“Update Your Vision of the United States”
This morning I made a trip to my local Xinhua Bookstore in Flushing, Queens with the aim of purchasing a few current American suspense novels published in Chinese. While browsing through a section of English/Chinese books geared toward advanced native Chinese-speaking learners of English (because there is no comparable equivalent for native English-speaking learners of Mandarin), I came across a text entitled, “你所不知道的美国”which had been translated on the cover in English, “Update Your Vision of the United States.” I should note that this translation- while a creative approximation- is not entirely accurate. I began thumbing through the text, which was published in 2009 by China Aerospace Press to explain the history and culture of the United States through a series of narratives and critiques on everything from the election of President Obama and “The Cradle of Washington Elites” to the Chinese immigrant experience and the Chinese “Co-Founder of You Tube.” The first chapter, on U.S. national parks, is even entitled, “America’s Best Idea.” The cover of the book claims that the text has been approved by a woman named Andrea Hutt, but I have since concluded that a pseudonym may have been used for this particular work. I ended up buying “Update Your Vision of the United States” anyway, along with a translation of Stephen King’s “Duna Key” (the latter of which was a small splurge driven entirely by equal parts ambition, ego, and stupidity). To be fair, despite the translator’s loose interpretations of language, this Beijing-approved book isn’t half bad in terms of its vocabulary and accuracy. And, according to a search on Baidu, it’s pretty popular over in China. Dangdang.com reviewers give it 5 stars and message board commenters seem equally enthusiastic about their new understanding of America. The following passages are just a few gems from “Update Your Vision of the United States”:
On Mass Media
In recent years, the American media have been plagued with all sorts of problems including sliding profits, scandals about manipulation, plagiarism, falling readership, “dumbing down” and so on. For example, CNN apologized for Jack Cafferty’s insulting remarks against the Chinese…
Media omissions, distortion, inaccuracy and bias in the US is something acknowledged by many outside the USA, and is slowly realized more and more inside the US. However, due to those very same omissions, distortion, inaccuracy and bias in the mainstream media, it is difficult for the average American citizen to obtain an open, objective view of many of the issues that involve the United States.
Does this remind anyone else of American media coverage on Chinese censorship?
On Ivy League Institutions
Ivy certainly looks nice, but you wouldn’t want to stroll through it. Americans gradually realize that much of what they don’t like about American politics- namely, American politicians- can be traced back to Ivy League schools. It can’t just be a coincidence that four or five universities keep spitting out presidential candidates and their spouses with the sort of regularity that Notre Dame used to turn out All American football players… Considering the politicians the schools have let loose on Americans, someone would like to rename it the Poison Ivy League. Americans and their universities also take delight in ridiculing their presidents. A university of not much prestige attracted applicants by making George W. Bush its advertising representative. It put in its website a black and white picture with Bush claiming that “graduating from an Ivy League university doesn’t necessarily mean you’re smart.”
An exportable lesson?
Cheerleading is a sport in crisis. There’s furious debate as to whether it is actually a sport at all. There’s a blazing row about just how appropriate it is to have schoolgirls in short skirts perform dirty dancing moves. Some also argue that cheerleading reinforces gender roles. The fact is that for the last five years America has been ripped apart by a maelstrom of cheerleader sex, substance abuse and violence. It seems that Americans are telling teenagers not to have sex, but are teaching them how to do it on the football field and applauding them when they do it. It is just too sexually oriented. Some suggest that drug dealers should have their fingers snipped off. Others claim that cheerleading leads to teen pregnancies, school dropouts and other problems. Cheerleading simultaneously represents “youthful prestige, wholesome attractiveness, peer leadership, and popularity” as well as “mindless enthusiasm, shallow boosterism, objectified sexuality and promiscuous availability.” Cheerleading gives us a snapshot of the American culture.”
If you’re not laughing at least a little bit, perhaps it’s time to update your vision…
I will soon be back to blogging regularly as I prepare for a move back to Asia and look forward to sharing what I learn with you throughout this new experience. Thanks for reading!