Tradition and Fear

Well, it had happened. An extremely rare, quick-killing disease, affecting only Chinese people, had spread like a raging wild-fire, and in two years every Chinese person on the planet was dead. Except for two, Jim and Nancy. For a reason nobody could explain, they remained untouched. They lived on the edge of a little town made up of mostly Italians and English in the state of Nevada, USA. A few of their neighbors had been Chinese, but they were now gone.

“Say,” said Jim to Nancy, one bright morning, “what do we do about traditions?” Nancy replied, “What do you mean?” “Well, how about the tradition of not washing men’s and women’s under-clothes together? Our neighbors are gone, there’s no one to see or to disapprove.” “You mean no one to fear, don’t you?” “Yes, exactly. All of the things we did, or didn’t do, because we told ourselves it was tradition, were actually done, or not done, out of fear, fear of what other Chinese people would think of us, judge us, disapprove of us. And they were all doing the same thing, too. Look, tomorrow begins the new Chinese year, the year of the rat. Isn’t that ridiculous?”

“Yes,” said Nancy. “What has some old rat got to do with our lives and happiness? We were going to buy a flag of the rat and hang it out on the front porch so our neighbors could see it, but it wouldn’t have been for us. Here, give me your dirty undies. I’m going to wash them with mine! And don’t you frown at me or I will disapprove of _you_!”

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