An Imposition Of Ignorance
A young woman from the PRC named Wu Minxia was one of two teammates to win the gold medal in synchronized diving at the 2012 Olympics yesterday. Her well-earned celebration was spoiled, though…
Wu’s parents decided to withhold news of both the death of her grandparents and of her mother’s long battle with breast cancer until after she won the 3-meter springboard in London so as to not interfere with her diving career. [¶] “It was essential to tell this white lie,” said her father Wu Yuming. … Both of Wu’s grandparents died more than a year ago, but the diver knew nothing of their passing until this week.
I’m not the parent of an Olympic athlete myself, nor am I a citizen of the PRC. I imagine that those things might exert some pressure on someone like Mr. Wu* and that tempers my judgment of him. Still, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that no, the lie was not essential, and the young Ms. Wu* deserved to know that her grandparents had died. She deserved to know that her mother had been fighting breast cancer for three years and had been pronounced in remission. She deserved to decide for herself how to react to this information. From my perspective, respect for her as a person demand no less.
If that choice was to abandon her athletic career to go support her family, then I say that would have been a heroic act all by itself, albeit one that would have not earned the evanescent moment of fame and glory that she and her nation enjoyed. If that choice had been to accept her family’s offer to bear the burden themselves so she could become an Olympian, that would have been a valid choice too. If it had been me, I’d have wanted to know and I’d have wanted to be a part of making that decision rather than having it made for me.
Congratulations on your gold medal, and condolences for what to you is a recent loss, Ms. Wu. You’d be right to be upset. But I hope that soon enough, you also find it in yourself to forgive your family for their — no doubt well-intentioned — presumption. As to your government and its role in this? I rather doubt the government will be apologizing to you, so I don’t think you owe it much by way of forgiveness until and unless it does.
The rest of us might take a moment to use this disquieting story to contemplate where exactly lies sweet spot between personal life and vocation.
* I find it just a bit odd that in Chinese culture, one’s surname is stated first and one’s given name is stated second, and a part of me wants to leap to grand conclusions about what this reflects about Chinese culture. Prudence, however, counsels me to do no more than to admit the temptation.