I Dunno What to Put Here

Congratulations to my amazing sister Clara for snagging a fellowship with the CDC!!! I’m ever so proud and happy for her.  I feel like I need to keep up with her despite her self-deprication.  Sad she won’t be home when I will be, but I think it’ll make the house less cramped, and that’s one more loved one on the east coast for me to visit. 😀

Not much to report still, met up with a Chinese Fulbright alum who researched the presence of Taiwanese Americans in Capital Hill, which I think is really interesting. He invited us (the other American Fulbrighter and I) to his parents’ place for dinner although only I was able to attend. It was a wonderful meal of chun bing, Chinese fajitas, and I had a great time talking politics with them.  In the guys words, his parents becoming more conservative in their old age and he wanted some exposure to Western perspectives for them.

Have a new draft of my article that I’m waiting to get a Chinese eye on.  Gotta pick the right person and bribe them properly to get them to agree to help revise 15 pages of my likely terrible writing.  Also went to the Chinese Industry Museum on a recommendation which gives me a nice transition to the educational portion of this week’s post: recent Shenyang history.

You’ll  my first extended stay here in February when I talked a bit about Shenyang’s history as the Manchu capital and the subsequent Japanese occupation.  Link here. The Soviet’s kicked the Japanese out at the wend of WWII, and once the Chinese communists took over Shenyang quickly became the jewel of the Northeast.  Those of you who have been to Beijing might remember that the blue subway line 2 runs in a circle around the Forbidden City, and that a lot of the stops end in “men”.  Why is that?  Well men (pronounced mun, written 门) means gate (even looks like one) and that’s because line 2 runs on the remains of the old city wall. The designers preserved the names of the gates that once stood there in the names of the stops.

Cities like Xi’an, Pingyao etc. have turned their city walls into tourist attractions, and they’re pretty amazing, so what happened to Beijing’s? Well, apparently briefly after Mao Zedong took control of Beijing and gave his speech on Tiananmen (天安门 literally “heavenly peace gate”) which marked the founding of the People’s Republic of China, he apparently said he wanted industry to drive China into the future, and that he wanted to see factories stretching into the horizon from his perch at Tiananmen. Fortunately that didn’t quite come to pass, as the area around the Forbidden city is still filled with parks, museums, and alleyways (although those are fast disappearing thanks to good old capitalism), but it did mean the destruction of the inner and outer city walls in the 50’s.

He didn’t give up on that industry dream either, and heavy industry was responsible for the Northeast region (Dongbei) being the darling of young communist China.  Metal production, forestry, petroleum, machinery manufacturing; you name it, Dongbei had it. Shenyang was the center of that, producing much of the machinery used in other factories across the country, and so they’ve erected a museum in an old factory in the industrial district to commemorate its place in history.  Fun place to visit actually.

Mao went a little overboard though.  To fuel these factories smelting metal and producing building materials and other products, Mao started the “Great Leap Forward” which lasted from 1958 to 1962. In order to transition from an agrarian to industrial civilization, Mao made collective farming mandatory to reduce the number of people needed. Collectives were also given a quota of steel, which could often only be met by melting down farming equipment and other essentials in backyard furnaces, which produced low-grade, useless pig iron in addition to making it impossible to farm effectively.  Intellectuals who tried to point out the ineffectiveness of this were labeled counter-revolutionaries and subsequently imprisoned or executed.

While crops were good in 1958, locusts and labor diverted to steel production meant many crops went unharvested or wasted. Under pressure from the central government to demonstrate the success of communism though, local party bosses overreported production, so when their quotas were taken in, very little remained for people to eat.  No one at the top would really acknowledge it was happening either, lest they be purged.

As a result, historians estimate anywhere from 18 to 55 million people died of starvation, although it’s a tad bit more complicated than that.  If this and the Cultural Revolution hadn’t happened, who knows what China would be today.  Makes me sad to think about.

It didn’t stop Dongbei from fueling China’s rise though.  As I’ve mentioned, Dongbei is the rust belt of China, and bears startling resemblance to America’s.  The terrain, cuisine, personality of its residents, and economic history all share parallels.  At the risk of repeating an earlier post, I’ll spare you the details, but if you’re ever in China and wanna visit the American Midwest, Dongbei is the place to come.

Lastly, I’m sure you’ve all heard about the (not yet in place) ban on trans people serving in the military.  Some new things that I learned because of it: the military also doesn’t accept color blind people, people with flat feet, people with missing fingers, and people with bad anxiety, among others who don’t meet certain physical and mental requirements.  Due to a recent acquaintence, my facebook feed has gotten a lot more conservative. This is actually good for my diversity of views, and I find myself agreeing with a surprising amount of stuff the person in question posts (pro marijuana, pro gay marriage, anti-pharmaceuticals, anti-GOP establishment). That goes with a lot of stuff I don’t agree with, but you can’t have everything now, can you?

So some of the arguments in favor of the ban are that being transgender is another thing that could compromise a given person’s effectiveness as a soldier.  That’s all and well, but that operates on the pretty big assumption that being trans impacts a person’s effectiveness as a soldier in the first place. One veteran voicing such an opinion started his video by saying, “I’ve noticed a lot of liberal civilians suddenly became experts on the military, y’all need to shut the (expletive) up.”  His argument built on the above one that even cis people get torn apart by stress in a combat situation and made the assertion that trans people would be worse at dealing with it, thereby becoming a liability to their unit. What I find deliciously ironic is that he then talks at length about being trans while not being trans himself.  People against the ban keep asserting that being trans is some sort of detriment on the basis of fear and emotion alone.  It’s a load of bullshit IMO.

Given there’s an estimated 15,000 trans people in the military currently serving to great effectiveness.  Ask them how they’re doing, check their records. I think the ban is a stupid decision that will hamper our ability to fight wars instead.  The moral validity of those wars is beside the point.

Similarly, the ability to serve or not is kinda beside the point here as well, in my opinion as a cis person. Again, it’s not about bathrooms, it wasn’t just about bus seats in the 60’s, and it’s not just about the army this time. It’s about a group of American’s still getting labeled as “other” and being treated as lesser citizens as a result.

So again, to my trans and non-conforming friends and loved ones: you are not a burden. You are important, you are beautiful, you are loved.

Other conservatives seem upset with the fact that the military would pay for transition for these soldiers, as they also believe it shouldn’t pay for viagra or any number of other medical procedures it currently does.  So at least they’re consistent in their beliefs.

If you have 13 minutes, this documentary about a couple who are both trans members of the military is a great watch.

If you wanna rage donate like I did, the National Center for Transgender Equality is a great one.

Thanks for sticking through the entire post. Be well, and have a cute.

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