I have mixed emotions about the atomic bomb.
On one hand, I shutter at the horror unleashed by Fat Man and Little Boy, the two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I can’t even fathom the absolute obliteration of humanity. My heart aches for the innocent civilians completely wiped off the face of the earth in that world-changing moment, that introduced us into the age of utter annihilation.
But on the other hand, my grandfather (a U.S. Marine, in the pacific theater) had just survived Okinawa, one of the most horrific battles of WWII, and was training for the invasion of Tokyo. The casualty projections were grim, to say the least. It was estimated that one million (yes, that’s ONE MILLION) U.S troops would be killed trying to manually take Tokyo. My grandfather would’ve been in the first wave. It is almost a certainty that he would not have survived the invasion.
Had he not survived, he wouldn’t have come home to Mississippi and produced my mother. And had that not happened? Well, I suppose no one would be reading this.
It is a strange thing to trace your very existence to some grizzly event in human history. It fills you with questions that cannot ever be completely answered. Am I glad my grandfather survived? Am I glad my mother was born? Of course. Am I happy that thousands of Japanese people had to die, in one of the worst ways imaginable, for those two things to occur? Of course not.
When I see old newsreel footage of the world’s first mushroom cloud blooming over its target, I am horrified…while being strangely relieved.
If we learn enough about the world around us, we will all be faced with similarly unanswerable questions. And those questions will usher you into the world of “gray areas.” I envy people who can see things in sheer black and white. For them, the world is a simple place with clear rights and clear wrongs. I’m sure that makes sleeping a whole lot easier. And I’m sure it fosters the kind of mental health I am certain I do not (and will probably never) posses.
Just this week, we watched Ellen Degeneres give us some lessons in being kind to people with whom you disagree. I like that about Ellen and I think, for the most part, she is right. But I wonder how far that extends. Would I be kind to Harvey Weinstein? Could we laugh it up in sky box, somewhere, while watching a football game? Could I put aside my feelings about David Duke and just share some common humanity at a good, old fashioned American sporting event? Could Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and I make small talk around the finger sandwich table, at a cocktail party?
Some lines are just drawn in the sand. And while I like and respect George W. Bush, and therefore like Ellen’s response to her detractors, a lot of people think Mr. Bush was a war criminal of some kind. They have real anger toward the man. These are the fault lines in our landscape. And they’re unavoidable.
China seems to always be in the news these days. Or current president has an issue with China the way Ronald Reagan had an issue with the U.S.S.R. And so, we find ourselves, as Americans, engaged in the policy and politics of a nation ten thousand miles away from us. We find ourselves tangled up in their decisions and their reactions to us. We like to believe we can simply live and let live and not be interconnected to the world. But the truth is, we cannot. As a cast of pop stars once sang, We ARE the world. We actually are.
When the NBA decided to take stands on either side of the “China” question, all that black and white stuff started shading gray again. And, as is always the case, people retreated to their corners to fight it all out on social media. And, as is almost always the case, salient points to missed right and left.
The truth is China is a tricky place right now. It is the emerging economy in the world. But it is also an ancient culture that resents being denigrated or told what to do. And so anyone wanting to do business in China is constantly walking this fine line of appealing to its free market leanings while not insulting its leaders or its way of life. This is not conducive to American sensibilities.
I understand the conundrum intimately. My wife and I have personally lived an epic story that emanated squarely from American ethos, and ran directly into Chinese pathos.
We adopted our daughter from China, almost 17 years ago. The current film about that journey and two of the most “American” of Americans wanting to save an orphan’s life, but who were given something special, unexpected and extreme by an overworked and overwhelmed system, that ultimately led to that special Chinese child saving them, then winding its way through an American Idol finale and back the Beijing Olympics, is currently in pre-production and on its way to a “green light.”
But from the beginning, there have been concerns about how certain parts of the Chinese system will be perceived by the China market. It’s one of the reasons it has taken so long to get the film into production. You literally cannot hide the main character…my daughter. And she is a direct result of a humanitarian crisis we also cannot hide or gloss over. There are over fourteen million Chinese daughters in the United States right now, who are adopted. And all of us who are the parents of those children, thank God everyday for them. And yet we wish there were no such circumstances on earth that would create that many orphans. And we find ourselves in the middle of one of those unanswerable questions.
So, for me, what it all comes down to (and what it HAS to come down) to is seeing people as humans first and then honestly wanting the best for all of them.
Am I a proud American? Yes I am. And why? Because I believe the American ideal; the American idea; the American dream (if you will) lifts people into a higher place. I believe it allows the individual to become the truest form of what they were designed to be. It frees the human spirit and allows it to soar beyond its perceived limitations. And that extends to anyone, from anywhere.
My Chinese daughter is soaring and thriving and breaking barriers and having an effect on people from all walks of life. And as a American, what I want to say to the Chinese people isn’t that I condemn them or their system, but that I wish the same things for them that I have seen happen to one of their own daughters. I wish for them to rise beyond their own expectations. I wish for them to enjoy freedoms and opportunities and hopes and dreams of their own making and choosing.
I wish we could see just how intertwined we all are. Bombs and wars and atrocities connect us and we cannot change that. But so do giggles and babies and the promise of new life, and the hope (and yes, sometimes mischief) in the eyes of child…even one with the rarest of disabilities.
My grandfather fought the Japanese. My daughter was made in China. My wife is the granddaughter of a Mexican immigrant. And the result of a frowned upon mixed race marriage. I am an American dreamer and self proclaimed “Infidel.”
And yet, here we are…ALL children of God.
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