Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to China for my new job. While I am not in any hurry to go back, it gave me a better perspective on what is so great about America.
The first thing I did when I arrived at my hotel was to try to log on to Facebook. It didn't work, so I tried it again. When it didn't work the second time, I called down to the front desk to attempt to ask them how to log on to the network. Did I mention that nobody spoke English there? They came up to my room and got me on the Internet, but when I tried to go onto Facebook again, it didn't work. I skyped one of my co-workers and they told me that the government forbids it. I cried.
I then tried to log onto my blog, and again it was blocked because I go through blogger. I could read Dooce.com which has to be one of the most irreverent blogs I read, but couldn't write on my own. I cried harder. The feeling of total isolation was overwhelming and more than a little scary.
When a car is driving down the street, there are flashing lights. I asked what it was and the driver told me it was a camera taking a picture. I asked if he was speeding and he said no, it was just the way they kept track of who was driving.
All of this was odd to me, but the biggest thing that I still can't wrap my head around is the one child policy. I can't imagine living in a country where they can tell me how many children I am allowed to have. I am all for fiscal responsibility, but for a family to have a second child, they have to pay the state a fixed amount before the child is born that is roughly the equivalent of what it will cost to raise said child to the age of 18. Because this is so expensive, few people have more than one child. I can't imagine living in a world where nobody has siblings. It was strange to be out in public and you wouldn't see or hear kids at all. Some of the people I talked to expressed concern about how this generation is going to be able to take care of the older generations. It is a lot of responsibility for one child to make enough money to support both the family they create and their parents.
There were some amazing things about my visit to China. The food was not one of them, but Shanghai is one of the cleanest cities I have ever seen. Crime is almost non-existent because the punishment system does a great job of deterring it. The punishment for selling drugs is death. They are not fooling around. I felt very safe walking alone at night. Everyone that wants a job can have one. There were a lot of people doing jobs that were not the most productive, but they were working. After a few days I realized that people in China are really just like us. They are doing their best to live the best life possible. They have lived under these restrictions their whole lives, and they are okay with it.
I am not okay with it. I am happy to have my two children, and am grateful my parents had 4, seeing as how I am the youngest. I am thankful that I can have a creative, public blog without being shut down, and I can tell my friends that I am doing nothing on Facebook. I am glad to know that nobody cares where I am driving my car and no pictures will be taken unless I am speeding in a school zone. This trip to China underlined for me why America is such a great place to live, and why the Constitution is considered a living document. While I will be happy to go for a year without any political ads, I appreciate that I have a say in how I want my government to be run, and my vote will count in an election that is really too close to call. Now that I have seen an alternative, I will never take my right to vote for granted again.