Don't worry Senator Cornyn. Your pooch is safe with me (ASIAN 258)
Updated: Apr 15
I wrote the original version of this blogpost about a year ago, right as the COVID-19 crisis sent us all into lockdown. At the time, anti-Chinese sentiment had already spun out of control. America saw its worst spike in anti-Asian hate crimes in decades. And pictures of bat soup began to circulate on the internet. Then elected officials further stoked the flames of hatred and intolerance. There was first talk of "the Chinese virus" (Donald Trump), followed by racist comments by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas). Under the circumstances, I felt compelled to respond to current events. Unfortunately, these comments remain as relevant as they did last April. Hate crimes against Asian Americans and Asians have continued to rise in the United States and the rest of the Western world.
When I composed this blog, I struggled with finding the right format. I ultimately decided against simply lecturing Cornyn. Instead, I went the biting satirical route. My husband, though, thinks it sounds angry, which is fine. I will be angry about this until the U.S. makes progress on these issues.
Dear Senator Cornyn,
I am *so* sorry that the nasty liberal media has pounced on you. You were just giving an opinion when you blamed the COVID-19 pandemic on Chinese cultural practices. It's not every day one reads: “People eat bats and snakes and dogs and things like that. These viruses are transmitted from the animal to the people, and that’s why China has been the source of a lot of these viruses.”
I am sure you're wondering why people are so "touchy" these days. You're probably thinkin' to yourself, "Who really cares if hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans have surged recently"? Or: "Why do folks insist on sticking with the facts? Yes, swine flu did come from North America. But facts are annoying." It’s clear that this virus has ruined your day. It must be hard watching your government get heat for its handling of the pandemic.
Most of all, I'm truly sorry that Chinese eating habits have made you lose sleep. I have learned from Instagram that you are a real dog lover. It must be difficult staying up at night knowing that those Asians next door (like me!) may have designs on Fido.
But you'll take heart in knowing that I am a fan. I'd like to second your call to get tough on zoonotic diseases. You're right. People eat all sorts of unclean things. Yuppies in Michigan hunt and grill deer. Those idiots talk about it being organic and free range. Meanwhile, the limousine liberals of New York and San Francisco order civet coffee from Amazon. There are even people who make sausages out of alligators in Louisiana. If you don't believe me, have your staffers check out exoticmeats.com. They even sell the stuff to liberal bastions like Ann Arbor. And I’ve heard that in Nolan County, Texas there are rattlesnake roundups. Some folks down there even eat the slimy crawlers. I'm sure those people didn't vote for you, however.
Since human-animal contact is dangerous, I’m looking forward to reading your proposal to ban all hunting and industrial meat production. You can join forces with Bridget Bardot and other racists who love pets. Your pals at the NRA and in big business will just have to get over it.
With regards to your sleep, let me reiterate that I am very, very sorry. Those nineteenth-century stereotypes have no right disrupting your REM cycles. What's more, you have my personal assurance. Your pooch is safe with me and my kind.
Besides, my friends and relatives in Greater China have never devoured a pet. There’s now a ban in Shenzhen and Taiwan. The Chinese Communist government wants to curtail personal freedom by paving the way for a blanket ban on dogmeat.
I do apologize if these details make your head spin. Things would be simpler if we Asians all thought and ate the same things. Details tend to muddy black and white argumentation, and such fuzzy thinking is best left to universities!
But just in case you ever need to defend your comments again, may I offer you, sir, a few tips? Call it insider wisdom.
Next time someone attacks you as a racist, just cite a few ancient Chinese texts. Out of context. It will help you establish our "mentality."
If you want, I can dig up a recipe for mashed dog à la winter melon. That will supply evidence that all Asians have eaten dog every day since time immemorial. You can ignore the fact that the recipe was from the fifteenth century, or for rich people. No American needs to know that it was supposed to revive tired people on hot summer days before air-conditioning and Starbucks.
Your team should also overlook all evidence of opposition in China to dog slaughter. Apparently, some 14th century doctor thought that eating canine meat would make you sick. He also concurred that dogs were man’s best friend. But never mind. After you have de-funded all foreign language study, no one will know the better. Americans don't need to think too hard -- for example, about the bad karma that Chinese Buddhists thought came from devouring dog meat and beef. Our meat industry is looking forward to the Chinese market. But maybe not. After all, you and I are in agreement about the importance of adopting veganism.
I would, however, urge you to suppress information. The New York Times did a bad thing recently. Its editors undercut stereotypes about Chinese eating by publishing a video about the Yulin Festival, or the notorious dog and lychee feast in Guizhou. In late June, out-of-town agitators fly in from Shanghai and Beijing. They are louder than A.O.C., and they don’t even practice social distancing. Some people think these activists learned their tactics from South Korea, where there are memorial services for murdered dogs. I'm happy to refer you to a few websites that the U.S. should close down. This is war, and it’s time to dehumanize!
Since we’re friends, you might like a tip about how to undermine NATO. Did you know that people in Alpine nations once ate dog? If you want the details, check out Robert Ji-Song Ku:
The Swiss, for example, dry the [dog] meat in varying temperatures for several months to prepare a dish called Gedörrtes Hunderfleisch. 'In fact,' Calvin Schawbe tells us, 'the only two cases of human trichinosis diagnosed in Switzerland in recent years resulted from the patients eating their dogmeat too rarely cooked! 'It has been a traditional European belief,' he reveals in Unmentionable Cuisine, 'that dogmeat is a preventive of tuberculosis.' And less than a century ago widespread dog eating was reported in the German cities of Cassel and Chemnitz, as well as in the streets of Paris.
That should help shut up Angela Merkel.
Maybe, the French shouldn’t be called frogs. In periods of privation, Parisians stuffed their faces with dog meat and wrote cookbooks for that purpose. No wonder the French have become socialists. They eat dogs and all sorts of things. Frog. Foie gras. Horse. Baguette.
You’ll forgive me if I have gone on too long. That woman from Michigan has put us all under house arrest. I haven’t been free to cough on a stranger for almost a month.
Resources on COVID-19 and stereotypes about Chinese eating
With Michelle King and Fu-Jia Wendy Chen. "Rumor, Chinese Diets, and COVID-19: Questions and Answers about Chinese Food and Eating Habits." Gastronomica: The Journal for Food Studies 21.1 (2021): 77-82.
'Chinese food is so entrenched in our lives; COVID-19 can't change that' The Daily Hunt, April 17, 2020.
Michelle King. "Say No to Bat Fried Rice: Changing the Narrative of Coronavirus and Chinese Food," in Food and Foodways 28.3 (Fall 2020), 237-49
Robert Ji-Song Ku, Dubious Gastronomy: The Cultural Politics of Eating Asian in the USA (University of Hawai’i Press, 2014), “Dog Meat,” 120-155.
Vincent Goossaert, "The Beef Taboo and the Sacrificial Structure of Late Imperial Chinese Society." In Of Tripod and Palate: Food, Politics, and Religion in Traditional China. Edited by Roel Sterckx (Palgrave MacMillan, 2005), Chapter 11, 237-48.
Jia Ming 賈銘 (Fourteenth Century). N.p. Yinshi xuzhi 飲食須知 (Essential Knowledge About Diet). In Yinzhuan pulu 飮饌譜錄. Edited by Yang Jialuo 楊家駱. Shijie, 1962.
Zhu Quan 朱權(1378–1448). Shenyin 神隱. In Siku quanshu cunmu congshu, zibu, daojialei 四庫全書存目叢書, 子部, 道家類, vol. 260. Zhuangyan wenhua, 1995.