We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
Is President Obama a Republican?
Friday afternoon in academia usually means most faculty have left the building after attending the faculty meeting, assessments group or whatever academic bureaucracy has been scheduled. I was probably one of the last ones to leave and was winding up what had been a more than stressful week.
I heard the hesitant knock on the door and the “Dr. D. may I ask you one question?” The soft voice belonged to “Snow,” a student who is with us this year, earning credits to transfer back to her Chinese university. Like a little bird on the windowsill, Snow is alert, always turning her head from side to side as she listens in class, but sitting still in my office, hanging on to every word.
It’s an introduction class in mass media in which she’s enrolled and sometimes it seems it’s more than she can comprehend. Her English is much better than my Chinese, but she struggles sometimes to understand what is meant. If it is a “fact” she has never heard or has heard the opposite, she comes back with more information she probably spent most of the night finding.
Today, she asked why newspapers were in “some much trouble.” She couldn’t understand why newspapers in a country like the United States could be sliding so badly. In China, everyone reads a newspaper, she said, and here we have papers like The New York Times and the Washington Post.
For the next hour or two our conversation meandered. And, as usual, she was like a sponge – politely standing until I told her to have a seat – absorbing all I said and trying to understand this strange country where we have so many different possibilities.
We discussed the class, a hybrid, where part is in the traditional classroom and part online. She needed her usual reassurance that she knew the next assignment and was I really combining newspapers and magazines when I discuss websites next week. It wasn’t in the book, so did she understand correctly that I was discussing websites.
We moved to the Egyptian Revolution and she didn’t really know what to do. She always reads The New York Times, but I had told her to expand her information seeking. So, she went to Google. Google is her favorite and she talks often of trying to find something on Google. Now, she was depressed. She put “Egyptian Revolution” into Google and found so much she didn’t know what to do. She was confused. How did she know what to read?
I suggested she stick with a few websites and gave her four or five to use over the weekend. She politely repeated each after me, then asked if this was right.
Her big question: “couldn’t this happen to President Obama, just like Mubarak?” To her, the people overthrowing the leader is tantamount to a coup, revolution and absolute chaos all rolled into one. I told her no, that our Constitution would protect from that. That we have a way to protect our government from being overthrown. She took this in slowly, nodding in understanding, but then, “I don’t know. Can you explain, if you don’t mind, what is a Republican and what is a Democrat?”
That’s a tough one. How do I explain a political process in total disarray, but still works? I explained the left, the right, liberal, conservative, big business, big government and people of all types. Once again, she nodded slowly, then, “But, this Tea Party? Where do they belong?”
Good question. So, we discussed the 2008 election, the 2010 mid-year elections, and what people thought they wanted. “Ah, the mid-year elections! Didn’t President Obama lose the election? He’s a Republican, no?”
Snow had read of people in Florida against everyone having healthcare. It was totally beyond her comprehension why people would pay for healthcare and not agree for all Americans to have it. I tried to explain the Federal government versus the states, but, I had myself confused and no, I don’t understand why old people in Florida don’t want healthcare. “This Medicare? You mean people get it free, but don’t want it?”
But, her real question was just like any student – what to do when she leaves. She has one more year, including her internship, before she graduates from her Chinese university. Soon, her department head will assign where the students will go for their internships.
She said “I thought newspaper, because everyone reads newspaper, but now you tell me it’s not doing good. Maybe China has more readers, but my father knows someone in the big newspaper in the country, so I talked with her and she said no to newspaper. It is very scary.”
I suggested radio, but, according to Snow, radio is not important in China. “When people stand there for the bus or, how do you say, subway, they read newspapers.”
I asked what her family did at home. “Oh, my mother has lots of DVDs. We listen to music.”
“Do people in China ride a bus or subway to work or do they drive?”
“Oh, no, we don’t drive. It makes congestion. But if people in United States don’t ride the bus or train, how do you get to work?”
Most of us drive alone, I told her. “Oh, then you have lots of congestion! Especially in that Drive Time.” She hasn’t been to Atlanta, yet.
“So I think I’ll go with wire service. They are big. What do they do?”
Finally, “I need to go now, but I don’t understand why United States doesn’t read newspaper. We all like the United States in China. I read The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times before I come here. But, then you tell us in class about this USA Today. It is a National newspaper you say? Why is it national? But, isn’t The New York Times international? Doesn’t it have international paper? What is it called? The United? England? Oh, United Kingdom. We like United States in China. Why don’t people watch TV news in United States as much?”
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
My father, born in the northern English port of Liverpool (a likely landing place for seafarers) was tall, blonde, with piercing blue eyes, a Roman nose and flat back of the head. As a girl I fantasized that he was of Viking descent, and I a northern princess with a fine thermostat: I was never able to tolerate a hot climate, feeling moribund when the temperature is above 85 degrees and at my best when there’s a nip in the air. Twenty years ago scientists at Oxford University, England, began collecting DNA samples in Orkney, islands off the coast of Scotland, g Read on →
The reports of a settlement on Sea Island, Georgia, are disturbing on many counts, not the least of which is that the Sea Island Company no longer exists. Not only have many of the assets of the bankrupt, family-owned firm been acquired by an artificial body that called itself “Sea Island Acquisitions,” as if acquisition were an honorable enterprise, but that Limited Liability (little responsibility) Corporation has now morphed into an alphabet string that’s not even a pronounceable acronym, SIA PROPCO II, LLC. So, it’s no wonder references default to the historical moniker, which may well be the intent. Then too, th Read on →
In 1972 I had waited two years to receive an invitation to visit China and then four days to get a seat on the train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou. The travel time to Guangzhou, via Hong Kong, by commercial airline and train, was about twenty-six hours. In the years that followed I made many trips to China. Each time the visits became easier, there was no waiting for invitations to visit the country. In the 1980s tourism became a major source of income for China as the country opened up to the western world. It had a lot to Read on →
It is reasonable to believe that the state senator in our part of Virginia is being groomed to do for Virginia—or I should say do to Virginia—what Scott Walker has been doing to Wisconsin. This state senator’s name is Mark Obenshain. In the election of 2013 he came within a hair of winning statewide office as Virginia’s Attorney General. Now there is much expectation that in 2017 he will try to become governor. Here is an important clue regarding what it would mean for him to succeed in fulfilling that ambition: in his Attorney General race, Mr. Obenshain was helped by a $60,0 Read on →