Before my first trip to China five years ago, I wondered what the country was about. It was going to be an adventure, sort of a Marco Polo thing in 2005.
This week, I will be going to China for what I think is about my thirtieth time or so. Over the past five years, I’ve gained some perspective, perspective that will serve me the rest of my life.
Before I went to China, I’d traveled a lot, but mostly in the countries where I understood the language. I’d been to Paris, Israel, England, Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean, mostly places where people looked and acted like me. I always held an America first attitude, that we deserved better.
That has changed. The biggest thing I’ve learned is we are really all the same. The Chinese are no different than us. They have families. They have dreams. They cry. They laugh. Some are nice. Some are not.
People work for less in China than they do in America. That doesn’t mean the jobs that pay one or two dollars an hour in China are any less significant. People there live on that, plus send money back home. They’re not in front of the TV bored out of their minds. They don’t carry debt. They’re not slaves. And, most don’t work in sweatshops.
I no longer think about a job as being American or Chinese. I think everyone should have an opportunity to earn an honest living. A lazy person here shouldn’t do better than a diligent person elsewhere. If you earn it, you earn it.
We’ve become a nation of plenty. We’ve become arrogant in some ways, thinking we deserve more, not because we do more, but because we’re American, that it’s a birthright.
I believe that kind of thinking will eventually cripple our country. We see it today in the way our social services are overburdened. The word entitlement is used more than opportunity or resourcefulness.
We’ve done a great disservice to our youth. We’ve given them too much. We’ve gotten in the way of their success. We’ve gotten in the way of their pain. We’ve gotten in the way of their resourcefulness. We’ve gotten in the way of their hunger. We’ve just gotten in the way.
America used to be the place where the bootstraps were pulled up and the upper lip was stiff. I hope one day we get it back.