Many thanks for the November article featuring Walter Kirn by Mark Bernstein, two distinguished members of my class. I was especially pleased to see that an established author and critic, perhaps respected by both sides of the political divide, is trying to cross or even bridge this divide.
Other than also being a transfer student, I can hardly find anything in common with Kirn, at Princeton or afterwards. However, reading his story made me feel vindicated for my own “heterodox” views. His criticism that some Democrats cloak their empathy with condescension was sharp. It could be subtle and unintended, but really felt. During the early days of the pandemic, I was asked on several occasions if I had been mistreated for being Chinese. The concern was no doubt well-meaning and may be valid, but it inevitably woke me up to the fact that I was, after all, different.
In my school days in China students whose parents happened to have owned businesses or land, large or small, before 1949, were compelled to search for and confess every bit of influence from the exploiting class, to which their parents belonged. The nightmare worsened during the Cultural Revolution. “Self-flagellation,” or self-criticism in contemporary Chinese vocabulary, was common in those days. It was not for anyone to get to heaven but simply to get out of the living hell, mentally and sometimes physically. I hope we shall never see those days in our country and our university.