Perman reported that he felt safer in China than he did in the United States, because, when he and his family returned to the United States, the CDC employee trusted them to self-isolate for 14 days and “never even asked where we were going.”
By contrast, “the Chinese state’s heavy-handed approach seemed to work.” There, “the obligation to isolate felt shared, and the public changed their habits almost immediately,” practicing “sterilization, cleanliness and social distancing.”
Perman gave credit to the communist regime for the citizenry’s collectivist attitude that even encouraged some to rat out others suspected of hiding symptoms. He praised Chinese propaganda that celebrated health care workers and thus led to pride in “collective civic responsibility.”
Perman was displaying the same attitude that one of my international students from China did when I was teaching at Emory University between 2007 and 2013. As we were discussing the documents and speeches of the American Founding that emphasized liberty, freedom of speech, and equal rights, she became visibly disturbed. In her mind, a strong dictatorial government was necessary and good. Freedom scared her.
At a state college where I also taught around the same time, I discovered during a lecture that a third of my college sophomore literature class hadn’t heard of the word communism. When I assigned a speech by Mao Zedong as a lesson in propagandistic rhetoric, college freshmen believed the first things that came up on Google searches, i.e., that Mao was a “great leader.”
At Emory University, most of my American students had been taught that communism was a phantom “red scare” promulgated by right-wing reactionaries.
I think it’s no coincidence that the precipitous rise in favorable attitudes about communism, and attendant ignorance about it, parallels the increasing use of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” especially in Advanced Placement U.S. History courses, which were revised to a far-left, Marxist interpretation under the Obama administration.
Zinn, a one-time member of the Communist Party USA, taught at Spelman College and Boston University. In his book, first published in 1980, he claimed American leaders allowed a myth of Soviet expansion to cover for domestic suppression during the Cold War. He said the takeover of countries by the Soviet regime after World War II was a falsehood spread by American imperialists. Really, these were locally led people’s movements, he claimed.
This is Zinn’s presentation of China: “In China, a revolution was already under way when World War II ended, led by a Communist movement with enormous mass support. A Red Army, which had fought against the Japanese, now fought to oust the corrupt dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek, which was supported by the United States. ... In January 1949, Chinese Communist forces moved into Peking, the civil war was over, and China was in the hands of a revolutionary movement, the closest thing, in the long history of that ancient country, to a people’s government, independent of outside control.”
The co-sponsor of the Zinn Education Project, the nonprofit Rethinking Schools, which distributes these materials, on March 18 sent out an email announcing its commitment during the pandemic “to providing social justice teaching, storytelling, and resources.”
They encouraged organizing against “Trump’s naked xenophobia” and defending “especially the rights of children in immigrant detention facilities.” The crisis, they urged, was “not a time of retreat,” but “a time to insist on, to organize for, an agenda of human rights and wealth redistribution.”