Friday, September 5, 2008

More on China visit (Feb-April 2008)

The Sept 5 2008 Boston Phoenix published my response to Sarah Faith Alterman's anti-China vitriol, but I guess due to space, they left out my, Edward Said point about how westerners are always the observers and so we can't be the "other" --

Deleted part in bold below.

Very amusing, Sarah, but you dropped some clues that you barely visited Beijing, and are mainly reporting stereotypes and Americaphile asshole dribble. I lived in Beijing for 5 weeks in March-April of this year, and walked, took taxis and the subway, rode the bus and my bicycle all over the city. There are no giant Mao status in Beijing (see discussion about removal of statues, New York Times, April 15, 1988). Your second clue was more subtle: There are no cereal boxes in China! (or very few -- that's our kinda food, girlfriend).

There was one arresting image in your story: about you looking like a retarded pony. But the rest of your "observations" make me wonder where this anger is coming from -- are Americans afraid of China? Resentful; anxious about the future? So much that we vomit mean-spirited bile and say things like this (and I wish I were kidding):

"I should have known that a country that vehemently denied SARS and tried to poison our pets and children might be a little less than forthcoming about the asinine, algae-scented shitshow that is the 2008 Olympics."

You felt affronted that people wanted a picture with you. Yes, this happened to me, perhaps even once per day, but it was flattering and charming (see my photo by googling tourist-attraction-at-summer-palace). Permissions were always asked and there were big smiles all around. So what exactly was your problem?

Is your problem that idea that we, Americans are supposed to be the ones who take pictures of ourselves with the natives -- we pose with giggling black kids in Ethiopia with flies in their eyes, or an ancient, wise toothless Tibetan? We are the lookers, the ones who get to be curious about the "other", not objectified in strangers' photo albums.

Your article has one achievement: A new term for the attitude that Americans are superior and residents of other cultures inferior: "Americaphile asshole." It used to be "Ugly American" and "Boobus Americanus." Great to have a new phrase for the 21st century.

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