Monday, August 25, 2008

China power? Tso what

There are 1.3 billion Chinese people on the planet and I don’t know a single one of them. I don’t know what motivates them, what they aspire to or where we can find common ground, if any.

All I know, for sure, is that they really know how to throw a great Olympics. I was enthralled. I believe it’ll be remembered as one of the greatest shows in television history (and please don’t take that as a personal slap at my hero, J.R. Ewing).

But as for the people who put it on, I know zip. My life is shockingly lilly-white. Latrobe is where the gentle PBS legend Fred Rogers grew up. He patterned his enduring children’s show on my town. I live, literally, in Mister Rogers Neighborhood.

Sure, I know a few Chinese Americans, but our relationship doesn’t exceed the customer-businessman level. I say, “Hello, Huang. I’d like the General Tso chicken today.”

He says, “Big surprise. One General Tso chicken. You never get anything else. Always same. I guess that mean I can look forward to another 50-cent tip, too.”

Well, I guess I do know one thing about the Chinese: Years of cheap tips can leave them just as surly as their American counterparts.

Nothing about the Chinese fascinated more than their ability to choreograph thousands of people into those sublime human towers and floor patterns. It was compelling and at the same time a little scary to some viewers.

What if they used that same discipline for evil purposes, they wondered? Readers of the old Weekly World News (sample headline: “Baby Born with Wooden Leg!!!”) knew years ago that this could happen.

I vividly recall one story that detailed how the Chinese government had ordered all one billion of its citizens to jump up at precisely the same instant. Their evil scientists had divined that all those people landing at the same second would throw the earth of orbit and doom us all.

“They know it’ll mean their utter destruction as well as the entire planet’s, but they’re eager to show how powerful they are,” said one expert.

The day passed without event. It wasn’t until the next issue of the Batboy tabloid arrived that I learned why. A bar full of about two dozen beer-bellied WWN readers in New Jersey learned of the plot, jumped up at the same time and provided the lifesaving oomph needed to keep this woe-begotten world on track.

So now we’re at a crossroads. The Beijing Olympics has been an unparalleled success. Do the Chinese use the global goodwill they’ve engendered to become more open and progressive? Or will they continue to treat their citizens like chattel, stacking them up for the televised amusement of a mostly American audience that sits there and thinks nothing of human rights while they stuff their faces with pizza, chips and big steaming bowls of General Tso’s chicken.

Time will tell.

I just know this: I’m glad I live in a country so uniformly prosperous that 24 guys from a New Jersey bar weigh as much as 1.3 billion Chinese.

No comments: