I still remember that beautiful spring afternoon a few years ago when my friend Rosemary and I sat on her porch next to a blooming azalea bush, chatting and waving to her neighbors. All of a sudden, Rosemary said, “You know, I really don’t care for Trump’s idea of building that border wall. What do you say?”
I thought for five minutes and said: “Well, let’s see. How long have you lived in this neighborhood? Fifteen, 20 years? And you know most of your neighbors, right? Why do you still have locks on the doors and security cameras on the walls? Can’t you just let them come in your house, eat in your kitchen, bathe in your shower, and sleep in your bed whenever they want to?”
“I guess I can’t.”
“Then what’s wrong with building a wall along the border?”
She looked at me and said, “You have a point there.”
It’s rare for the two of us to accidentally touch on a sensitive issue and not argue fiercely. We decided to continue with this “friendship-saving” approach to deal with issues on which we couldn’t see eye to eye: raising questions to probe, rather than making statements.
And it has proven its effectiveness, especially since the onset of 2020.
A few days ago, Rosemary and I were sitting by the fireplace in my living room after dinner. I turned to her and said: “You know, Rose, your president just ordered a ‘pause’ on the border wall. But didn’t he call thousands of the National Guard to D.C. to safeguard his own inauguration inside the barbed wire fence? Do you think it’s odd?”
Rosemary shrugged and said: “Don’t want to talk about him now. I’m more upset about the Big Tech censorship. You know, as much as I don’t like to listen to Trump, banning him from social media and going after his supporters don’t sit well with me. When you told me last spring that a Cultural Revolution 2.0 is coming to America, and that you were frightened, I didn’t take your words seriously. What was the biggest warning sign that you saw back then?”
“Hatred. Hatred on people’s faces, in people’s words, in people’s actions. I know them too well.”
I grew up during the Cultural Revolution in China. Most of the people in China are of the same ethnic background, so there is no race card to play. In order to solidify his grip on power and push for his political agenda, Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) decided to label people in different categories to pit them against each other.
There were five red categories, including CCP members, poor farmers, and low-class workers, and there were five black categories: landlords, rich farmers, counterrevolutionaries, bad-influencers, and rightists. The red side was encouraged to launch a “class struggle” against the people of the black categories. The harder you crushed them, the more glorified you were.
One of my neighbors, a high school student who joined the Red Guards—a massive student-led social movement on the red side—decided to show her loyalty to Mao and the CCP by turning in her parents. She claimed that she overheard her parents criticizing Mao’s motivation and that her mother had hidden a pair of high heels, a symbol of China’s pre-communist past (“The Four Olds”), up in the attics. Her mother was taken away by authorities with the pair of high heels hanging around her neck. Her father was taken away directly from work. We never saw them again.
I paused my story and turned to Rosemary: “Remember the video you showed me last spring where a kid secretly taped her conversation with her father and uploaded it on social media, calling her dad a racist? I saw another one just recently where an 18-year-old turned her mother in by uploading a video of her mother at the Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, causing her mother to lose her job.
“Yet, the kid was hailed as a hero on social media. Did you see a bit of repeating history there?”
Rosemary shook her head in disbelief.
“I’ll add a personal story,” I said.
My maternal grandfather, who inherited a small piece of land from his parents, was labeled a “rich farmer” and overnight, our lives were turned upside down.
I was quite young then and was living with my grandparents so they could take care of me while my parents worked full time. The village head, who used to be the poorest woman in the village, came with a group of “poor farmers” and announced that they were taking two-thirds of my grandparents’ farmhouse for “revolutionary purposes.” The farmhouse had a barn in the middle and living quarters on each end. My grandparents, two of my aunts, and I were forced to live in the west quarter. The east quarter became the village’s warehouse and the barn a day care center.
Several months later, my grandfather’s nephew came and asked if he could get some wood from my grandparents so he could make some furniture for his upcoming wedding. My grandfather decided to cut down the poplar tree he had planted on the edge of the property when the house was built and give it to his nephew.
I guess someone told the village head that we were cutting down the tree. She came with several poor farmers again and began yelling at my grandfather. The tree now belonged to the village and my grandfather had committed something counter-revolutionary by cutting it down without the village’s permission. There was lots of shouting and fist-pounding, and one of the farmers tried to twist my grandfather’s arm behind his back and take him away. In the end, my grandfather had to pay a fine and read a self-criticism letter in front of the whole village.
“Rose, it seemed so long ago, so far away, and now it’s looming on the horizon, right here.”
Han Zhou was born in China and has lived in the United States for more than 30 years. She uses a pen name to protect her family in China from possible consequences of her speaking the truth.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.