Letters to the Editor: The America I knew was better than this
Yu Mengjie

Editor's note: This is a letter from Yu Mengjie, a graduate from Clark University with a master's degree in communication, sharing her thoughts about the Capitol riot.

There is an old Chinese saying, "Even an upright official finds it hard to settle a family quarrel." And I always learned from our media that it is reckless behavior to butt in other countries' internal affairs. However, with the U.S. run-off election turned into a riot and Trump supporters storming the U.S. Capitol, it is hard for anyone in the world with internet connection to turn a blind eye.

I spent two years living there, from 2013 to 2015, while I finished my master's degree and learned to drive for the first time.  It was not a long period, but many memories flash in front of me now and then. Therefore, after an inner struggle, I decided to write down my feeling about the chaos. Some of my views might be personal since I am not a professional journalist, so thank you for your tolerance.

Although from the previous reports, I expected some unrest along with the U.S. election process. I was still astonished to see a picture suggesting that the House of Representatives Speaker Podium had wound up on eBay. It was most likely an internet prank, yet it aptly described the chaos that the U.S. is facing. It's a joke that is hard to laugh at since the U.S. is still ranked at the top of the world economy, and it is also a country with a strong military force and nuclear weapons. Once such a country falls into turmoil, its impact on the world will be immeasurable. What is even weirder is that Trump put his people's lives in peril because he is unhappy with the election results. Five people died in the Capitol riot so far.

Another thing in this chaos that leaves a deep impression on me is Facebook and Twitter's immediate response to Trump's unchained posts inciting violence. Twitter has blocked Trump's account permanently, and Facebook blocked him from posting indefinitely.

People nowadays are living in a social media era. It changes the way we communicate. Information spreads faster, but it also brings some unexpected risks. Early in 1895, French social psychologist Gustave Le Bon defined the characteristics of crowds as "impulsiveness, irritability, incapacity to reason, the absence of judgment of the critical spirit, the exaggeration of sentiments, and others. " His theory may sound arrogant, but it seems like those characteristics are magnified on social media when people can hide their identity behind the screens. 

In August 2019, political theorist at Harvard University Danielle Allen had already foreseen that, yes, "speech on a social media site, or a presidential platform, can eventually incites violence" and advocated that the rules of incitement should apply to social media.

The suspended Twitter account of U.S. President Donald Trump on a smartphone arranged in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 9, 2021. /Getty

The suspended Twitter account of U.S. President Donald Trump on a smartphone arranged in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 9, 2021. /Getty

"Social media platforms are like toll roads. They are privately operated providers of a public good - in the one case, transportation; in the other, communication. On toll roads, all the conventional rules of public roads apply. The same should be true of social media. The rules of incitement should apply, and be vigorously enforced, including, if necessary, through extradition," Allen said.

Thankfully, Facebook and Twitter realized their social responsibility and did something to curb future incitement from the president. It may not have changed the outcome, but one can imagine that it was not an easy for the two companies to take the extraordinary step to ban the incumbent president's speech.

Governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker, a Republican, posted on his Twitter account, "I join with Americans from every corner of the country to condemn the violence unfolding at the Capitol, and President Trump and his supporters must do the same immediately."

When I read his post, memories of my studying in the United States popped up out of nowhere. I'm going to give you one clip that may have no relation to today's breaking news. But I want to share it so badly.

At a hotpot party with Chinese students in Boston, I ran into a girl who happened to be the roommate of one of those injured in the Boston Marathon bombing. She recalled to me the day of the accident. A few hours after the explosion, she got a phone call from the hospital, telling her that her roommate got injured.

There were no more details about the situation, but the hospital asked her to be there immediately because she is  her roommate's emergency contact. Panicked and worried, she got in a cab and gave the destination in a weepy voice. As they arrived at the Massachusetts General Hospital, the taxi driver asked, "I've heard the news. People who got injured in the bombing was sent to this hospital. Did anyone you know get injured?" 

The girl burst into tears. The driver pulled over in front of the hospital and gave her a friendly hug, telling her, "Don't worry, God bless you. I hate these crimes as much as you do." The driver also politely declined her fare.

As I am about to finish writing this article, U.S. Congress certified Biden's election victory, and Trump committed to a smooth, orderly transition. With China's development, there is bound to be friction between China and the United States, politically and economically. 

Like a toddler learning to walk, after many attempts to stagger along, they will finally stand up and take a step. There will be a day the two countries find a way to get along. As I grew up, I learned that we can't always stare at the good old times, and I also learned that a mature and sensible person would deal with problems in a reasonable and decent way.

Yu Mengjie

A graduate from Clark University

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