The View from China . . . 2016 USA Election

It has been one month since the election of 2016. This will be my first blog post that is purely political, something I have steadfastly refused to do on this website.  So I have waited a month to decide whether this feeling of sharing my ideas to the larger community diminishes. It doesn’t. Fair enough. This subject affects the foreigner in China, particularly Americans.

After being forced (age limit) into retirement from my university teaching job in Guiyang, China, I have spent my time on the internet, tutoring children of friends, and travelling. I’ve spend about eight or nine months a year in China, and am prepared to continue this pattern for the “long term”, whatever the hell that means at age 66 (next month).

I made it a point to return to my home town, Traverse City, to make sure my vote got counted in the Presidential election. Two years ago the express mail lost my ballot. (see ) Also, I felt an urge to be with “my people” (whatever the hell that means) during this crucial time in the history of my country. When I arrived, I was immediately besieged by my countrymen who told me that I “must” vote for ______ because if ______ wins, it will be the end of the world, or worse. I told everybody that I planned to vote for Jill Stein because I don’t have to vote for anybody I don’t like, and I didn’t like either of the major party candidates. Jill Stein is the leader of the Green Party, and Presidential Candidate.  For the life of me, I don’t know why she couldn’t persuade Bernie to take her place and run for President on the Green Party ticket. Their platforms are almost identical.

So how I voted is really irrelevant to this post, but it exposes my bias for all to know.  I like trees, and flowers, and chirping birds, and I like to swim in clean water with my mouth open, no worries. I grew up in Cadillac (Michigan, USA), an area of clean lakes and rivers, and never had a problem swimming until I swam in the ocean once and realized that I swim with my mouth open . . .

Back to the subject, it was two weeks after the election, and I was at an English Corner in Guiyang. (English Corners are places where Chinese come to practice their English.) It is an exceptional English corner in that it is patronized by young people with an exceptionally high level of English. Many of the 20 or 25 people in the room have lived overseas, or are just good students. The topic for discussion was the US Election, and I had just returned from the US. As a kind of a warm-up, they had a question about who the heads were on Mount Rushmore. Everybody was stumped about who was this Teddy Roosevelt guy. I explained that he was one of the most famous presidents in the US history and that he helped win the Spanish American War. If that hadn’t happened, we (America) probably wouldn’t be “over here” (an Asian power). Winning that war awarded the Philippines to the US. Roosevelt also broke up the big “Trusts” (corporations) that were controlling our economy.

After telling them about my experience in the US, a lot of people said their feelings about the election, and surprisingly there was a lot of Trump support. What I found most surprising was that nobody seemed to care whether anybody was right or wrong. In China the Communist Party is responsible for governing the country, not the people. The people in the English corner really had no incentive to convince each other who was right or wrong. It wasn’t their business. It was an extremely friendly discussion, just about the opposite of what I left in the USA. It was kind of refreshing to have an intelligent discussion about politics without anybody emotionally freaking out.

Then each person was asked who their favorite presidents were in all of history, anywhere in the world. It was a surprising list of very diverse opinions. Everybody seemed to respect each other’s opinions and there were USA Presidents listed, Chinese Presidents, and a few others from around the world.

Everybody seemed curious about who I would name as my favorite two Presidents. I said that I really didn’t remember the guy’s name, but if you saw “Independence Day” my favorite President he was the guy that got in the jet and went up to fight off the aliens.  He actually united the world to fight the aliens . . . They didn’t buy that explanation, but it got a good laugh. I just said that he was the President that I wish we had. I went on to say that my favorite President was Ford. He was the only one that never was elected as President or VP. He pardoned Nixon, which was the right thing to do, and he defied Congress when he wanted to get the American babies out of Vietnam (Babylift).

I had a chance to explain how our system works a little bit. In 1974 Ford was in charge of getting the US out of Vietnam. Congress cut off the funds, saying that no money could be used for Vietnam. Ford was very strong. He said that American soldiers had wives and babies in Vietnam and the babies were American Citizens. It was our duty to bring them home. Congress had a majority of Democrats in both houses and was very happy to embarrass the President. Getting the GI’s babies home was less important to them than embarrassing the President. Instead of whining and complaining, Ford said that he was Commander and Chief of the military and he would get the money to bring those babies home.

Ford went around the country talking to groups of Americans and explaining that we had a duty to the soldiers and those American babies in Vietnam. He got the money privately and brought the babies home. Ford had the guts to do what was right. When Dr. Henry Kissinger, who the Chinese know well, was once asked who he thought was the best President of all that he had worked with, he said that Gerald Ford was the closest thing to a real human that ever occupied the White House.  Abe Lincoln, who freed the slaves, and saved the Union, was my second choice.