Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

A childhood lost: painting China’s one child policy

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, April 11, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – He does not accuse, this little boy with the haunting expression, solemn eyed, gazing directly out from the canvas. He does not ask, as he might well ask, ‘Why am I alone?’ but merely stands still and straight, looking steadily forward at the viewer as his imaginary siblings play around him. 

The little boy’s face is that of 38 year-old Chinese painter Li Tianbing, taken from photos of himself as a child; the other little boys are his imaginary playmates, brothers and sisters who were never born, who populated his solitary life. Li’s work – huge canvases of ghostly children playing in landscapes that evoke both China’s ancient artistic tradition and its conflicted industrialised present – focuses consciously on the impact on individual lives of the country’s One Child Policy. He was five when the government issued it in 1979.

An exhibition of Li’s paintings, titled “A Game as Pretense of Being,” is currently making an impact in Paris, but could perhaps more appropriately have been titled, “A Childhood of One”. The focus of his work, Li says, is not on the large statistics whose immense scale can depersonalise, but on the policy’s impact on individual human lives. Children in China now, he says, for the first time in the country’s history, know only the life of solitude. No one is allowed to have brothers and sisters, and there are no large families in a country where for thousands of years family was all.

Li studied international relations in university, then came to Paris at the age of 22 to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He began painting from his memories and his tiny cache of photos. He said in a video interview that when he was a child, using these photos of himself, he created a whole other imaginary self, a life that included siblings and a large and happy family.

“My paintings are about childhood, but a childhood that is conjured up. The childhood I paint is not what happened in my real childhood,” he says.

“I think the One Child policy was a unique social phenomenon of our generation. What I want to express now is how this generation of people sees the world. The signs he carries in his body, his knowledge of the world and his experience of the world.”

When I was looking at the paintings on the internet, and I read that these children were the images of the imaginary siblings Li never had, my first response was, “Oh, he did that too?” Because I was also an only child, raised by a divorced single mother in the 1970s, and I recognised the expression, that of a child immersed in his own inner world, peopled with imaginary friends, pursuing fantasy adventures far away from lonely reality.

Li Tianbing grew up in rural China in the 1970s, the era following the Communist takeover, when the government issued a decree that no one could have more than one child. Government statistics, widely acknowledged to be unrealistically low, show that the policy has resulted in the loss of at least 400 million people, more than ten times the population of Canada.

The single-minded focus of the government at the time was forcing the country to industrialise, to prove to the world the superiority of Marxist principles. To the ruling class of the time, and up to today, the ideology takes priority over the human needs of the people. As a result, China has the world’s highest rates of capital punishment, abortion and suicide among women. In fact, it is the only country in the world where the suicide rate for women exceeds that of men.

While the policy is overt in China, it is merely a more brutalised version of the societal norm of the West. Here it is not forcibly imposed on the people from above, but it insinuated itself into the minds and hearts of the people I grew up around, where it is every bit as entrenched. To the people of my generation, born in the late 1960s to hippie parents whose rejection of the old values has infiltrated every aspect of our societies, being alone, being “only,” is our norm.

And it produces much the same result: adults whose loneliness is deeply embedded, who take solitude for granted, for whom family life is no more than a hazy fantasy gleaned from books and films, less likely to marry and have children of our own, less interested in engaging in the boisterous unpredictable arenas of the active world, always feeling vaguely like an observer rather than a participant. 

The loneliness wells up from the faces in Li’s paintings like a deep, suppressed groan.

These are the faces of children, some of them obviously very small children, but there is little evidence of innocence. These are not the sun-drenched dreams of golden-haired, apple-cheeked poppets playing sweetly in meadows and country gardens.

The children in Li’s paintings are not starveling, they are not ragged or grubby or neglected. But they are distant, perhaps envious, and a faint but persistent undertone of anger rings incessantly in the viewer’s mind when he looks back at their eyes.

These children live in another world where we are excluded. Who are we to bring our adult reality, with our macro-economic theories and their overbearing imperatives, into their private realm?

Why have we imposed ourselves in this moment, intruding and breaking their concentration? A concentration that is needed to keep reality at bay. The children wait for us to be done looking at them, so they can get back to their play, their thoughts, their world.

In some of the paintings, it is difficult to tell which is the fantasy, which the ghost, and which the reality. A grayscale little boy, holding a toy, runs down a railway track that cuts through a dimly rendered countryside, with ghostly translucent buildings looming up over him as if in a mist. A group of little boys, in bright pink chroma, follows behind him like a school of glittering fish. Which is the reality, and which is the ghost? Where does the child’s imagination end and the real world, the world of gray industrial scenes, begin?

In another, vaporous children stand before snow-covered tree branches, reading communist newspapers. Of the three, only one looks up and over his paper towards the viewer, an expression of surprise on his face, having seen us watching him, perhaps, and wondering where, what world, we have appeared from.

In nearly every painting, one little boy, Li himself, always with the same expression of surprise and disbelief, looks directly at us, as though we are the apparitions intruding into his world.

The paintings have an almost dystopian quality to them, even those showing apparently idyllic natural surroundings, their palettes largely monochromatic, the expressions of the children never joyful but mostly preoccupied and distant. Some of the faces, even those looking directly into the eyes of the viewer, seem closed, as if these children have already made up their minds, already judged the world created for them as a disappointment, and closed the door on us.

Li’s work is an attempt to highlight the reality that the policies that have shaped the macro-picture of demographics, of the economic and social realities on a grand scale in a country with over a billion human beings, have their greatest effect on the individual souls. The human world is not made up of faceless masses, but of one person at a time, living in a unity of a human society made up of other individual persons. In a sense, the existence of “society,” and “culture” and “economics” are all abstractions. Human society can never be about these intangible ideas, but about human beings, one human being at a time.

What a policy that focuses only on these abstractions does to a single, unique human being is the question with which governments never concern themselves, and academics only rarely.

But a single painting is like a single person, and its message, no matter how many see it, is always personal. The children in these paintings assert that they are not instruments or products for use in a grand socio-economic experiment.

See more of Li’s paintings here.

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For Hillary Clinton, abortion access trumps religious liberty

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By Dustin Siggins

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- For Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, apparently abortion trumps religious liberty.

It may have gotten bipartisan support in the House of Representatives last night, but a spokesperson for the Democratic Party's leading presidential candidate says a resolution protecting religious liberty in the District of Columbia "overrule[s] the democratic process" and hurts women.

The vote, which saw three Democrats join the GOP majority and 13 Republicans stand with Democrats, was meant to protect pro-life and religious organizations in the District from the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA).

RHNDA was signed by the mayor of the District of Columbia, Muriel Bowser, in January, and makes it illegal for any employer, including religious and pro-life organizations, to use a person's belief or actions about abortion in employment considerations. It also requires employers to provide abortion coverage.

The resolution now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to fail due to the Senate being on recess. Under existing federal law, the measure has 30 legislative days to be disapproved by Congress and President Obama. If this does not happen, it becomes law.

The 30-day window ends on Saturday. President Obama promised a veto of the resolution on Thursday, even though RHNDA was opposed by former District mayor Vincent Gray. According to Gray, while he "applaud[s] the goals of this legislation," the former mayor believes RHNDA could violate the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal treatment under the law.

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The statement by the Clinton campaign left no doubt that she stood with Obama and a majority of Democratic legislators. Spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri told CNN, "Hillary Clinton has fought for women and families and their right to access the full range of reproductive health care without interference from politicians or employers."

"Hillary will fight to make it easier, not more difficult, for women and families to get ahead and ensure that women are not discriminated against for personal medical decisions."

The remarks come a week after Clinton took criticism for saying that "religious beliefs" critical of "reproductive rights" must "be changed."

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” she told the Women in the World Summit on April 23.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper," said Clinton in her speech. "Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will."

“Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed,” said the candidate.

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Social conservatives may be funding the destruction of marriage: corporate watchdog

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By Dustin Siggins

May 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- With over $55 million in annual revenue, the Human Rights Campaign may be America's most powerful LGBT activist group. And according to a conservative corporate watchdog, that's in part because social conservatives are funding it.

"Conservatives would be surprised to know that many of the dollars they spend every day are helping fund an agenda that seeks to destroy traditional marriage and undermine religious freedoms," said 2nd Vote National Outreach Director Robert Kuykendall. "Even when they purchase a beverage from a company like Coca-cola or Starbucks, their dollar is going to support HRC's liberal agenda to redefine marriage."

Less than 18 months old, 2nd Vote has graded hundreds of corporations on six issues -- corporate welfare, the environment, education, support for the Second Amendment, abortion, and as of two weeks ago, same-sex "marriage." Using their "scoring" system, 2nd Vote ranks corporations on their direct or indirect involvement with these hot-button public policy and cultural issues.

And according to them, some of America's favorite corporations are making the radical HRC agenda possible.

"HRC is the largest LGBT lobbying organization in the United States with reported revenues of over $55 million," Kuykendall told LifeSiteNews. "The redefinition of marriage and the undermining of religious freedom are major components of HRC’s policy agenda. To fund their policy goals, HRC has enlisted the help of many major corporations that we do business with every day to help fund. Over a third of the contributions received by HRC are listed as 'Corporate/Foundation Grants.'" 

Why should conservatives care about corporate donors to HRC? Kuykendall says the organization is both politically influential and publicly deceptive. "Last election cycle, HRC spent around a million dollars on electioneering activities and in support of liberal candidates willing to push their legislative agenda. HRC is responsible for spreading much of the misinformation regarding [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] laws and has also mischaracterized the protections provided by these laws."

"HRC organized a massive grassroots campaign in support of the legal battle to overturn state laws protecting marriage and influence the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges," said Kuykendall.

Marriage isn't the only issue on which conservatives may be at odds with HRC's corporate backers. "2nd Vote’s research into other issues such as life, the environment, and the 2nd Amendment shows that many of the companies supporting HRC have taken liberal stands on other issues as well,” he said. “For example, Apple, Citigroup, Microsoft, and Coca-Cola are Platinum Partners, the highest level of HRC’s National Corporate Partners, that have also funded the liberal Center for American Progress [CAP]."

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"Bank of America, Google, Goldman Sachs, Starbucks, PepsiCo, and Morgan Stanley are also HRC Corporate Partners that have funded CAP. Furthermore, all of these companies signed the amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn state marriage laws."

In Indiana, the state's religious liberty law was modified because of corporate pressure led by Tim Cook, Apple's gay CEO. Kuykendall says conservatives should not give up, though he acknowledges that "for too long, conservatives have let liberals and groups like HRC bully companies into not just going along with their agenda, but actively funding and promoting it."

"However, conservatives have also proven their ability to mobilize and use their dollars in support of traditional values as we’ve seen through the fundraising campaigns for the pizza parlor and wedding cake makers who have been attacked by liberals for their beliefs. Conservatives need to turn the tables on the left, and groups like HRC, and motivate companies to stop funding the liberal agenda through the power of their shopping habits."

Only nine companies have ranks of "five" or "four" on 2nd Vote's ranking system, indicating a pro-marriage perspective. They are outnumbered more than 10 to 1 by organizations that support redefining marriage.

Concerned citizens can download the app on 2nd Vote's website. The full list of corporation scores can be found here.

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First graders exposed to book about transgender boy—without parental notification

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By Fr. Mark Hodges

KITTERY POINT, ME, May 1, 2015, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Parents at one Maine school are upset that children as young as six were exposed to a book promoting transgender issues, in the name of "acceptance."

Parents were not only not consulted, they were never even notified of their children's exposure to transgenderism.

Horace Mitchell Primary School read the book I Am Jazz to first-grade students. The book is about a boy who identifies as a girl from the age of two, "with a boy's body and a girl's brain." He eventually finds a doctor who tells his parents, "Jazz is transgender."

Parents began to inquire about what was being taught at Horace Mitchell Primary after children came home with questions about their own sex and wondering if they, too, might be transgender.

One mother, upset that teachers would broach the subject of transgenderism with her little boy, said the primary school ignored her complaint. "I feel like my thoughts, feelings and beliefs were completely ignored...My right as a parent to allow or not allow this discussion with my child was taken from me," she told Hannity.com.

"When I spoke with the principal he was very cold about it," the mother continued. "It's amazing how thoughtless the school has been with this whole thing."

Only after Sean Hannity made national inquiries did Horace Mitchell Primary School suggest that teachers should have told parents ahead of time.

Allyn Hutton, the superintendent of the local district, said she supported reading the book but admitted that parents should have been given advance warning about the subject matter. "We have a practice of – if a topic is considered sensitive – parents should be informed. In this situation, that didn't happen," she said. "We understand that toleration is tolerating people of all opinions."

Horace Mitchell Primary School sent an e-mail, after the fact, to concerned parents, including a link to a blog post of the school's guidance counselor, explaining their motivation was "cultivating respect."

"Some may think primary school students are too young to worry about addressing issues surrounding gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) students. Not so, experts say,” the school's guidance counselor wrote. “It’s never too early to begin teaching children about respecting differences."

Homosexual activists say they support the teaching of transgenderism to first-graders, with or without parental notification. "The staff of Mitchell School is...shedding a light on [LGBTQ] issues,” said a column in Gay Star News.

The LGBT puublication goes even further, advocating homosexual propaganda be commonplace in elementary schools across the country. "LGBTQ issues should never be classified as a 'sensitive subject,' [because] there is nothing sensitive about the way we are born. Blonde hair, brown hair, gay, straight or somewhere in-between."

Brian Camenker of MassResistance commented on the infiltration of homosexual propaganda in children's schools. "We deal with parents and teachers a lot, and the idea that teachers would do this is unconscionable. It's like the people that promote this stuff are evil. It's demonic. You can't imagine adults that would do this to other people's children, and do it with such anger, and such vitrol.”

Camenker emphasized that this is “not an isolated incident with just one, rogue teacher. This happens because the whole administrative hierarchy buys into it.”

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“The new generation of educators is very, very frightening,” he said.

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