

One of the people, a known liberal, chimed in with some comments. So Hubby clarified that he felt for those who truly are in need, the homeless for example, but still thought it was crazy that someone on government assistance has cable tv. We don't have cable tv. We're not crazy enough to spend what little money we do have on it. But alas she kept bringing up the homeless after Hubby stated twice that he agreed with her.

Some people have trouble reading what others write when they're angry. They tend to "make up stuff" the person has said. That or they get so incensed about one point that they miss out on what the other person agreed about. One comedian remarked about getting into fights with her boyfriend. She said some women (it's a joke keep that in mind) have a tendency to have imaginary fights with their boyfriends. They may find something suspicious and start yelling at them when their boyfriend is already apologizing for whatever the infraction was. Hubby turned to me and asked me if it's true that women sometimes have "imaginary fights" where we try and predict what the other person is saying and then project it on the real fight. "Sometimes."

This evening we had a lovely dinner with Hubby's Chinese-friend Workaholic. Workaholic is not his real name; He has an American name, but I don't even know what his real name is. It's common for Chinese to use an English name because Americans butcher their real-Chinese one. Even with a toddler bouncing off the walls and screaming (he's been pitching fits lately), it went well.

Workaholic is the youngest. There are two older siblings, girl and boy, in his family. We talked a little bit about this. His family is from the central part of China. They were poor. They hid his birth, but it was eventually discovered. The police would come by periodically for payment and because his parents couldn't always pay the fine they took their television. He said having them come around really scared him as a child. I mentioned the house burnings, but I don't think he knew what I was talking about.

He mentioned to Hubby that he wished that the government would allow the people to have guns. He said it would change everything there. He also said that in order to be allowed to come to the US he had to agree to return to China and work for the party. He said he doesn't like the idea of working for the communists (I imagine not if they terrorized your family), but it was the only way to leave.

He inquired about American stuff. He asked if we had a One-Child Policy. And then he asked if it was free up until college for children to go to school. We explained that there's no policy that you can have as many children as you wish. On the other hand society thinks it's strange to have a large family. We also explained that children are expensive (hence the question about education), but we reminded him that American's still have to pay for their children's health care. I think he also asked the question about education because in China legitimate children get health care and education for free. If you are an illegal child (meaning no birth permit) not only do your parents have to pay the fine, but they also have to pay for your education. So Hubby surmised that Workaholic's family did without so he could go to school.

Workaholic said he also thought that American's saved money for vacations and therefore went on vacations a lot. He discovered (after asking if I've traveled out of the US) that that's not the case. As I pointed out Europeans are given vacation time and in the US you barely get any. So no, Americans don't travel a lot.

He also was surprised to learn that in the US spanking is legal. He had read a tragic news article about a neighbor turning in a Chinese-man for child abuse. The police came and so the Chinese-man, who spoke very little English, began to gesture to try to explain things. Naturally the man was angry so the policeman got scared and shot him. That's what I think led him to believe that spanking is illegal.

He also read recently about the Casey Anthony case in Chinese news. He called her a murderer. I'm not sure how much information the Chinese press had about the American justice system, but my guess is they don't divulge a lot and when they do it's to paint a negative picture of democracy (American's let murderers free). I tried to explain how it works, but I think I did a bad job of it. It's hard to summarize the legal system in a few short sentences especially to someone who's used to a single-party system.

When we first sat down, Workaholic made a comment about how HB must be acting shy because he'd never seen a yellow face before (his words not mine). I said "No, actually. Some friends of mine from Church who are in the astronomy department...well, one is Chinese and his wife is Korean." I should have a t-shirt made: yes, I love Asians.

I talked about my Taiwanese roommate and my Korean friends. Mostly my Taiwanese roommate since the cooking style is similar. I think he thought it a bit odd. Keep in mind when your talking to a person from mainland China about a person from Taiwan it's a bit like talking to a Chinese person about their Canadian friend. The language is the same, with different dialects, and the culture is similar enough, but it's not the same thing. But it's my point of reference.

We also talked about lighter subjects. He found it interesting that we played Mahjong. He said when he first met his future MIL they played the game. He said it's common for people to judge a person based on how they placed (were they honest, how smart are they, etc). It's not common for American's to play Mahjong or even own a set of tiles. Nor is it common to play the other popular Chinese game, usually called Go. Although that one's more popular and growing in popularity.

And I think that's the jest of the conversation. I didn't mention about the boycott or anything. I figured that's too heated a discussion. Workaholic is the first Chinese person that spoke about the government. I've had a student talk about her father not letting her go to school, but she was an older student. And I've heard the Taiwanese get upset about things, but never a person from the mainland. It only spurs on my determination to do something. Workaholic should not have to suffer and neither should any of his countrymen. I'm just not so sure what I can do.

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