There’s no other explanation; Uncle Sam must be getting senile. He’s become like one of those dear relatives who have to be watched when you go to the store because he or she may otherwise wander out into the parking lot and then into the street. Sometimes these loved ones can do and say things that embarrass us; they might drop a glass of red punch on the new white carpet at someone’s party or comment on how much weight a lady has gained.
According to recent news reports, Uncle Sam may need increased supervision on his trips abroad. I cringe to think about his recent exploits in China. What could be more embarrassing than learning that Vice-President Biden, never a master of discretion, verbal or otherwise, told Chinese young people planning to visit the U.S. that they should start questioning their government, their teachers, and their religious leaders? “Children in America are rewarded – not punished” the V.P. declared, “for challenging the status quo. The only way you make something totally new is to break the mold of what was old.”
These words might seem like a bold endorsement of freedom until your skepticism kicks in. For one thing, Biden isn’t as open to “challenging the status quo” as his remarks would imply. His response to viewpoints that differ from his has always been scorched earth. In addition, what would Uncle Sam do if these young people actually followed the admonition and started disappearing into dark pockets of the Chinese penal system? Finally, Uncle Sam doesn’t understand what it is to “break the mold of what was old” the way the Chinese do. He’s never seen the like of the Cultural Revolution. Besides, when has a Chinese leader come to the U.S. and told American young people to start questioning their leaders less?
The political thing is bad enough, but it’s not as embarrassing as the cultural thing. It wasn’t enough that Uncle Sam’s contribution to the most ancient and sophisticated culture the world has known turned out to be the entrenchment of fast food chains. No, this atrocity had to be topped by a meat scandal. When the Chinese public learned that some of the suppliers to KFC were using antibiotics on the chickens they raised, sales dropped. Instead of simply correcting the problem and letting people forget though, Yum Brands Inc (an ironic name), owner of KFC, initiated an “I Commit” ad campaign to promise that future food will be pure in their establishments (thereby reminding everybody that there was a problem to begin with, inadvertently encouraging them to stay away).
Considering everything – including Uncle Sam’s provocative flying of B-52s over China’s newly declared Air Defense Zone in the East China Sea – the nation once known as The Middle Kingdom has been fairly patient. It’s been a long time since the goateed man in red white and blue posed for the famous’ I Want You’ military recruitment poster. His eyes were more focused then; the hand with which he pointed forward was steadier. Elderly loved ones, as their capacities dwindle, often insist that they are as alert as ever, that they need no assistance. But let’s move in anyway, and give Sam a place to put down that glass of red punch.