Mar 29, 2010

Encounter with crazy antisemitic, anti-American man

I was browsing the Chinese Proficiency Test section at a small Beijing bookstore with my girlfriend recently. As you would expect to find in that particular section of the bookstore, there were a handful of Westerners and other non-Chinese-looking folks there, flipping through the books.

Suddenly, from ten feet away, I heard a middle-aged Chinese man start to rant loudly in semi-intelligible English. The man was had long shoulder length, ratty hair, and sloppy, partially dusty clothes. He was angry about something, and very disturbed. Using my Jason Bourne-like insticts, I rapidly identified escape routes, items I could use in our self-defense, and physical vulnerabilities of the irate man, all in a matter of seconds.

The crazy man started ranting at first with the f-word in English, which he followed with some unintelligible gibberish that could have been English, a Chinese dialect, or heavily accented Mandarin. He then ranted something in English something about "Americans". The crazy man yelled to no one in particular. He sprayed spit while he shouted, and you could see he was missing one of his front teeth — maybe he started a fight with the wrong bouncer in Sanlitun.

The crazy man appeared to be staring directly at one specific person. He directed his comments at a college-aged blond girl standing right beside us, who was also perusing books. The crazy man continued his rant to anyone that would listen, and the blond girl explained to everyone standing nearby that the man had tried to hit on her, she didn't pay attention to him, and then he became irate.

The crazy man ranted loudly for another three minutes or so. He switched between English, waidi ren-accented Mandarin, some type of countryside Chinese dialect, and finally German. The German really surprised me. He essentially repeated over-and-over these phrases:
  • "F-ck Americans!"
  • "Don't help Americans!"
  • "别帮美国人!" ("don't help Americans" in Mandarin)
  • "Jews!"
  • "Juden!" ("Jews" in German)
The anti-American comments are nothing to be surprised at, but the antisemitism is unusual. I can't say that I've ever personally encountered anything like that in China. It was very bizarre.

My Chinese friends tell me that mental health care in China is still developing. After seeing this kind of wild behavior, I believe it. It seems like there's a real need for accessible counseling. If he can speak three languages, this man must be a a pretty intelligent individual, but he's in need of some basic counseling, and maybe daily antidepressants.

I think this experience was indicative of a need to improve mental health care resources in Beijing and in China.

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