Minority Report

Three months down. It’s time to take stock.

There are condoms everywhere. Unlike in the US, where you have to go through the 7/11 clerk to ask for a pack, or wave down a supermarket associate so that she (it’s usually a woman) can unlock the glass door and know more about you than you wanted to reveal, since she has to lock the glass again after you’ve made your selection, China has condoms next to the bathing products, and the snacks, and the wine, and the miscellaneous items, and on this corner, here, because you’ve walked too far without seeing a condom pack. Family planning, after all, is part of Chinese culture. Though the one-child policy has been relaxed to allow for two children, the Communist Party still caps the number of children a family can have to avoid its 1 billion+ population from becoming a John and Kate + 8 scenario. Chinese people have very strong knees, a colleague explained to me, because of the way toilets are, or rather, aren’t. Squat toilets reign supreme here, which to me feels like an urban camping experience, but you’ll often see people squatting in the street while on their phones, to rest—in the absence of benches, squatting provides a suitable substitute.

Though tips are included in the prices of restaurant items, service isn’t devoid of respect or amiability. Considering the argument for abolishing tipping rests on waiters and waitresses suddenly becoming devils who’ll behave like wild, rude animals, I offer my experience in, literally, every restaurant I’ve been in, in China, as a counterfactual. Cashiers tolerate my pantomime, even the ones who shouldn’t find my lacking ability to form words cute after the tenth visit, especially not after ordering the same thing for the tenth time.


…Trump won the election.

I was walking around Beijing with my roommate, Soren, and a man approached asking us who we supported in the election. I said Hillary, Soren said Trump, and the man was glad Trump won.

“Better crazy than a liar,” he said.

Despite promising a hike in tariffs of Chinese exports, despite promising to bring jobs back from China, thereby wrecking the Chinese economy—and our own of course, but I’m not concerned with that right now—and despite calling climate change a hoax created and perpetrated by none other than the Chinese (remember that I was in Beijing, a city that has shut down in multiple occasions because of suffocating smog, i.e. environmental problems), this man, whom I presumed was Chinese, declared, “Better crazy than a liar,” perfectly content with his analysis. At least he was honest about what he thought of Trump. In the United States, his supporters would never justify their vote in that way. They insulted and demeaned Hillary in every way possible: liar, power-hungry, corrupt; they then accepted, justified, or excused Trump’s insults. This man called Trump crazy, but Trump supporters accepted Trump’s insults as honest, justified his tone as authentic, and excused the rest as being anti-political correctness.

Trump isn’t crazy. He’s a little man who’s suddenly come into the most powerful office in the world. To him, winning the presidency was the goal, but not the presidency itself. Trump’s supporters excused his policy knowledge deficits, both foreign and domestic, because it was thought he would run the government like a lean business, since, of course, CEOs similarly know very little about the businesses they run. Rather than drain the swamp of Washington elites, I imagine Trump is now at their mercy. The Republican leadership remains largely intact in Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, and with Reince Priebus, previous head of the Republican National Committee, now as Trump’s Chief of Staff. Who else but the Establishment he hoped to drain could Trump count on to suggest cabinet positions? Trump’s victory is like a snow globe: his supporters wanted to shake things up, but they didn’t realize that the same snowflakes would remain in the globe.

At least it’s nice to watch the way they float around for a while.

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