(2/2) Fresh Off the Boat

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May 9, 2019 01:18
Over the past few decades, in Fujian there has been a huge trend of human smuggling to “first-world” countries, especially the US. Don’t be surprised if you hear that an entire township of people has packed up and gone. Overstaying visas is the safest way, but most people don’t have them, so they have to pay smugglers tens of thousands of US dollars to sneak into the country, either by hiding inside freight containers on ships, or flying to Mexico and entering through the porous southern US border. Short of money, many of them even opt to go into debt. Some borrow money from their relatives; some resort to high-interest loans. They firmly believe they will eventually pay off the loans through hard work, even if it's merely a dishwashing job in Chinatown or a place like Flushing. After clearing their debts, they do whatever it takes to become US citizens or obtain green cards.

From the Mayflower landing to the Civil War to the Great Depression to today, America has always been on the move – migration has never ceased. However, the Chinese society, influenced by its entrenched clan culture, is much less mobile. In the past, Chinese people lived together most of their lives based on patrilineal relations, which developed an indigenous credit system that is intermingled with face and lineage culture. It's very different from its American counterpart, which is much purer, from a capitalistic perspective.

I think I have described the background enough. Then let’s get back to the aforementioned matricide case. The fact that Wu’s relatives (Fujian people) lent him around $200,000 may not be difficult for you to believe anymore. They wouldn’t have hesitated to lend money to a stowaway, much less a Peking university student going on to MIT, with the prospect of becoming a hedge fund manager on Wall Street or an excellent engineer in Silicon Valley. Also, they wouldn’t have checked in on them in haste, because they knew that it was normal to be out of contact for quite a while. Things wouldn’t have always gotten off to a good start when the mother and the son landed there fresh off the boat. They had faith in the pair, having seen how Fujian dishwashers realized their American dreams. Even if Wu and his mother, by any chance, were never heard from again, they would just have blamed it on bad luck. After all, this credit system could be dysfuntional sometimes.

Perhaps it was torture for Wu to struggle between the forces of good and the forces of evil. According to the police, the reason they headed off to the crime scene was because Wu somehow had hinted his uncle talking on the phone. Wu let down his guard and went to the airport despite knowing full well that dosing so would put him at risk. He wasn’t an irrevocable Satan. He was juggling his identities. What if he was wholly evil? He could have absconded to the US. He could have alleged that he and his mother emigrated to the US. Even if his mother was never heard from, people would assume that she just disappeared for the sake of immigrating illegally, like my aforementioned schoolmate did. They would have thought it was normal, and that sent shivers down my spine.

[Revised]