When absurdity hits, I’m lying on my couch in the dorms with my roommate. I’m somewhat medicated, battling a vicious viral infection.
I’m on day six: My head is pounding, one ear’s plugged, and I have a cough that’s terrorizing my lungs to no end. One pill alleviates the stuffed head and clogged ear, but that same pill also keeps me awake all night. If I eat, I cough (which almost never happens). So I slurp down a potent and terrible cough syrup instead. If I take a Tylenol for the headache, I get nauseous because I haven’t eaten… because I’ll start to cough. And through it all, my ear is still plugged. So I lie on my lumpy couch in defeat.
What I’m trying to get across is that I may be slightly irrational and not fully reliable. My hearing is sketchy—I’m coughing so much I could possibly miss hearing words in sentences. I’m so hungry, I’m probably on the verge of delirium. So when I heard—or thought I heard—what Letterman was joking about on the Late Show, I couldn’t quite believe my one good ear:
“New York is celebrating communist China’s 60th Anniversary,” Letterman said, adjusting his purple striped tie. He then proceeded to show the audience a clip of the Empire State Building lit up in red and yellow.
“Oh, I heard about this on Fox News this morning,” my roommate said.
“What?” I asked, semi-confused. (I was both confused by the fact my roommate watched Fox News and by Letterman's comment. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when Letterman is being truthful. If you ever hear him lead with the phrase “honest to God,” he’s going to fiddle with the truth. But in the case of the Communist China bit, there was no “honest to God” warning.)
New York City has decided to let one of the most symbolic buildings in the world celebrate, by illumination, China’s 60th anniversary of communist rule.
Can you hear the crickets? Because they’re chirpin’. Oh, boy, are they chirpin.’
I nearly rolled off the couch in a flurry of bewilderment. “What?!” I hollered, gagging on more scratchy coughs.
“Yeah, I was appalled when I heard about it, too,” my roommate said.
Appalled? Is that was this emotion is? Surely I hadn’t heard her right. If she heard about it on the news, then it’s not just Letterman being totally politically incorrect and facetious. It is, at least, based on some form of fact. The “Greatest City in the World,” in a nation founded on freedom, is celebrating another country’s anniversary of suppression?
Well, I guess we’re “free” to do so. But let’s be honest. Can you really imagine the Chinese who live in NYC partying it up on the streets? Does Mayor Bloomberg think that all the immigrants who worked so hard to escape that life will be happy that the city is honoring it? I can’t speak for them, but my guess would be no.
On Oct. 1, 2009, China celebrated, according to the Associated Press, its “rise to a world power over 60 years of Communist rule.” No one doubts China’s power and success: It’s a great accomplishment; but let’s not forget the ever-expanding crevice splitting the rich and poor, the severe pollution scourging the atmosphere and, as reported by the AP, “rampant corruption” terrorizing villages. I’m not even going to dabble into the problems of religion and the persecution of Christians.
The parade for the anniversary featured China’s largest display of weaponry—including nuclear missiles that can, according to Telegraph.co.uk, reach all the way to the United States.
I found this quote from an AP article that quotes Minxin Pei, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California: “I wonder what Chinese leaders are thinking? For more than 15 years they have been denouncing those who call China’s rise a threat. Now they put on this display of military hardware, with goose-stepping soldiers to match. Aren’t they confirming the China Threat?”
China says no. According to the Guardian, they’re just stressing their “commitment to peace, describing its military as defensive and stressing its contribution to peacekeeping initiatives.”
Would someone squash that dang noisy cricket?
So now not only are we celebrating the suppression of their people but also their vast achievements in technology and military advancements? Oh, good for you, China. Here, we’ll decorate one of our esteemed buildings in honor of your strangely terrifying arsenal, and we’ll honor your repressive government… everything our country opposes.
As I’m watching Letterman let the absurdity of the situation be the joke, I’m desperately trying to conquer one of the worst sicknesses I’ve had in my life. I’m not entirely sure what day it is (it ended up being swine flu! Yes, I was one of the few). But I can’t be completely irrational in my thinking, can I?
The next day in class, I vented my frustrations about the matter to my friend and fellow journalism student Joey Nunez. I explained the situation and read an article about how the government had cracked down on activists protesting the massive celebration and stepped up to control information on the Internet.
“I mean, how can you honestly even function?” Joey said in astonishment. He was as appalled as I that a building as prominent as the Empire State Building would praise such a conflicting nation.
When it comes down to it, it’s exactly the kind of gag that should be on the Late Show,because it’s too ridiculous.
Every country has the right to celebrate their success, their people, their customs, their rice, their whatever. And I think that it’s wonderful for the Empire State Building to be lit up with a country’s colors for certain worldwide events or bank holidays—like Boxing Day, the Queen’s birthday, Cinco de Mayo, etc. But explain to me (and I encourage—nigh challenge!—you to write in with a response) why on earth we, America, should observe the birthday of a country’s suppression. It makes no sense to me.
Originally published Oct. 8, 2009 in the Asbury Collegian.