Privileged is a word that has stayed in my mind the last several days. My own feeling of privilege. Automatically, there's the privilege of being white in America, and there's the privilege of being American, white American. There is an element of what we call freedom that really is enviable to the rest of the world, with exceptions. Much as I go on about the holes in American democracy, it is only right that I fess up to appreciating the other side of the coin too, what's right about American democracy. For one thing, I'm allowed to openly write whatever I feel is important to say or even what is not important to say. The only presidents whose hands I would not shake would be Johnson's, Reagan's and W's. That only because I don't want them touching me. I don't want our energy fields to intersect. I see them enemies of the American people, serious enemies, in fact seditious. Americans are divided about half and half, for democracy and against democracy. I'd guess about 100% want democracy for themselves; only half of them want democracy for everybody else too. The electioneering money goes to swaying the undecided one percent toward's one's own direction.
A great film seen today was MAO'S LAST DANCER, the story of a Chinese ballet dancer who defected to USA for those basic freedoms we take for granted. By now, after seeing probably a hundred mainland Chinese films, reading a dozen or more mainland Chinese novels, reading some Chinese history, imagining what it must be like to live in China, Gao Xingjiang's ONE MAN'S BIBLE carried for me the feeling of living under the dark brooding cloud of political oppression with tentacles that entangled everybody without compassion. We don't know these kinds of problems except through stories out of China, and before that the Soviet Union. Our capitalist way is also without compassion, but we do have access to the law, which is largely in our favor, unless an international corporation wants it another way. Our enemies are within. They're not coming at us from the outside, but from inside, like a blood disease, like marrow cancer. The Bush administration was like brain cancer.
The film's depiction of the difference between USA culture and China culture was portrayed especially in the dancer, Li, when he was new here, like arrival. People hugging him, women flirting with him, all of which was forbidden in China. Any public display of affection forbidden. In China, it's the boundaries the people live inside. Here it is forbidden not to make public displays of affection, like hugging, "So good to see you," "I need a hug." We Americans have taken up hugging over the last half century. Hugging is new to us, and by now it's everywhere. Hugging is what we do. It can't be denied, hugging is a very friendly gesture. Li's first day, people were hugging him everywhere he went, and it was new to him, very awkwardly new. He came to the Houston ballet for 3 months and when it was time to return, he could not go back to living under the dark, brooding cloud.
It seemed like a karmic message I'm to learn something from. Yesterday, the story of the chimp taken from its life as a chimpanzee, raised in human conditions, then at about the same time in a child's development, Nim was taken from his people and his spirit crushed under intensive training like training a dog to obey commands afraid not to. He was caged in a single cage in a big room with several cages of chimps all living under the dark cloud of solitary confinement in his own cage in a world of chimps languishing from despair. Li, the dancer, kidnapped by the Chinese embassy, had to spend some time in solitary being held and returned to China on first plane. He fell into despair over just a couple days facing return to the relentless repression he knew before and took for reality. It was no longer reality.
If he'd not had legal assistance, his story would have paralleled Nim's, taken away to live in a cage of political repression the rest of his life, complicated by his attempted defection. The film goes on to make a heart-throbbing feel-good movie to the ultra max, legitimately, too. The film had no cheap shots. It's one of those films like AS IT IS IN HEAVEN where the final scenes wrap everything up in a happy way for all concerned. Quite the opposite of Nim's story. Mao's Last Dancer has an ecstatically happy ending that is understated. Very powerful emotionally. The story's beauty is in its innocent heart.