To Patriots: Confession of a Patriot-used-to-be

Alia | May 12th, 2012 - 5:24 am

What is the most popular viral picture on Sina Weibo for the past two days? Not photos of nude models or cute cats, it is a screenshot of a long blog entry by 姑娘忒高兴 (a seemingly post-80s generation nobody on Weibo before the post). The post is directed to “the patriots” and walks the readers through the journey of  how a patriot-used-to-be grows into a patriot-no-more. It has accumulated more than 40k reposts and more than 13k comments since its post date of May 10. Pretty amazing given that it’s neither a verified Weibo account nor a popular one in any sense before this. Comments to the article can be summarized into one ”bravo”: “It’s a great post!” So…without further adieu…

[Translation]

This long post is meant for the old me, who used to have the same kind of fanatical hatred. That’s the reason why I can understand the current you and why I believe someday in the future, you will grow into what I’m today. The following comments only represent my personal views. Please do not humiliate my parents or family. Thank you.

In 1999, the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was bombed by the US, leaving 3 Chinese dead. I was at the second year of high school at the time. The news angered my entire class. We asked to cut class and protest on streets. The school rejected. We asked to suspend English classes, arguing that learning English was an action of traitors. Our English teacher was left perplexed on the lecture stand. On the pedestrian bridge outside of my high school, a group of young protestors screamed through. One of them snatched a bottle of Pepsi held by a passing woman and shouted angrily: “The US bombed our embassy and you are still drinking US pops…” He then threw the Pepsi heavily on the floor and went on shouting anti-US slogans, leaving the woman shadowed in scare. The KFC at the South Gate had its windows smashed and was forced to close. In the evening, at Drum Tower Square, students from Nanjing University, with white ribbons on heads and burning American flags in hands, marched towards Beijing road, receiving applause from onlookers all the way, and among them was me, full of tears. U.S. students all hid in their dormitories out of fear of going out. Foreign students from other Western countries would tell everyone they encountered that they were not from the US. As a silent protest, all imported US movies were postponed indefinitely. The days of condemnation from CCTV news and the voices of crying and grief made me firmly believed that the US was the most evil nation on earth.

As a Nanjing native, I inherently have a deeply-seated hatred towards Japan due to the massacre occurred 75 years ago at this city which used to be China’s capital in 6 dynasties. I came to know the Internet during my freshman years and met a group of anti-Japan netizens, Together, we built a buy-no-Japanese website, where we put all the anti-Japan information we could possibly find. We would print out these information and pass around to passers-by on streets. At the time, I was nicknamed “Fanatical Girl” online and I was indeed very fanatical. I posted protect-Diaoyu-Island (aka. Senkaku Islands) materials in every self-study room, on school bulletin boards and even at places where Japanese students ate. During discussions of whether to use Japanese or German technology to build high-speed rail, my friends and I took a “boycott Japanese high-speed rail” banner to Nanjing Rail Station to collect public signature. We even photoshopped the head of Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi onto a pig. We posted the picture online and received applauses from everybody who saw it. I admired the man who sprayed red paint at the Shrine, thinking that I would do the same. I even believed that a Chinese man who raped a Japanese woman did something heroic for the people and never realized that it was a crime. At the time, I thought I was very patriotic.

The first summer after I started my first job, I went to Yangshuo in Guangxi Province for a trip. There, I met a middle-aged German man. We got along quite well, walking and rafting together. That was until one night when we were having dinner together, he said to me in English: “China doesn’t have a very good human rights situation.” At the time, I didn’t even know what human rights were, just that the US published a China Human Rights Report every year. With the heart of a patriot, I started a quarrel with the German man right away, shouting to him in English: “You are not a Chinese. What do you know about China’s human rights situation? We are much better than you.” Out of the persistence and the seriousness of a German, he didn’t give up at saving a silly girl like me and continued to explain the issue. But at the time, all that I thought was: “No matter how bad China is, a foreigner is in no position to judge.” With that thought, I stood up and left the unhappy dinner. I traveled to Longsheng the next day. Not long after I went back to Nanjing, I got a postcard from him from Germany – we left each other contact information before the fight.

During the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games torch relay, many anti-China protesting crowds emerged wherever the torch went. I got emotional when I saw a Chinese athlete with disabilities guarding the torch was attacked in France. I was bathed in tears when I saw a Chinese man waving a Chinese flag in a chilling fountain in Canada’s early spring. And I couldn’t help but cry when I saw the elderly holding “Hello, Mother Country” banners on American streets. The word of patriotism, due to these people, started to feel real and beautiful. Since I was in the business of international trade, I had a lot of opportunities to work with foreigners, and yet I tried my best not to discuss anything political with them. My major source of political news was from CCTV. I thought that the US deserved 911, that the US invaded Iraq for oil, that the anti-China sentiment in Europe was due to the threat posing by a rising China, that there had be a war between Taiwan and China, and that the PLA can easily took over Taiwan in 3 months. Whoever said they would strike a war against the US or Japan, I would excitedly donate one month’s income to show support.

I believe after reading the above, you must have found pieces of you in the old me. Don’t you feel familiar? Yes, I used to be as radical and obsessed as you are now, feeling proud to be a Chinese, ready to fight for the country’s dignity at all costs and to jump at anyone who dares to say a single negative word about her. These used to mean patriotism to me. Then I came to my senses. Forgive me for not explaining the process in detail for everybody has their own path to enlightenment.

Nowadays in China, when you face either people who are still deeply in slumber or people who pretend to be asleep, you will know how painful such enlightenment is. What’s worse, when you see people who do evil and get away, such enlightenment is heart-breaking. All are things you have to confront every day. Anyone who has a conscience can see and feel it. And when you start to realize that there is nothing you, as an individual, can change, a strong sense of frustration will hit so hard that going back to the dark is impossible. Therefore, in this country, one has to pay a price to be sober, whether it’s time,  money, freedom or even life.

Our parents dedicated their entire youth to the Party, which was their ultimate pursuit when they were young. My father participated in the link-up (“大串联”, a time during Culture revolution when students were allowed to cut class and travel across China to meet other young activists) and went to Beijing. He, like countless other fanatical young men at the time, shouted “Long live, Chairman Mao” at Tiananmen Square, with the Little Red Book (a book of Mao’s quotations) in hands. At the age of 16, he was sent down to the countryside. He later came back as a worker and then was laid off when his factory closed at the end of the 90s. With all these misfortunes, he never complained a bit. In fact, my father isn’t alone. There are so many who share his misfortunes, growing up in the same crazy years and going through the same fate, from youth to old age, from black hair to white, from standing upright to bending over. For them, to follow orders from the authorities and to not to create troubles for the Party are the best embodiment of patriotism. No regrets at all.

Our generation was taught to love the country, to love the Party and to love socialism. The only thing not taught was to love ourselves. We were told to work hard for the four modernizations (the modernization of agriculture, industry, national defense and science and technology), and to fight our whole lives for communism – we felt so proud standing under the national flag, wearing red scarfs that were said to be dyed red by the blood of dead martyrs. On political science classes, we were told that China is under the people’s democratic dictatorship led by the working class, runs People’s Congress, has Four Cardinal Principles  and practices socialism with Chinese characteristics. Teachers told us that the constitution is the fundamental law, but mentioned nothing about the constitution entitling us the right to vote and to be elected, the freedom of assembly, the freedom of speech and that our human rights are not to be violated.

For the past 60 years, the education system of this country has been centered around the Party instead of its people, and around the collective instead of the individuals. Such ideological indoctrination tamed people who should have grown into conscious citizens into kneeing slaves. Those who are still standing up are seen as impudent rebels. People lose the ability to think independently. Justice is rarely seen, yet indifference is everywhere. It costs a price to do good but nothing to do evil. Those people,  who, themselves, lose the guts to fight for their rights, laugh at those who do and call them stupid and officious. The virtue, kindness, courage and ambition that the people in this country used to have look very much like sieve holes after 60 years, letting chilly air taking over of the heart.

The conflict over Huangyan Islan between the Philippines and China stirred up quite some debates among the public. Nationalism reaches new high. Countless people are gearing up and shouting “A patch of land, a piece of gold. No concession in national territory. It’s very likely that most of these loudest voices don’t even know where Huangyan Island is located and what it looks like. Whar’s more that these people don’t know is how much land the government has ceded since its founding days. All they know about is a Huangyan Island. They follow celebrities and stars on Sina Weibo, write about their trivia emotions, show off what they eat, drink and play with. Discussions of politics and people’s livelihood are nowhere to be found in the content they post. Brother Yewu used to say to me: “Those who turn a blind eye to the injustices happening near them act like they love this country more than anybody else. These people are patriotic douchebags.” The little Huangyan Island is your g spot, nationalism is a strong dose of Viagra, and under the influence of the two, orgasm is easy. You groan with excitement, bashing those who are anti-war as traitors. Why don’t you travel back to Qing Dynasty to the day when the Treaty of Nanjing was signed (The first unequal treaty between Britain and China at the end of the First Opium War in which Hong Kong was signed off). You feel so pumped with justice that you cannot wait to transform into an atom bomb aimed at Luzon (the largest island in the Philippines).

The more I hear and observe and the older I grow, the more I am able to understand the true meaning of “Where is freedom, there is home.” People are born with a desire for liberty, the same as the fear of no freedom. Where is freedom, there is home. Many patriots would bad-mouth: “China does not welcome you. Go back to your XXX!” Hah, in fact, I wish I can get out. Could you please help me with visa? Thanks. When people cannot vote to get freedom, they vote with their feet. They leave this country for a place where they feel free and secure, both for themselves and for their children. And you, the patriots, sank in a pool of stagnant water, motionlessly feed yourself to mosquitoes and bugs, becoming numb after being exposed to the odor too long, and feeling uneasy if someone dares to stir the water. Yes, that is a most trueful portrayal of you, who allow violations of your own rights, who turn a blind eye to your fellow men’s sufferings, who tolerate evils and ignore outcries from the good. And yet a little Huangyan Island restores virtue and moral in you. Nationalism is your g string, veiling over your typical indifference and making you look like full of justice in the mirror.

I’d like to end this long post with a comment left by a fellow netizen. Here is how it goes: “Just now a high school classmate told me that the Beijing Municipal Commussion of Education insisted that non-local students cannot go to Beijing schools without the “five certificates”. He said he felt so disappointed. He was the guy who has been really radical about Huangyan Island, Diaoyu Island and Chongzhi Island in our classmate QQ group. But now he said, “F@ck Huangyan Island and Diaoyu Islan. F@ck them all. If Chinese kids are not allowed to go to schools in China, why does a bigger territory even matter!’”

[Click here for original post in Chinese]

 

 

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8 Responses to “To Patriots: Confession of a Patriot-used-to-be”

  1. bill rich says:

    I am interested in how she started being curious about her rights and freedom and how she figured it all out ? What triggered that change?

  2. [...] China Sea issue (for a fascinating individual case-study that vividly illustrates why, read the “Confessions of a patriot-used-to-be”), but surely the security forces must have been expecting a bit more than this feeble show of [...]

  3. Andrew says:

    Just brilliant, THANKYOU!

  4. Sascha says:

    Chinese version harmonized LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!

  5. Someone thinks this story is fantastic…

    This story was submitted to Hao Hao Report – a collection of China’s best stories and blog posts. If you like this story, be sure to go vote for it….

  6. justrecently says:

    Still available. Got there after logging in.

  7. justrecently says:

    Seems that the Chinese original is no longer online. Did you save a copy, and could you post it here?

  8. [...] popular posts on Weibo has been an essay entitled “Confessions of a Former Patriot,” which was translated in its entirety by the good folks at Offbeat China. (Original Text [...]

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