Letter to the Editor - The Lakeville Journal - 3-9-23
Diet of fear and anger can be countered by joy
It seems from all of the endless news stories these days that international relations between the U.S. and China are at a low ebb. It also seems that some national politicians [mainly Republican] are hell-bent on making sure that the 21st century go-to messaging subtext of our 24 hours news cycle culture — “be afraid, be very afraid, and angry” — is used about China with relish, daily. If left in the hands of our power hungry pols [for the next election], this empty calorie sugar high of fear and anger will quite possibly become a self-fulfilling destruction of meaningful dialog.
The following simple moment of international exchange, from my past, can point to a different path.
Many many years ago I was given the rare opportunity to join a “practice session” with the leading troupe of Chinese Acrobats on a world tour. They were from Wuhan, China [yes, that Wuhan]. I realized then that it is customary to give something “special” when meeting your international brethren [I am a juggler] for the first time. After much thought I decided that the most meaningful thing I could offer would be to show them a film I had of the greatest juggler of all time, Francis Brunn.
After the group practice session, all 70 or so of the Chinese Acrobats and coaches assembled in a nearby hall and I introduced the film. I said that it was a performance by someone they may never had seen — as he mainly performed, years before, in Las Vegas.
Francis Brunn had opened for Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Danny Kaye and Jerry Lewis among others. [As a boy, Francis Brunn along with his father and sister had fled Nazi Germany.] The lights went down and the film began. The normal conversational hubbub quickly gave way to total silence as Mr. Brunn started his 7-1/2 minutes of brilliance. To get a feel for his performance, imagine you are watching one man create our solar system of spinning planets and moons, diving comets, and falling stars — and he is the sun.
At the conclusion of the film, the lights came up and there was not a sound to be heard from the assemblage of Chinese Acrobats. Then, suddenly, they all turned to their interpreter and excitedly gave voice to a single short sentence — followed by all 70 heads turning towards me expectantly. The interpreter smiled and gently spoke “They all want to know — ‘Can we see it again?’” In this spirit of international cultural exchange — I wish, oh, I so wish.. President Vladimir Putin could meet and sit with Charlie Chaplin — and watch Charlie’s movie ‘The Great Dictator.” President Xi could meet and sit with Alice Walker — and listen to her read “The Color Purple.” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei could meet and sit with Yo Yo Ma — and listen to Ma play Bach. President Kim Jong Un could meet and sit with with George Carlin — and just talk about people. I wish — oh, I so wish..