Jock Lauterer, Senior Lecturer and Director of the Carolina Community Media Project at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has returned to China for a third summer to teach Community Journalism at workshops from Beijing to Chongqing to Guangzhou.
Last night over dinner, the journalists from the Bao an News take me to task over American foreign policy, and specifically Uncle Sam’s perceived anti-Chinese and downright insulting and disrespectful treatment of their country.
Actually, I take it as a compliment that they feel comfortable enough with me to tease me so forthrightly.
“We are so mad at you for what you do to China!” my host scolds me, albeit playfully.
There is some darker truth in this beer-fueled political brouhaha.
“Obama comes to Japan and not China!” she spits.
I’m starting to break out into a cold sweat. As if I am Barak Obama, John Kerry and Uncle Sam rolled into one, the walking personification of American foreign policy, and I am beginning to get the impression that I am in deep…yogurt.
The table is particularly gleeful over the recent Sino-Russian energy pact, seen as a well-deserved stick-in-the- eye to an arrogant Uncle Sam.
And then the surprise, at least to this naïve Yank, my host announces, “We LOVE Putin!” — and seeing my startled expression, she rejoins, “He is our HERO!”
Prof. Joke responds, taking the bait, “How about he reminds me of Hitler,”
Oh boy, here it came. The men at the table uniformly say they consider Putin as “strong,” — and then the women all declare they regard him as “sexy.”
Of course, upon hearing that, Your Man in China almost fell off his chair, and as the Tsingtao re-filled many glasses, the political kerfuffle was on.
“We have an old expression here,” I am told: “When you curse a Russian, he will punch you; but when you punch a Chinese, he will curse you.”
You see, they explain to me, patiently, like a truculent schoolboy who needs re-education: Russia does to the U.S. what China dare not do.
So they think Putin is strong and sexy.
As Charlie Brown would say, great grief!
What’s an American to do, but zip his lip and grin. And have another Tsingtao.
When I get back to the room, there’s an e-mail from my colleague, Al Cross, who teaches community journalism at Kentucky. In response to my blog, Al writes these words of comfort to the would-be U.S. ambassador to Shenzhen, “You may be doing more for democracy than a carload of diplomats.”
Thanks, Al. I needed that.
John Kerry, you owe me, big-time.
COMMENT FROM BFF and lifelong colleague Dr. Steven Knowlton, Professor, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland
Today’s blog about the anti-Americanism made me wince in recognition. Living in Europe for seven years now, I am reminded several times a week that almost everybody in the world — even the US-loving Irish — harbors deep, deep anger and resentment at the US. Different people have different points of contention — Gitmo, Iraq, blind support for Israel, McDonald’s and McMansions, gun nuts everywhere, capital punishment, grotesque treatment of the poor, corporate, global neoliberalism, smug superiority, the Wal-Martization of the landscape, shoddy merchandise, etc etc etc.
Sort of brings you up short.
They are not entirely wrong. They are missing much that is truly great and wonderful about the US, but they have a point.
Perspective, perspective, perspective.
More later. But rest easy: You are doing good work. Sorry you had to get hammered during a good-will beer fest.