(The white lotus is a delicate flower that puts roots waaayyy down into a watery pool. It only ever takes onto its petals the water it can use, curling inward, repelling the extra. As such, it is a most efficient plant form, almost mindful of its environmental footprint.)
I remember the book, White Lotus, by John Hersey, for it prompted me to consider a whole different perspective, a social landscape where whites were anything but the reigning majority. In fact, they were considered inferior life forms. For a girl who grew up in a small New England mill town whose residents were ethnic varieties of Caucasian Catholics, its story line was pure fiction.
If my town offered little to no glimpse into other races or religions, we were typical of our region. Crosses topped Catholic church spires everywhere, each a product of the ethnic group that produced it: Our Lady of Czestochowa was a Polish bastion in Coventry; the Irish gathered at St. James; the Italians at Sacred Heart. Oh, there was a sprinkling of Protestantism, but they stood out as distinctly “odd,” and Jewish were fewer still.
But nationalities and religious groups were the sum total of diversity in my town.
I grew up in that post WW II era, when “Yellow Peril” was a phrase hawked by some, warning us to beware of Asian peoples. After all, they said, ‘in sneaky fashion’ they bombed us, on a sleepy Sunday morning, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Ironically, no one called our actions ‘devious’ when we employed guerilla tactics (in the American Revolution) against our mother country, Great Britain, as our rag-tag troops shot at their fully-exposed ranks from behind rocks and trees.
Everybody in our town looked pretty much the same—some shade of white. And because of that, most were ignorant of the fact ALL people within our own borders didn’t enjoy the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” in America.
I first learned of that disparity when I went to college. African-American classmates spoke of their unequal treatment when they played opposing teams on Southern turf. They were forced to take their meals in restaurant kitchens, while white players ate in the public section; they couldn’t use the same lavatories as white. It was the era of the 60’s.
I was aghast at their rights infringement.
White Lotus allowed me to feel the pain of minorities everywhere. It spoke of a hypothetical future war whereby an Asian superpower attacks and vanquishes the United States, subjugating the white majority to the same inequity they’d forced on others (African-Americans, native Americans, Japanese-Americans during WWII) .
Overnight, the white majority became a minority with all the less-than-desirable traits usually associated with such. Suddenly “tall” was ungainly. “White” skin was pasty. Big feet and large features meant dullness, coarse breeding, and stupidity.
Small feet and hands, along with almond-shaped eyes, became the preferred physical attributes. The Asian conquerors now defined beauty and refinement, according to ‘their’ standards.
Is it a far-fetched theory? Hardly. Presently China has 1.6 billion people to America’s 300+ million; as such, they vastly outweigh us in numbers. They make daily strides in the all-important economic wars of trade, manufacturing, exporting. In the past decade, China has made sweeping strides in education, and its people place first—worldwide– in reading, writing, and mathematics (whereas America has slipped to #23 worldwide).They’ve always excelled in the arts, drawing on their vast repertoire of ancient lore and ceremony.
They have nuclear capability, too.
As they export their once-insulated culture, they’ll set international standards, as well–just as Hersey predicted, years ago. Are they concerned with the rights of its citizenry, as we are in the US? Not so much. China has violated human rights steadily and has been cited for such by the United Nations (the Nobel Peace Prize winner for 2011 is imprisoned Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo.)
Biddy considers Hersey another forward-thinking author whose work eerily portends what could be. All the more reason for America to embrace the diversity (and gifts) of others, while stressing the need for human rights’ extensions in China, thus minimizing the possibility we’re considered the “less desirable” group in the future.
(Click on the link below to learn about the Chinese New Year to be celebrated on Feb. 3, 2011. Happy New Year to our Asian brothers and sisters!).