‘What drove you to the right, what do you see in European civilization, and what makes you sympathetic to an otherwise Eurocentric movement of rebellion against multiculturalism?’
Much, I wager, is hidden in my memory, locked away in rooms I can no longer reach. My first trip to Europe, after all, was when I was two, before I even spoke English. Though there is little of that trip that still presents itself to my mind, however, I do know that it made a sufficient impression upon me. Perhaps the experience of beauty in some of Europe’s cities, and in the Black Forest, was lasting enough that, foreign though it was, my soul ever after took it as an elusive standard of human civilization.
And living among foreigners, and being a foreigner, has always been part of my life: since the time I left my mother’s womb, I have never lived without it. Of Alabama and Georgia I have no memory at all, but even in Virginia I knew that my world of my parents and Chinese uncles and aunties was only a world within a world, a world that alone was mine but was fragile and subject to the forces of the larger world in which it was. Of this larger world I had appræhension enough. Anyone who had eyes and ears saw and heard that some of the adults who intersected with my life were different: they spoke an alien tongue, and they did not look like my parents. Indeed, even my uncle was different: he was French, and my aunt’s son, though he spoke my language, looked like a French child. And yet, though I dreaded the thought of sitting in a French church service, who could deny that Paris was a beautiful city, that the banks of the Seine were the heart of a great city? or that Strasbourg on the Rhine and Budapest on the Danube were not places that simply existed, but lived by the souls of those who breathed and made them places fit for man, and their churches fit for the presence of God? The palaces, the bridges, and the paintings were beyond my understanding, but I could not see the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the bust of Nefertiti without feeling that they expressed something humanly significant. The entire continent was pregnant with meaning I knew I could not fully grasp. Though I had no words for all that, I did return to my country – or rather the country of my birth – talking about the things I had seen. He who goes to Europe when he is young does not easily forget the beauty of the earth.
As a young child, for the most part, I knew only to be happy; but even when dark clouds overshadowed my sense of life, of the world, the dream of Europe lingered on. My Chinese world in the midst of Westerners was small and fragile, but so was society itself. When I was three, my brother was born, I started school, and Clinton was elected. Loving my baby brother, beginning to speak English, shocked by the cruelty of a present in which a man could become president who supported the slaughter of children as Pharaoh did of old, I could be happy and mirthful, but I could not think anything lasted for ever; nor could I think human life was ever far from barbarism and collapse. The larger world I was beginning to know could suffer plagues as terrible as the ten plagues that had struck the people of the Nile. China’s tranquil night had once been shattered by the sound of cannon fire; hundreds of years earlier, its central plains had been overrun by the Jurchen barbarians, and again at the close of the Ming dynasty it had been taken by the Qing, and less than fifty years ago it had been captured and spoilt by the Communists. Not only was my Chinese world carried forward only by my own commitment to speak Chinese and be Chinese, but even America and Europe, less populous each than China, could suffer as great China had suffered. If China was lost and lived in me, then Europe no less could be lost.
I grew older, but my refusal to give up my Chinese identity never changed. If multiculturalism was an opportunity to learn, I would learn whatever I thought worthy; but anything that called for me to become anything less than Chinese would not find a willing audience. And if this was what I insisted on for myself while despising the shame that other Asians felt about their cultures and their families, and if Europe was as beautiful a place as I remembered it to be, then it was a crime to ask the White peoples to give up Europe. Only a sickly people could fail to cultivate its own way of life with its art, music, and literature. My desire to master English had always been to be no worse than the White man in any respect, and to overcome any disabilities that must lie upon me for being Chinese, but I would never have bothered with a civilization that had nothing worth learning. I could not, and cannot, ever ape the West; but to learn what there is to learn from the goodness with which God has endowed the West is no mean task, and the glory of Europe no mean thing to admire. As multiculturalism is an enemy to my Chinese identity, and as it corrodes a genuine sense of what I feel to be my Christian duty, so in sympathy with a decaying Europe I resist it, and I call upon all to resist it who have ever loved the vision of Europe; for never can I wish to befall Europe what I tasted at the glass door that separated Macau and mainland China in 1997: that the China I knew was lost to me, that in several months Hong Kong was to be replaced by hollow lies, that this death would come more silently than a shadow in the night, and that the finger with which I touched China through the air was the melancholy memory of something my eyes did not see and might never see.