The Chinese People Deserve Gratitude

The Chinese People Deserve Gratitude

Feb 2019, Nan Chong, Sichuan province. Wedding reception for Qiao He and Christopher Ghyzel. (l-r, Ghyzels and Qiao) Rebecca, Julia, Qiao, Chris, Kim, and Phil. [Photo provided by Phil Ghyzel¹]

George Cassidy Payne

My first real introduction to ancient Chinese philosophy happened while studying at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. At the time, these traditions were, for someone brought up Baptist in a rural town in Upstate New York, quite difficult to apprehend. But the teachings of the Yin and Yang School, Confucianism, and Taoism, all made a significant impression on my evolving worldview.

Victory Baptist Chinese Church of Rochester, 285 E Henrietta Rd, Rochester, NY 14620 [Photo: David Kramer, 5/2/20]

From the Yin and Yang School, I learned to value the female and male principles as being present in all human interactions and how all universal phenomena are a product of combining the opposite forces. Because of these teachings, my culturally ingrained notions of male dominance were challenged in healthy ways and my attitude towards life, in general, became softer, more fluid, paradoxical, and open to change.

From Confucius and later on, the teachings of Mencius, I developed a unique appreciation for the humanistic emphasis in all social relationships, especially within my family and work environments. Confucius, in particular, showed me how to place value in the inherent dignity of elders and the sacred roles we must fulfill as a matter of civic and moral obligation.

From Taoism, I became aware of the life force moving inside every single atom and the way of nature as it follows the virtues of simplicity, spontaneity, and non-action. The Tao (Dao) or Way, was explained to me by the great master Lao Tzu in his book the Tao Te Ching, which has become a spiritual roadmap for me.

(left) Corner of South and Elmwood Avenues next to the Al Sigl parking lot, 12 sided obelisk in the John N. Paris garden for peaceful contemplation.  Inscribed in Chinese:  May Peace Prevail on Earth. On each of its panels is the same phrase in twelve languages. 1/25/17; (right) Next to one of the two benches in the garden, plaque: In Loving Memory of John N. Paris, Executive Director Rochester Hearing and Speech Center 1978 – 1990. 5/2/20 [Photos: David Kramer] from A garden for peaceful contemplation on the corner of South and Elmwood.

From other Chinese teachers, I gained insights into racial and sexual equality, ethical relativism, constitutional law, the search for truth in daily living, the nature of Zen, Ch’i, and many other philosophical ideas that have guided my thinking.

For these reasons, I cringe when I hear individuals blaming the Chinese people for the coronavirus and all of the devastations it has unleashed on the world. When Mr. Trump, for instance, refers to the “China virus” or makes conspiratorial allegations that the virus was manufactured in a Wuhan lab, these comments directly impact lives in potentially lethal ways. According to Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), hate crimes targeting Asian Americans average approximately 100 per day. (The Hill, 3/31/20) And the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council and its partners have received more than 1,500 reports of anti-Asian hate incidents since mid-March. Many attacks and threats against Asian Americans go unreported or receive inadequate attention from law enforcement agencies, which is both unwarranted and negligent.

Victory Baptist Chinese Church of Rochester, 285 E Henrietta Rd, Rochester, NY 14620 [Photo: David Kramer, 5/2/20]

The Chinese people and Chinese culture are not to blame for the pandemic. The Chinese have an ancient history of cultural achievement, scientific invention, civilized governance, and geographical exploration. (Read 1421: The Year China Discovered America). And no population has suffered more at the hands of this scourge than they have. To make such accusations is to engage in victim-blaming at the highest level; it is racist, irresponsible, and cowardly.

No society is perfect and the Communist government in charge there is guilty of not only political and economic hypocrisy but severe oppression and cold-blooded atrocities. Still, the people of China are our friends, and their ancestors are our benefactors. For it was they who invented the papermaking process, the earliest specimen of woodblock printing, gunpowder, acupuncture, the first practical use of natural gas for lighting purposes, tea, tofu, toilet paper, and so much more. From the building of the transcontinental railroad to their remarkable contributions as doctors and researchers in American labs and hospitals, the debt owed to China and those descended from that nation is beyond calculation.

As I see it, we all have a moral responsibility to do everything in our power to protect them, advocate for them, and promote their contributions. We owe it to them not just because of their tremendous influence on the global society, but because that is our duty as citizens of a country that believes in the power of freedom, diversity, and humanitarianism.


¹ As seen in the featured picture of the wedding reception in China, Talker subscriber, frequent commentator and occasional contributor, Philip Ghyzel recently welcomed the newest member of his family, Qiao He [pronounced Chow]. An airline pilot, Phil frequently flies to and from Asia. Of Qiao, her family and the Chinese people, Phil writes:

I would concur with George’s high regard for the Chinese people. My most recent trip to China was last February when our family traveled 8 days for Chris and Qiao’s third wedding. The first official wedding got her green card paperwork going, the second was the big American wedding, and the third was in Qiao’s grandparents town in west central China. Throughout the trip Qiao’s extended family and friends were constantly taking care of our arrangements and needs. Being excellent hosts is definitely a Chinese virtue, and a responsibility that was taken seriously. We would have completely floundered without them.

Feb 2019, Nan Chong, Sichuan province. Qiao arrives in her bier with her brass band just prior to wedding. It was important for Qiao’s feet to not touch the ground on the way to the wedding, so Chris had to carry her down several flights of stairs, then put her in the bier, prior to the parade through town to the wedding.

At the parade, the blondes [Rebecca and Julia Ghyzel] stood out. [Photos provided by Phil Ghyzel]

Other than the guard at the Imperial Palace/Forbidden City who wouldn’t take a picture with me, I sensed generalized good will from the people around me. I think the guard needed to maintain decorum, so I can appreciate his position.

At the Feb 2019 wedding reception for Qiao He and Christopher Ghyzel in west central China. Mr. Sun He and Mr. Philip Ghyzel. [Photo provided by Phil Ghyzel]

I think Qiao is the best thing to happen in Chris’ life, and that influences all my thoughts on China issues. I saw the best of humanity in the Chinese people I met. It was some pressure being the senior male in our American group, I felt like an unwilling cultural ambassador, but I did my best.


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About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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