Even as China's opening ceremonies for the Olympics inspired awe, there was something repellent in the exactitude of such mass perfection.
The military precision of 2,008 drummers moving in perfect synchronicity, pounding out the sound of a billion hearts beating, was both mesmerizing and slightly creepy.
If they can do that ...
What else can this giant power do with a limitless supply of human resources and dedicated discipline?
Inevitably, comparisons have been drawn to the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. Just as China's selection as host country signaled its emergence as a global power, Germany's marked that nation's return to the international community following its defeat in World War I.
Although Adolf Hitler was already busy rounding up Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and others for detention and/or sterilization, the Games allowed him to pull a propaganda coup of peaceful tolerance. The Holocaust and World War II soon followed.
Like Germany, China has aimed to make a good impression. So determined were the Olympic hosts to project a positive image that officials even swapped out the adorable child-performer who sang "Ode to the Motherland." The little girl in the red dress who captured hearts around the globe wasn't really singing. She mimed.
The real singer was a less-adorable child, by China's judgment. Her chubby cheeks and crooked teeth made her face "not suitable," officials said, giving new meaning to the expression "game face."
Thus, Yang Peiyi was replaced by Lin Miaoke.
Apparently, the Chinese hadn't met Paul Potts, the chubby-cheeked, crooked-toothed tenor who became an overnight sensation when he wowed "Britain's Got Talent" judges with his rendering of Puccini's aria "Nessun Dorma." Potts, now the beneficiary of recording contracts and millions of fans, has had his teeth fixed, but part of his initial charm was his ordinary packaging. There was this heavenly voice residing in the human equivalent of a tract house.
People identified with his imperfections and loved him all the more for his humility and transcendent performance. He was so ... human.
China isn't burdened by such concerns. Sentimentality doesn't enter into the totalitarian equation. In such a world, innocence is irrelevant and deceit is a lesson best learned young. Who cares that a little girl was told she wasn't pretty enough to be seen by the world and that her voice -- though lovely -- belonged not to her, but to the homeland?