Series (History): The Cultural Revolution

A Trip to China

It’s pretty hard for Americans to travel to China these days. We’ve banned the Chinese from coming here, and they’ve banned us from going there. Ostensibly, it’s because of the Covid pandemic, but that makes no sense to me. After all, both our countries have had Covid. They’ve got plenty of antibodies over there, and we’re getting plenty of our own over here.

In fact, none of the travel bans make sense to me. We can’t even travel to Canada, nor can our Canadian friends visit us. And yet both countries have had Covid. What are we trying to prevent that hasn’t already happened? In my view it’s all bullshit hysteria, rooted in politics and xenophobia.

We can’t travel to Europe either, nor many other places. Some people from some states can’t even travel to other states without having to quarantine. Try visiting Hawaii, and you’ll have to lock yourself up in a hotel for 14 days, before you can dip your tootsies in Waikiki beach. This is nutty, in my view.

So I called bullshit on this, and went ahead and planned a trip to China, and I’m inviting all of my blogging buddies to come with me. But it has to be a virtual trip, because that’s the only way we can get to that country these days.

I’ve already dug a hole for myself now, with my complaint about travel bans, and I’m bracing myself for the usual heated lectures from those who disagree with me. But since I’ve started this hole, I’m just gonna keep digging deeper and deeper until I reach my travel destination. Those who want to visit China will have to grab a shovel and follow me.

I’m going to China because I recently became interested in Chinese history. Especially the period of the Cultural Revolution, which took place from 1966 to 1976. I got interested after some pundits compared China’s Cultural Revolution to all the bullshit going on in America these days.

Not the Covid bullshit but rather, the bullshit aftermath to the outrageous killing of George Floyd. We’ve seen our streets fill with demonstrators demanding racial justice. That’s not bullshit, in my view, although I do wonder about the public health experts who encourage demonstrating, arguing that racism is more dangerous than Covid. But the bullshit I’m referring to is when the demonstrations devolve into riots, looting, vandalism, burning down businesses, and pulling down statues.

I’ll keep digging by pointing out the increase in “cancel culture.” That’s more bullshit, in my opinion. We’ve seen people’s careers destroyed for something unfortunate they may have said or done, even if happened many years ago. We’ve seen iconic names targeted for change. And we’ve seen the destruction of statues of famous Americans.

Conservative pundit Jesse Kelly recently magnified the absurdity of the cancel culture craze, when he launched a campaign to cancel Yale University. He points out that the founder of Yale U., Elihu Yale, was a slave trader. With tongue in cheek, he’s calling on Yale to immediately change its name, and remove the name of Yale from every building and piece of paper, or else they hate black people.

The persecutorial nature of cancel culture does remind me of the iconoclasm of China’s Cultural Revolution. Icons of our culture are in danger of being destroyed, often for unexpected reasons.

For example, the name Eskimo Pie, for that delicious frozen ice cream treat, is being canceled. The word “Eskimo” is considered offensive, because it either means “eater of raw meat” or “to net snowshoes” (experts can’t agree which).

In another case, a federal judge recently resigned after the way he complimented a court clerk. He said she had “street smarts.” That’s now racist, in case anyone doesn’t know. The judge didn’t know, and although he publicly apologized, that apparently wasn’t enough. He had to be canceled. So he resigned.

There have been calls for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to resign, for having appeared in blackface. And last year, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam found himself in the same boat. He nearly resigned for having appeared in blackface many years earlier, until it was discovered that his would-be successor, Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, had been accused of sexual assault.

Northam and Fairfax might have both resigned, except that the next successor in line, Attorney General Mark Herring, had once appeared in blackface. If all three resigned, then the Republican Speaker of the House would have become governor. The Democrats weren’t about to let that happen, so they canceled cancel culture, for that particular situation, and everybody kept their jobs.

A statue of Ulysses S. Grant was canceled by a lawless mob of protesters in San Francisco, because his wife had owned slaves, or because he once owned a slave which he inherited and then set free, or something like that. Ulysses S. Grant. You know, the guy who defeated General Lee, winning the Civil War and thus playing a vital role at ending slavery. That guy.

Statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who for sure owned slaves, but arguably had some desirable facets to their characters and accomplishments, are also in the crosshairs of the culture cancelers. And there’s the Emancipation Memorial in Washington D.C., depicting Abraham Lincoln freeing a kneeling slave. It’s being guarded, for fear protesters will tear it down illegally. A replica of the statue, in Boston, will be canceled, but at least that’s being done legally.

I can understand canceling things like Confederate statues, and the Mississippi state flag, when done legally. But I feel uneasy when cancel culture goes beyond the obvious and into gray areas. And regardless of the symbol, I don’t like things torn down, ripped up, or otherwise demolished, if it’s done illegally. That only encourages more of such actions, in an ever-broadening mob crusade against anything even remotely hinting of racism.

The mob even took over part of Seattle. They “chopped” it away and turned into an autonomous zone, where no police were allowed. In this police-free “paradise” two teenagers were shot to death, until the cops finally moved back in and took over, after a 23-day absence.

The madness is getting dangerous. A leader of the Black Lives Matter movement, Hawk Newsome, has threatened to “burn the system down” if BLM doesn’t get its way. And the BLM movement has called for the defunding (canceling) of police departments. Do they have any inkling of the grief, pain, and suffering that may follow? If they knew anything about the Chinese Cultural Revolution, they would, because that’s what happened there. The system was burned down while police were required to stand down.

The West Gate to Peking University. This university in Beijing was at the epicenter of the Cultural Revolution. Photo by Daniel Ng, CC BY 2.0.

It seems strange that our orderly society would so quickly devolve into anarchy. But so far, it’s not too late for us. So far we haven’t devolved to the level of rampageous anarchy that ravaged China during the 1960s. It was much worse for them than it currently is for us. Millions died in all their mayhem. And millions more were persecuted and suffered irreparable harm.

No, it’s not too late to learn from China’s Cultural Revolution. At this point, we can use it as an example of what not to do, in our efforts to change our culture. It can be a yardstick to measure the danger of “burning the system down” and prod us to seek more safe and constructive ways to transform.

And with that in mind, I have written a historical series about the Cultural Revolution, entitled, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao. I’ve also written a two-part review of the book, The Cowshed: Memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, authored by the late Ji Xianlin.

The book review will come first, then the historical series. They will allow us to take a virtual trip to China, while also stepping back in time. In fact, we’ll go all the way back to 1893, when Mao Zedong was born. We’ll learn about his life, the Chinese civil war, and how communism was established in mainland China. And we’ll explore the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, and how it came about, and how it ended up.

We won’t let Covid stop us. We’re traveling to the exotic lands of East Asia, and getting in touch with a part of the world that often seems mysterious to Westerners. There’s a lot to learn, but I’ve tried to make the reading as enjoyable as possible.

It all starts in a few days, so pack your virtual bags for the Orient. Whoops, “Orient” is no longer politically correct, according to some scholars. I mean “Asia”. Damn, now I hope this blog doesn’t get canceled. If it survives, I hope to see everyone soon.

133 replies »

  1. I can understand, and totally agree with, the travel restrictions. Using Canada as an example. Our people are doing whatever they can to reduce COVID to a point where it can be controlled to some degree. Given that we too have delinquents who don’t care if they spread it around, the last thing they need is an influx of tourists some of which will be simply adding more COVID into our communities. As an aside, our Province of Nova Scotia just legislated that any visitors to their Province are mandated to isolate for 14 days. They will be checked on by phone daily, and a “no response” to the predetemined number will immediately trigger a visit by the local police. Of course, a 14 day isolation period just effectively killed the tourist factor. Who wants to spend a 2-week vacation in isolation?

    I do not understand the removal of statues etc just because they did something which was honourable in their time, but dishonourable today. They are all part of history and, whether one agrees with what they did or not, is a matter of personal opinion which has nothing to do with a statue. Again … that is just a part of history.

    Taking that statue scenario to extremes, should we demolish all our heritage buildings that do not technically meet current building codes, fire regulations etc.? Should we hold England accountable for its historical attrocities as the British Empire expanded? Should we demolish the Colosseum in Rome and hold Italians accountable for the blood sports of those times? It seems ludicrous to demolish significant parts of history just because times have changed. Times will always be changing.

    Finally, why should you, as a taxpayer, have to cover the costs of hiding the unpleasant aspects of US history? Perhaps the compromise could be “If you want that statue removed and stored out of sight somewhere, then you can cover all the costs relative to that arrangement it!”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, a 2 week vacation in a hotel room is not exactly my kind of vacation!
      Couldn’t agree more about the madness behind the destruction of the statues! Yes, its not history that we are proud of but its history and you don’t just erase history! It just has got ridiculous! Talk about feeling like …”smacking your head!”….

      Liked by 2 people

      • Whenever a mob tears down a statue, I feel like smacking my head. Which is safe to do, ever since Jason made that helmet for me.
        And to tear down statues of Grant, Washington, or Lincoln? ✋😶

        Liked by 1 person

        • You do really like the helmet that Jason was so KIND to make for you, , don’t you!
          Yes, the destruction of Grant, Washington and Lincoln statues just makes one smack their head all the harder!

          Liked by 1 person

    • We may not be in agreement on the travel restrictions, but it seems we both agree that Nova Scotia (and probably Hawaii), are not good places to visit right now. 14 days of house arrest doesn’t sound like much fun.

      Statues don’t bother me, either, when they represent history. But I don’t understand why we have statues of Confederate leaders in our U.S. Capitol building. These guys were traitors.

      I do understand why black people feel unimpressed when seeing a statue of a Confederate general in their town square, or something. Rightly or wrongly, they may perceive a subtle message promoting white supremacy.

      Perhaps if statues of Union generals were placed alongside the Confederate generals, the argument for remembering history would be more believable. But I doubt most Southern communities would be agreeable to that.

      Like

  2. I agree with you that the mob mentality is dangerous, leading to things like looting and other illegal acts. We need, as George H.W. Bush said in 1990, a kinder, gentler America. I look forward to reading your posts about China…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. So you really are doing a series on China! Sounds like it will be very interesting and I am prepared to dig with you, for believe it or not I have a shovel laying around that I can use! 🙂

    America has gone crazy! I hadn’t heard about Eskimo pies having their name changed, but I am aware of the whole Aunt Jemima fiasco!
    As my son said to my Dad, “Can you just please fix this crazy world for me!” What future are we setting up for our children?? Its scary!

    Defunding the police is def scary I do pray that America Wakes Up before we get to the point of no return!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Things got very crazy in China, back in the 60’s. It was not a safe place to live.

      I like your son’s wish. I doubt we can fix this world, but maybe we can patch it up some, and keep it limping along.

      I always feel wary about cops, because there are some rogue elements within their ranks. But I wouldn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I think there’s a lot of room for reform, and that it’ doable without getting rid of the police altogether.

      Like

  4. Traveling is just not a good idea right now. Our area is overrun with tourists wanting to enjoy some lakeside summer fun. I wouldn’t mind if they were careful about masks and social distancing, but they aren’t. I don’t see how looting helps the BLM cause, other than to attract media attention they can’t get any other way. If we were paying attention, perhaps the looting would cease. I am not concerned about historical figures and statues and the like, but maybe that’s because I’m white. Maybe they DO bother other people. That said, we need to grow a thicker skin. We can’t be whining about every little slight, demanding laws to protect our tender feelings. Half the time, we don’t know we’re saying something racist… I was corrected for saying the former owners of our house were “jury-riggers” because it’s a slur against blacks. Really? I thought it had something to do with redneck ingenuity. I inadvertently put my foot in my mouth about once a week, using some age-old expression I didn’t know was an ethnic slam. Carolyn should be able to help you with the shoveling–she has lots of experience, I heard. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • My view about travelers is a little different. I say, let them pass the Covid bug among themselves, as long as they stay away from me. This will help build herd immunity, protecting all of us in the future.

      A thicker skin for everyone would be useful these days. But without victim mentality, we can’t have exalted leaders who will “protect” us. And what would we do without exalted leaders?

      I didn’t know “jury-rigger” was considered a racial slur. But as far as I’m concerned, nothing we say is a racial slur unless we truly intend it to be. That gets into matters of the heart, and nobody can read our hearts but ourselves. So nobody can be in a position to judge, but ourselves.

      Yes, Carolyn is very good at shoveling. I’m sure she’ll be a big help.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Jury-rigging is ‘fixing’ something in a cheap, unorthodox way. Like if the latch on your trunk breaks, you use a bungee cord. Forever. It might involve rope, zip ties, duck tape, that kind of thing. I had always thought of it as Red-necky. Apparently, it’s a derivative of (the N word)-rigging (thrifty fixes employed by black folks, who often lacked the money to repair things properly). When the N word became taboo, the term was changed to Jerry-rigging (a slur referring to Jerry-curl, a popular negro hairstyle). When that was deemed un-PC, Jerry was changed to Jury, the only version I have ever heard and one that bears so little resemblance to the original slur, I had no idea I was making a political ‘statement’ by saying it. It’s a jungle out there, my friend. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        • I had heard jerry-rigged before. Why do people have to make things so complicated? Thanks for explaining and you are right, its a wild jungle! Have some latte, you will probably need it!

          Liked by 2 people

          • I think I have to jury-rig a way to catch lattes when I’m not around.

            According to dictionary.com, jury-rigged is a nautical term, meaning something that is makeshift, which could be good or poor quality. Jerry-rigged is similar, except that it is always of poor quality. Jerry-rigged could be a slur against Germans (who are sometimes called “jerries,” but nobody is certain where the term came from.

            Here’s a link:
            https://www.dictionary.com/e/jury-rigged-vs-jerry-rigged/

            Liked by 2 people

            • Germans were often “slanged” as Krouts for some reason, so how will that affect Sourkrout? I think these reactions to history are grossly over done and rather petty, in that history is … well … history. Whether we agree with it of not is rather irrelevant. It’s history! As I noted in an earlier comment,should the Colosseum in Rome be demolished because of the blood sports that were the entertainment of the times?

              Liked by 1 person

              • I agree with you. We’d have to demolish a lot of priceless artifacts, and lose a sense of our history, if we tried to purify our world of any signs of inhumanity.

                Like

                    • Counter with “VOTE BIDEN AND STUMP TRUMP”
                      We need a real Pres… Trump is just a chump
                      Play your cards right, vote Biden and trump Trump.
                      Trump backwards is PMURT … which makes as much sense as TRUMP.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Hi TG … to be totally honest (why not!), I was disappointed when Trump was elected. His history was well known. Business failures, and “paying his way out of trouble” as necessary. He stood for nothing that I respected in a human being. My disappointment turned to despising him because, to the outside world, he was simply feeding his own ego; was rearranging his advisers into “yes men”, and he had no credible experience of running anything, let alone a country. My despising deteriorated further when he started to play games with other countries that could easily trigger an armed response. He went down further when he started making statements which appeared to be a “divide and conquer” political strategy. On top of all that, he takes no responsibility for anything, but rather just lays blame elsewhere. I could go on about his clear racial bias and his inhumane approach to human issues, but he is not worth any more of my time.

                      I am confident that he will go down in history as the joke of the century, but we have to survive his idiocy first.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    • Yeah, that sounds like Trump alright. And yet some people just love the guy.
                      I wish Biden impressed me more, but as it stands it seems to me we’re faced with a choice between dumb and dumber. If I have to vote for an idiot, I might as well just vote for Kanye West.

                      Like

                    • Well Joan, given your options! One must hope that regardless of Biden’s apparent shortcomings, he will at least give his advisers some air time, and respect the fact that they each probably have more experience in their particular field than he does. Also, unless he is a complete idiot, he knows where Trump is falling down and will presumably not want to repeat the performance.

                      Liked by 1 person

  5. I was last in the mainland in spring of ’17… Shanghai Disneyland. The company that presently employs my husband has since moved most of its production out of China. Manufacturers who’ve been reading the tea leaves (I’m Asian-American, so I can say that), or that have just grown weary of the intellectual property theft and knock-off culture have been quietly moving their production facilities into other countries over the last few years.

    Ironically, I had just started writing something about what to expect from China during post rainy season 2020. This is the CCP’s self-proclaimed moment of kicking-ass on the West… ironic, considering that two carrier groups were just moved into the Taiwan Strait for “extended military exercises”. At any rate, considering the big middle finger just raised toward the rest of the world over Hong Kong, probably a bad time to go explore Máo Zédōng’s socialist paradise.

    Meanwhile, however, we can enjoy regular broadcasts of the re-creation of how it all began right here in our own homes as the Revolution with American Characteristics loots, burns and shoots its way into our great cities while destroying the last vestiges of any preceding culture.

    Come to think of it… Nah!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Too bad that things are going the current direction on the mainland. China seems to have such great potential, if it would only make a better effort at honoring human rights.

      I don’t see myself visiting China anytime soon, except virtually. Their Big Brother surveillance system leaves me feeling a little creeped out.

      And I understand that Xi is something of a Mao knock-off, himself, and trying to establish his own cult of personality. That’s kind of scary.

      Hopefully the unrest we currently have in America will simmer down after the election. I don’t think I’d want a Chinese-style Cultural Revolution.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. And what about Aunt Jamima (sp?) bieng removed from maple syrup. You read her story and she was phenomenal lady who deserved to be on the syrup bottle. It wasn’t a racist thing at all. Sigh..

    Liked by 3 people

Go ahead, blurt it out:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.