Sometimes I get the red, white and blues

On June 12, the US Embassy in Beijing sent out an e-mail warning Americans to be careful at nightclubs in Beijing. It said that an embassy employee was attacked by a group of Chinese on June 9 at a club near Workers Stadium, a popular bar area and expat hangout.

“The employee, who was out with some colleagues, was hit in the head with a sharp object as he was dancing away from the group,” the e-mail said. “According to witnesses, the employee fell to the floor and was repeatedly beaten and kicked in the head by individuals serving as bouncers for the nightclub. By all accounts, the attack was unprovoked.”

Workers Stadium in Beijing. The US Embassy said one of their employees was attacked at a nightclub on the west side of the stadium. (Photo by Jason Walsh via Wikipedia)

The attack wasn’t the first targeting US citizens, the embassy said, adding that “maintaining an awareness of your surroundings and keeping a low profile are critical to avoiding potential problems.”

Asking a foreigner in Beijing – especially those who look and sound very different from the Chinese – to keep a low profile is a bit like asking a cricket marching in a pack of ants to blend in. It’s just not going to happen. Foreigners make up less than 1 percent of the city’s 20 million residents. We stand out wherever we go. Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes it’s not. Continue reading

In China, a 75-year-old war wound is still bleeding

When I was a boy, I liked to argue with adults about history. I’d ask questions that are impossible to answer, like whether the United States would have become a superpower if the South had won the Civil War, or whether we’d all be speaking a different language if the Allied forces hadn’t defeated Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

I formed my own opinions too, mostly based on facts I learned at school. One of the more heated debates I had was with my grandfather, a Korean War veteran. I told him I thought the U.S. was wrong to drop atomic bombs on Japan during World War II.

He said the bombing was necessary to end the war, and that I didn’t understand how brutal the Japanese soldiers were. But what about all the innocent people in Nagasaki and Hiroshima killed by the bombs, I asked. What did they do to deserve to die?

It was the only way to end the war, he repeated. Continue reading