I think I’ve made it clear I don’t believe Muslims are out to get us. For one thing, too many people who are Muslim are worrying about what’s for dinner or if their moms are mad at them. For another, they’re all over the place. If they were out to get us, we would already be gotten.
So to disappoint you further: I don’t believe the Chinese are out to get us, either. I was sitting in a meeting that veered off topic a little this week, and someone said, “We are at war with China.” Well, that was news to me. I was under the impression we were trading with them quite peacefully. He went on to say, “If we aren’t careful, we’ll be working for them.” And then, “We’ll have to serve them, instead of the other way around!” Americans, you see, should never work for others. All Americans are the boss of all everyone else, except for most Americans, who aren’t CEOs.
It all sounded pretty panicky. I was supposed to panic because I am Educating The Youth of Tomorrow, and if I don’t work hard enough, The Youth will be working for someone who is Chinese. I couldn’t figure out why that was so terrifying, though. I haven’t met every Chinese person, but the ones I have met seem pretty nice. I know I’m not at war with the China, or anyone else, except occasionally myself.
I remember when Japan was out to get us. Only a few short years ago, Japanese people were going to buy our country and sell it back to us, and they were robots and monsters and if we didn’t smarten up, they were going to destroy us. Since I had Japanese relatives– someone adopted into our family– I had a hard time understanding the menace. You mean auntie who gave me the red purse with the little jingle bell on it is out to get us? She is plotting to run America into the ground, steal our jobs, sell us Toyotas until Ford goes broke? She seemed so nice! And then Japan didn’t get us after all. What a disappointment.
I could take it a step further and say, if we’re going to serve the Chinese, that would be a wonderful thing. Service is the highest virtue, spiritually speaking. Service teaches humility and patience. I don’t even need to take it there, but I could.
We can fear people who are Muslim, or we can fear people who are Chinese. Both groups are so wildly diverse, I would have a hard time knowing what to fear. The economy trembles, and people need a scapegoat. It can’t be that life is unfair, that the world is unpredictable, or that people have made choices they have to live with.
It must be the Muslims, who stand in for our own sense of shame. Materialistic, oversexed, secular materialists! Americans who aren’t Muslim like to imagine someone carrying that torch for us. It must be Chinese people who are working harder, hungrier, possibly more virtuous, and mysteriously aggressive toward a whole country of human beings they have never met. We like to imagine Asian people are available to castigate us for our laziness and individualism.
The problem is, like your middle school crush, I don’t think the obsession runs both ways. I think Muslim people and Chinese people have their own problems, and some of them feel shame and laziness and like to do their own thing. If we run our own lives, and educate our children, in a spirit of competitive panic, I’m afraid we won’t like the results. A whole country of panicky people, even rich, powerful ones, sounds like a miserable place.