Saturday, May 19, 2012

Chen Guangcheng Comes to America

By Meg Curtis

Imagine experiencing the United States of America as a blind Chinese refugee. Try describing a Chinese American restaurant to a Chinese national. Try explaining why Americans take vacations on Labor Day. These challenges pale beside encountering a nation of 313,573,431 people without being able to look them in the eye.

Chen is scheduled to land in the Newark Airport on Saturday evening, May 19, 2012. From there, his announced itinerary will take him to New York University. In one fell swoop, he will speed from the Garden State to the Empire State, with no reasonable explanation for either term. “Where are the gardens and empires?” he might ask if he could see.

Particularly since the advent of videos, DVDS, computer gaming, and Facebook, America has become an enormously visual experience. Most recently, an orphan even found himself by researching his personal history on the internet. Yet this international orphan cannot now see himself as Americans commonly inspect their reflections.

He cannot then speak to them in their own visual language, no matter how eloquent or crude his English—unless there’s an app for that, too. Nevertheless, his status in the United States will confound more than diplomats. Should Americans consider him “disabled”? Not a word has come out of China supporting the conclusion that Chen is a hair less than extremely able.

In fact, if he runs a school for activists here, he just may activate a whole new school of thought. What exactly does an “activist” do? If Chen’s an “activist,” what is the rest of the human race? And, while he was speeding from Shandong Province to Beijing, did it occur to him to check his self-image? Maybe that’s how one becomes an “activist”—by neglecting mercurial mirrors.  


The United States Census Bureau runs its US and World Population Clocks here: 

The remarkable story of a Philadelphia man finding himself on the internet appears here: 

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