China as Lightning Rod

I’m mad at China. Yes, the whole country. Which really means I’m mad at everything and everybody that denigrates human dignity. Including myself, of course.

The story about the little girl who was chosen to sing the national anthem at the Olympics but who, ultimately, was deemed “not cute enough” to be seen as a symbol of the nation, has gotten me riled up. Have you read about it? Don’t! It’s maddening. I’ll tell you about it and get you mad right here.

Apparently a “cuter” child was selected to lip-sync the words along with a recording of the voice of the “not cute enough” child. And yet, I read, it was assumed that the Chinese people would know this was a necessity for their national image.

But before I spin off the planet in anger at China, I have to look right here at home.  Once at a swimming pool full of rich kids, I overheard one of the proud mothers saying “Where do the ugly children swim?” She was saying it rather tongue in cheek… but it had a certain truth (“They’re not here. We’ve filtered them out.”).

I’m guilty of this.  How often am I a “respecter of persons” as Scripture warns against? Often! And I abhor it. Hate it. Detest it. And yet, some days I don’t even notice what I’m doing.  And other days I’m embarrassed by something that somebody I love does or wears because it might reflect on me. (Who’s watching, exactly?  And aren’t they hyper-concerned with their own image anyway?)

We most value a certain type (depending of course on culture) or certain attributes and then favor those who fit the mold.  Scroll down and see again the photo of the Barbie dolls piled up, with .99 marked on one of them.  We like her type; we like the one-size-fits-all concept, and then on the other hand we don’t much value each other’s dignity.

We retouch photos… so people can see what we wish we looked like.  I know none of us want to be thought of as “the girl with acne” or associated with our “awkward stages,” but — really — why?  Those times are part of the story.  Part of what got us here.  And most things don’t last forever.  And the ones that do generally come with an attached gift of learning that other things matter way more than the outward appearance.

I loved my children’s school photos when they were young and picked out their own mismatched clothes that did not reflect the taste of the management (me).  Or when they had teeth missing.  Or made up a hairstyle never before seen on a human. 

One year the lady who worked for the photo studio that does the cheesy school photos (“rainforest background please”) told my son, and I quote, “I will get fired if I let you look like this,” as she tried to neaten up his hair.  He told her, “My parents like me like this.”  I hope he was polite.

Another year the same child attached a laminated dollar bill to his shirt — not just for picture day but for the whole year.  I don’t know why.  There’s no reason to glorify trying to be different just for the heck of it, but I still would rather see a kid with weird hair and a dollar bill attached to his clothes (if that is in fact what said child looks like this month) than to airbrush him into compliance and anonymity.

Image… varnish… spin.  If we think everyone else looks and seems great, we won’t believe that it’s okay if we aren’t doing so well.  To the degree that we admit that we are all glorious and all a mess, we can all relax a little more.  It’s okay not to be okay.  Trust me.

~ by Cary on August 13, 2008.

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