首页  | 专栏作家

Common thread? 共同点

中国日报网 2021-04-13 11:12


Reader question:

Please explain “common thread”, as in “Sorry, but there’s no common thread.”

My comments:

If we run a thread through the holes of ten needles, that piece of thread will be the common thread – the common thread that links up the ten needles.

In other words, the ten needles all share the same thread, or link.

Of course, it’d be silly to run a piece of thread through ten needles because, what for?

Just so you know the phrase “common thread” is not to be taken literally.

So, metaphorically speaking, if we say there’s a common thread, we mean to say there’s a something in common among various situations.

For example, if a series of muggings have been happening in the suburbs, investigators will look at the different cases to see if there’s a common thread, that is, if there’s something common in there. If, say, all those mugged are slow walking old ladies and in all cases, the attacker wears a mask hiding his face, the investigators will reach a conclusion that the attacks are probably carried out by the same man. And if all incidents happen at dusk, near the same two bus stations, then it becomes easy for police to patrol those bus stations and hopefully catch the mugger soon.

Easier said than done, of course, but the common thread, when there is one, helps in a situation like that.


Fine. Here are recent media examples of “common thread”, a similar idea or pattern to a series of events:

1. As COVID-19 continues to spread, the chances that you will be exposed and get sick continue to increase. If you've been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or begin to experience symptoms of the disease, you may be asked to self-quarantine or self-isolate. What does that entail, and what can you do to prepare yourself for an extended stay at home? How soon after you’re infected will you start to be contagious? And what can you do to prevent others in your household from getting sick?

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Some people infected with the virus have no symptoms. When the virus does cause symptoms, common ones include fever, body ache, dry cough, fatigue, chills, headache, sore throat, loss of appetite, and loss of smell. In some people, COVID-19 causes more severe symptoms like high fever, severe cough, and shortness of breath, which often indicates pneumonia.

People with COVID-19 may also experience neurological symptoms, gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, or both. These may occur with or without respiratory symptoms.

For example, COVID-19 affects brain function in some people. Specific neurological symptoms seen in people with COVID-19 include loss of smell, inability to taste, muscle weakness, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, dizziness, confusion, delirium, seizures, and stroke.

In addition, some people have gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, such as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain or discomfort associated with COVID-19. The virus that causes COVID-19 has also been detected in stool, which reinforces the importance of hand washing after every visit to the bathroom and regularly disinfecting bathroom fixtures.


Who are long haulers? And what is post-viral syndrome?

Long haulers are people who have not fully recovered from COVID-19 weeks or even months after first experiencing symptoms. Some long haulers experience continuous symptoms for weeks or months, while others feel better for weeks, then relapse with old or new symptoms. The constellation of symptoms long haulers experience, sometimes called post-COVID-19 syndrome or post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), is not unique to this infection. Other infections, such as Lyme disease, can cause similar long-lasting symptoms.

Emerging research may help predict who will become a long hauler. One study found that COVID-19 patients who experienced more than five symptoms during their first week of illness were significantly more likely to become long haulers. Certain symptoms — fatigue, headache, difficulty breathing, a hoarse voice, and muscle or body aches — experienced alone or in combination during the first week of illness also increased the chances of becoming a long hauler, as did increasing age and higher body mass index (BMI).

Though these factors may increase the likelihood of long-term symptoms, anyone can become a long hauler. Many long haulers initially have mild to moderate symptoms — or no symptoms at all — and do not require hospitalization. Previously healthy young adults, not just older adults with coexisting medical conditions, are also experiencing post-COVID-19 syndrome.

Symptoms of post-COVID-19 syndrome, like symptoms of COVID-19 itself, can vary widely. Some of the more common lasting symptoms include fatigue, worsening of symptoms after physical or mental activity, brain fog, shortness of breath, chills, body ache, headache, joint pain, chest pain, cough, and lingering loss of taste or smell. Many long haulers report cognitive dysfunction or memory loss that affects their day-to-day ability to do things like make decisions, have conversations, follow instructions, and drive. The common thread is that long haulers haven’t returned to their pre-COVID health, and ongoing symptoms are negatively affecting their quality of life.

- If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus, Harvard.edu, March 12, 2021.

2. Jason Wang already had plenty of problems from the pandemic. He’d closed several locations of his family’s popular Chinese restaurant chain, Xi’an Famous Foods, laid off staff, and been trying to think of new sources of revenue when no one in New York was dining out — before his employees started getting punched in the face.

One of the workers was a man who was attacked coming to work, leaving him with broken glasses and a swollen face. The other was a woman, on her way home, who suffered a cut lip and bruised nose. “They were just traumatized,” Wang said. “These attacks are happening in broad daylight.”

Wang and I spoke the morning after a Malaysian man was randomly beaten in an attack outside a subway station. Wang said he had started shopping for bulletproof apparel. Would he need protection against a 9 mm bullet or a .44 Magnum, or perhaps even a rifle shot, he wondered. “Hopefully no one’s aiming at me with a rifle,” he said. Two weeks after we spoke, six Asian women were shot dead in Atlanta.

Like Wang, many Asian Americans are grappling with heightened anxiety about their personal safety and the bleak sense that no matter how many people are punched, shoved, knifed, hospitalized, and even killed, people continue to question whether a wave of hate crimes is really happening. There’s been a silent history of violence against Asian Americans for generations — including my own family. The pandemic and former president Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric about the “kung flu” have unbottled anti-Chinese sentiment that marks the latest chapter of racism against Asian people in America. A steady drumbeat of reports of harassment and attacks over the past 12 months has forced communities of people who have traditionally kept their heads down and tried to quietly trudge forward to realize that keeping a low profile is not enough to ward off hate.

“We’ve been taught our entire life to just fit in,” Rep. Grace Meng said at a rally against anti-Asian hate in Manhattan last month. “Just be quiet. Don’t speak up. Be invisible; if you are invisible enough, you will be seen as American. But we are saying that we will be invisible no more.”

Meng’s call for action came less than 48 hours after another Chinese man had been stabbed in the back with an 8-inch knife in an unprovoked attack on the border of Chinatown. The suspect in the stabbing turned himself in and said coldly, “If he dies, he dies. I don’t give a fuck.” Ralliers cried for justice.

When Noel Quintana stepped up to the mic, the crowd quieted down. Quintana, 61, was easy to recognize: His face had been sliced open with a box cutter on his way to work one morning a few weeks earlier, and the wound — which rips across from the far end of one cheek, under his nose, to the opposite end of the other cheek — was still fresh. Quintana hasn’t been able to sleep, he later told me. When he goes to bed each night, his mind can’t seem to get to that fleeting moment of peace that allows a person to submit to rest.

The attack happened on Wednesday, Feb. 3, nearly a year into the wave of violence. Quintana, an immigrant from the Philippines, was in a hurry since his coworker wasn’t able to go in that day. Headed to his job at a nonprofit in Harlem, he hopped on an L train crowded enough that there were no seats left and stood at the door. A young man approached Quintana and suddenly started kicking his bag. He moved it, but within a few minutes the man began kicking his bag again. “What’s wrong with you?” Quintana asked as he moved away. And that’s when the young man quit kicking the bag so that he could slash Quintana’s face with a blade.

Quintana doesn’t know for sure if his attacker was motivated by racism; he didn’t say anything explicitly racist. But as far as Quintana can tell, he was the only Asian person in the train car that morning. “My eyes can’t deny it,” he said.

Nearby passengers gasped. “When I put my hands on my face, it was so bloody,” he said. “I asked for help, but nobody helped me.” No one alerted the conductor, or called 911, or used their phone to take a video. “Nobody even said, ‘How are you?’” So Quintana exited the train, fearful he would die from the loss of blood, which was soaking his shirt and dripping over his pants and shoes, and stumbled to the station booth, looking for anyone willing to help so he wouldn’t have to live this nightmare by himself. “Was it because they don’t want to be delayed for work? Was it that they don’t care? I couldn’t grasp what happened to people during the time,” he told me.

The cops came, then an ambulance. He stayed at the hospital overnight. When Quintana returned to the hospital two days later to remove his stitches, he suffered an anxiety attack that left him unable to breathe and his body numb. He spent 24 hours in the ER for observation.

By the end of February, people around the country had reported nearly 3,800 firsthand accounts of verbal and physical harassment against Asians (including in the workplace) since the start of the pandemic to Stop AAPI Hate, a group that formed last year to track incidents and advocate for human rights protections. Another study of police data found that hate crimes targeting Asian people had more than doubled in 2020. The attackers were Black, Latinx, and white.


I hope things change. At the rally in Manhattan last month, I saw Black and Asian attendees pursuing a way forward that focuses communities on supporting each other in the broad commitment to anti-racism.

As I watched the protesters shout for justice and for some modicum of recognition of this struggle, I couldn’t help but feel angry at people who try to repress our pain by asking us to silently, internally litigate whether or not a crime is truly hateful — to minimize the scope of the problem by recasting this wave of attacks during the pandemic as a mere collection of single, random incidents with no common thread except that the victims were all Asian and the attackers were not. How do you tell people to efface their pain, that their most valuable contribution to this moment is to swallow their fear? Asking victims and their advocates not to say “hate crime” feels to me like a reincarnation of the insult thrown at Asian people over and over again in this country: “Learn English.”

It’s a message I’ve internalized so deeply that while writing this story, I considered referring to all the Asian people I spoke to by their first names through the piece — names that may be easier for English speakers to pronounce, like Jason and Noel — rather than by their last names, as is the convention in news reports. Would that make it easier to follow along, to digest what people are saying, if they are identified by Western first names rather than Asian last names? Will Asian names subtly distract a reader? They might. But in the end, I couldn’t bring myself to deracialize something so core to identity as a name, mainly out of respect. We learned English, but we can’t obscure our heritage.

- This Is Where 150 Years Of Ignoring Anti-Asian Racism Got Us, by Venessa Wong, BuzzFeedNews.com, March 20, 2021.

3. Ideations of ‘natural law’ have existed in European culture since the Greeks and Romans. Aristotle and Cicero wrote about it, and it was recognized in Christian theology by Thomas Aquinas.

The renaissance idea of natural law encapsulates the common thread that “man is by nature a rational and social animal” who willingly cooperates with others for their mutual benefit, and the recognition that to do so requires some limitations on individual conduct. Certain values are necessary for any civilized society to exist.

Stealing, for example, undermines the trust necessary for any society to survive. Murder defeats the original purpose (individual safety) of being part of a community. So all civilized societies have an “agreement… upon matters considered the law of nature”. These are seen as immutable laws necessary for a civilization to exist, that cannot be altered by government.

Our American idea of natural law existed in pre-Columbian North America. The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois confederation) of the Hudson Valley region structured their tribal society on the belief that each individual was free of all but minimal control by the community.

Adriaen Van der Donck, the resident lawyer for the Dutch West India Company that founded a colony in New England, described the Haudenosaunee as “[A]ll free by nature, and will not bear any domineering or lording over them.” Thomas Jefferson was aware of the Iroquois Confederation when he wrote about our “inalienable” right to “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence.

Under natural law, we each have the right to life, and to defend ourselves accordingly. Killing in self-defense has been recognized as “excusable homicide” in all civilized societies.

“Liberty” means the freedom to acquire and dispose of the fruits of our labors as we think best (“pursuit of happiness”). The reason humans originally formed communities was to secure mutual protection for themselves (life), their crops, herds, and trade goods (private property). Government evolved to provide both security from external threats, and a formal mechanism to resolve internal conflicts between community members about property. Some of the earliest recorded legal cases involve disputes over ownership of domesticated animals or farm land.

Those early cases became what we know today as the “common law”, which is law made by judges based on natural law. Their rulings became binding (stare decisis) on resolution of future similar disputes, thus providing the stability necessary for members of the community to conduct their affairs. Trade can succeed only if everyone knows, and plays, by the same rules.

The American idea of natural rights is that government exists only to provide security and stability for life and property. In his discourse on Civil Disobedience, natural law adherent Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Government that governs the least, governs best!” Founding philosopher Thomas Paine called government “a necessary evil”.

Jefferson explained “governments are created among men”, with their consent, to secure their natural rights. This is the “social contract” whereby members of a group give up some individual freedom in exchange for collective security and stability.

Under the “contract” government’s authority is limited to those narrow functions. When a government exceeds its limited role under the “contract” those who created it have the natural right to void the contract and change the government. That’s what we did in 1776, and we retain the natural right to do so again. The Second Amendment secures our ability to exercise that right.
That is the essence of limited government based on natural law from Aristotle down through the Iroquois Confederation and our own revolution against England. Natural law, and the rights derived from it, are not a grant from government. They supersede government, which has no legitimate authority to infringe them. Our whole concept of government is based on that idea.

- A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW: Natural Law, PogosaDailyPost.com, March 24, 2021.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)


Low bar to clear? 并非难事


Therapy-speak? 专业语言


Golden goose? 金鹅


Slush fund? 行贿基金


Freshly minted? 崭新

中国日报网 英语点津微信
中国日报网 双语小程序