“Can I climb on that statue, Mom?”
“No, see that sign that says ‘Don’t climb on the statue’ over there?”
“Does it mean that I really can’t climb it or that I can only climb until an airport worker tells me to stop?”
To my American mindset it felt like I must be a really bad mother. For my son to ask me such a question it must mean that I’m teaching my kids that following the laws are optional; teaching them disrespect of the systems and things around us.
Back home in Xining reading Oracle Bones again has been helpful as I find some of Mr. Hessler’s descriptions of his experience and life in China comforting and clarifying.
“Scholars often talked about the shift toward the rule of law, and I sensed that someday, after the changes in China had settled, it would seem like a progression that had moved logically from one point to another. But to live in the middle of this process felt entirely different.” and “Most simply, it was natural for individuals in China to break the law. There were endless regulations, and many of them were unreasonable; the country changed so quickly that even rational rules slipped out of date. Virtually every Chinese citizen whom I came to know well was doing something technically illegal, although usually the infraction was so minor that they didn’t have to worry.”
My children come home from their days in the Chinese public school system seeing life differently than I do and I find myself looking to Mr. Hessler for clarification not only on the culture around me, but on my own children and how they respond to the world around them.
Respect doesn’t look the same on every continent. But I hope I function in a way that models respect no matter where I am.