In my first post here at Lost Laowai, I wrote about a student of mine who calls herself Nazi. She is, in most ways, a pleasant girl who studies hard and takes responsibility for her class. Despite bureaucratic tendencies, she hardly seems totalitarian.
But a lot of friends, both online and off, told me I couldn’t let the year pass without telling her to change her name, and they’re right. So, with the semester ending next week, I decided it was time to have that little talk:
Me: I think you should change your English name.
Nazi: But my Chinese name is ….娜 (that’s all I’ll include here)
Me: You know what the word means?
Nazi: (saying it in Chinese): It was Hitler’s party.
Me: What do you think of Hitler?
Nazi: I think he was a very cruel person, but also a person of great ability.
Me: He killed 11 million people.
Nazi: Yes, a lot of…Youtairen.
Me: Six million Jews. Five million others, disabled people, gays, intellectuals.
Nazi: What do you think of Hitler?
Me: Pretty much the worst person in history.
And then she changed the subject to KTV. Killing Jews to KTV without a moment’s pause. “I like to sing,” she said.
“Do you sing about killing Jews?” I was asking in my head. I didn’t say it though. That was about the end of our conversation, actually.
Maybe Hitler gets off easy here because, well, what’s another murderous despot when you live under a dynasty founded by Mao, with Pol Pot just down the continent, the Rape of Nanking shoved in your face all throughout school and Stalin as an early model of good governance. Who knows.
I don’t expect to see “Nancy” or “Natasha” or “the Class Monitor Formerly Known as Nazi” on my role next week, but we’ll see.