JUNE 4, 1955
HYDE PARK—It was interesting to read the press interview of the American flyers released by Red China. It is not surprising that an effort was made to convince these men of the righteousness of the Communist cause.
I think probably the most difficult thing that they had to survive was the long solitary imprisonment. Anyone who has spent a long time in solitary confinement will show signs of it in many ways because, to protect one's sanity, I believe people cultivate different methods. I have seen people who seemed to be able to detach themselves completely from their surroundings and disappear into a dream world and this had been acquired during long periods of solitary confinement.
These men of ours who emerged after many months from Chinese prisons must have been strong people who held strong convictions or I think they would not apparently have come through this long ordeal and be as normal as they seem to be.
Everyone must have laughed when one reporter asked if anti-Communist statements made by public figures in this country had any effect on their treatment, and the fliers were certainly quite mild in saying that they thought perhaps it would be wise to use more restraint. We ourselves like to see restraint used by outsiders as far as criticism about our own country is concerned, and we must realize that others feel the same way.
I saw an article in one of our metropolitan papers on Thursday saying that the children in the schools of Thailand are being taught to shake hands, in preference to the traditional "wai" greeting.
I have always thought that this customary method of greeting, which varies a little in different Oriental countries but is somewhat the same in India and other countries, has back of it not only charm but good common sense for medical reasons.
In Thailand the old custom is to press the palms of the hands together in front of the body. For greeting a superior the hands are held on a level with the forehead, for an inferior they are held on the chest.
Some of the native tribes in New Zealand greet you by touching the foreheads together, which actually means that mind speaks to mind.
These ways of greeting have meaning and are graceful, and I am not sure that they are not far better than our habit of shaking hands or the European habit of a gentleman kissing a lady's hand. The latter may be a charming and pleasing custom to the ladies but may not be so sanitary.
In any case, before the Orient adopts Western customs I hope they will think twice, for some customs might well be adopted by the West from the East.