Toward Chinese-American Understanding

I applaud the voice of reason expressed in the Nov. 22 opinion-page article, "The US and China: a New Consensus." Having lived and taught in China for five months this year, I had the opportunity to observe the reactions of students and businesspeople to the escalating tensions between these two powers this spring. In all cases, there was an eagerness to establish close relations with the United States tempered by frustration and confusion in understanding our government's policy toward China.

In Shijiazhuang where I lived, I met many people who had very limited contact with Americans and who expressed very distorted views concerning our culture and values as well as our economic and military interests. Upon returning home, it became apparent to me that much of the same lack of understanding existed here. It is extremely important that mutual cooperation be established at the highest levels, but it is equally important that greater understanding be developed between the larger population of each country. I hope that the efforts of both countries to establish a closer working relationship extends to greater cultural exchange. Without such interaction, serious misunderstandings and conflicts are certain to develop.

Having observed the breathtaking rate of economic and social change occurring in China, it is clear that by the 21st century they will be a major world power with whom the US must share its global influence. Hopefully, this relationship will be one of mutual respect that is constructive in nature.

C. Robert Scull

Shippensburg, Pa.

The flag is not the problem

Two thoughts regarding the Nov. 25 page 1 story on the Confederate Battleflag debate, "South Carolina Flap Over Rebel Flag."

First: The author inaccurately refers to the embattled emblem as the "Stars and Bars." As many historians (and most Southerners) know, the "Stars and Bars" very closely resembles the "Stars and Stripes" with a blue star-filled canton and red and white horizontal stripes. The "Confederate Battleflag" flies atop the South Carolina statehouse. The familiar Battleflag consists of a blue saltire cross with 13 stars on a red field.

The two are not interchangeable, as one is a political symbol while the other was specifically designed for the battlefield, so as not to be confused in combat with the Union flag.

Second: I would dispute the central assertion the article makes that the flag is one symbol for whites, another for blacks. While many distill the argument to a simple racial dichotomy, the Confederate Battleflag, for better or worse, represents a 130-year regional history that's both noble and evil, gracious and ghastly. The flag is not at all unlike the Union Jack (with its association with British colonialism) or the US flag (which to many represents a variety of oppressions from "Manifest Destiny" to the treatment of native Americans). It is, like all powerful symbols of regional identity, evocative, dynamic, and inevitably controversial.

The debate over the flag is, in reality, a surrogate for the debate we are not having in this country over serious racial divisions. It is an argument that sadly places symbol over substance.

David Brown

Laguna Niguel, Calif.

Sports musings

Thanks for the Nov. 25 sports articles, "A Texas Hand-Wringer: Is Football Too Popular?" and "Ruling on Brown University Boosts Women's Sports Teams." The way football is perceived in this country is scary. Granted, it has broken down many racial barriers, and that is a benefit to all sports.

Regarding the second article: It's wonderful to see women's sports blossoming the way many of us had hoped they would. As a former coach of high school girls teams, it would have been great to have role models for girls the way young women do today. It's a shame, however, that such recognizable pieces of equipment as lacrosse and field hockey sticks would be confused for each other, as in the picture on page 5. Someone will probably take offense!

Jeff Welcher

Oneida, N.Y.

Letters must include your address. All are subject to editing. Mail to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail (200 words max.) to OPED@CSPS.COM.

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