The Amend Corner

About that ‘Chinese virus’

Posted 4/9/20

Apparently, we are going to be in quarantine for a while longer.

That’s certainly more of a problem for those of us with businesses and jobs, and active people who are normally out and about …

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The Amend Corner

About that ‘Chinese virus’


Apparently, we are going to be in quarantine for a while longer.

That’s certainly more of a problem for those of us with businesses and jobs, and active people who are normally out and about every day and routinely sociable, than it is for a guy like me. I don’t get out and about very often anyway, and I’ve been gravitating toward being less sociable for some time now. Staying home and avoiding contact with people is pretty much my routine these days.

This doesn’t bother me very much. Thanks to the challenges of my health, I’ve been mostly staying home for the past three or four years. The only exceptions have been occasional trips to the coffee shop, attending church when I’m up to it, visiting one medical facility or another and necessary visits to the barber shop. Now even those activities have been curtailed, and the only thing I leave the house for is an occasional walk around the block, during which I don’t see many people, and the people I see are usually on the other side of the street, which, I hope, is too far for a virus to travel.

My principal activity these days is finding productive ways to spend my time and keep my brain from turning into jello. It’s not hard to find a book to read in my house, though, and since I often obtain a book or two and then forget to read them, there is an unknown number of unread books hiding on shelves throughout the house available. In addition, there are a number of volumes that I began reading and then was distracted by disturbances — such as a six-week stay in a hospital or a visit from grandchildren. Such books are often forgotten, but are available with a bit of searching.

Recently, though, I was reading a book purchased just a couple of weeks before a virus dictated that we all stay home. One episode in the book made me think about our current situation.

We are dealing with a virus that first appeared in China, and for a while there was controversy because members of the Trump administration were referring to the novel coronavirus as the Chinese virus. Since then, the president has stopped using that name, but it’s apparently still being used by some in the talk radio world. In addition, there has been concern that immigrants to the U.S. might be the vehicle bringing the virus with them.

In a somewhat convoluted way, the book I was reading made me think about our contact with other nations and the place of immigrants in America.

The book, “On Desperate Ground,” tells the story of American troops facing waves of Chinese soldiers who attacked out of the night at the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. The Chinese were ill equipped, and thousands of them died in the attack, but they continued attacking at night in overwhelming numbers. A company of Marines tasked with defending an important position met the attacks for several nights, but soon was surrounded and in danger of being annihilated.

A force of 150 marines was organized to go to the aid of the surrounded company under attack. To avoid the Chinese, who would be guarding the roads, the marines would go cross country in mountainous terrain in the dark. They would march in single file as quietly as possible, and in the dark, each man would have to follow the only man he could see in the dark — the man right in front of him. The plan put a heavy responsibility on the marine at the head of the column.

The column walked all night, climbing three steep ridges and winding through rough terrain along the way. The men were nearly exhausted by the time they reached the embattled company the next morning. They retook the position, which would be vital when the marines withdrew, and were evacuated from the positions at the reservoir.

What struck me about the story was the identity of the lieutenant who led that march. He’d been  wounded twice and was awarded the Navy Cross for single-handedly taking a Chinese position. His name was Chew-pen Lee, and he was the son of an immigrant from China.

Today, thanks to a virus, people like Lt. Lee may be facing danger from their fellow Americans. Just Sunday morning, there was a report from Texas of a Chinese-American family being attacked in a Sam’s Club. The assailant, who is 19 years old, slashed three of them —  including a 2-year-old and a 6-year-old — with a knife, and also stabbed a store employee who tried to take the knife away from him. He admitted that he attacked the victims because they were Chinese and thought they were spreading the coronavirus. The FBI has said there have been other attacks on Asian-Americans, and they seem to be increasing.

I’m a bit super-sensitive about this, because our son-in-law is Cambodian and part Chinese. The attitudes displayed by that man in Texas present a danger to him and our two grandchildren. I can only hope that, as a society, Americans will oppose hatred for people like them, and take appropriate action to prevent attacks based purely on ignorance about a disease.

After all, there may come a time when another Lt. Lee is needed.

The Amend Corner


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