I've been wondering for a while now why the heck Rep. Thad McCotter is running for president of the United States.
Yes, you read that correctly.
You may not have encountered the Michigan Republican as a candidate because he did not meet the one-percent poll- threshold rule for the recent Fox News debate in Iowa. But days later, at the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames, there he was.
At Iowa State University's stadium there, what began as a professorial lecture gave way to a urgent call to arms when he brought up China: "We have to accept the reality that Communist China is a strategic threat and rival model of governance to the United States."
The applause echoing around the room showed that the congressman had struck a chord. And so McCotter continued: "They are as wrong today as the Soviet Union was wrong in the 20th century, and I for one ... will not cede the 21st century to a Communist nuclear-armed dictatorship that tells you how many children you can have, that tells you if you can pass out Bibles, tells you what Catholic Church you can attend, or tries to culturally commit genocide against the people of Tibet."
China, of course, is home to the one-child policy, which turns 31 this September. The Chinese government boasts that it has prevented 400 million births since 1980; the program's results have been enforced by mandatory abortion, involuntary sterilization and other persecution.
The World Health Organization can tell you that China also has the highest female suicide rate in the world. "Could this high suicide rate be related to forced abortion?" Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women's Rights Without Frontiers wonders. Families frequently make sure that their one child is a boy. China has reported as many as 37 million more men than women, making unhappy bachelorhood increasingly commonplace. "China's one-child policy causes more violence towards women and girls than any other official policy on earth. It is China's war against women and girls," Littlejohn contends. And not only against Chinese women -- desperate times open the floodgates for international sex trafficking. To women from poverty-stricken neighboring countries such as North Korea, "refuge" is sex slavery in China.
Mark Steyn in his new book, cheerily titled "After America: Get Ready for Armageddon," makes a demographically practical point: "China has structural defects. It's a dictatorship whose authoritarian policies have crippled its human capital. It has too many oldsters and not enough youth, and among its youth it has millions of surplus boys and no girls for them to marry."
When I met with Cardinal Joseph Zen, the Shanghai-born bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, in Washington, D.C. earlier this year, his message was simply: "Help." He highlighted some of the rhetoric coming from China, much of it sounding straight off a page of Orwell: "Religious freedom" is really remaking a church into a government institution. If the Chinese government is not arresting Christians, they are consecrating Catholic bishops, but only bishops who toe the line. "Obedience" is the mandated word -- not to Rome but to Beijing. It has pernicious implications for what can be preached and taught and said.
McCotter, a Catholic, is helping, however humbly. And his campaign is about more than China. As McCotter put it at the straw poll: "You are the masters of your fate, and you are the custodians of the legacy of liberty that we have been bequeathed throughout the generations. And now, in a difficult time, you are asked to transcend the challenges that we face."
How we respond has implications the world over.
On the streets of Tiananmen Square in 1989 there was a student protester named Chai Ling, who would be subsequently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She's married and lives in Massachusetts now, and runs a group called All Girls Allowed, seeking to stop the one-child policy and help support families in China where the gender imbalance is greatest.
In the future, will we still be the country that dissidents like Chai Ling look to, as a model and for inspiration, support and sanctuary -- where the huddled masses come, yearning to be free?
Well, I satisfactorily figured out why McCotter is running for president. And I thought you might want to know, too: because individuals matter. And societies that recognize this fact can make all the difference.