One of my favorite books is “Life and Death in Shanghai”, by Nien Cheng. It describes her years of struggle in Communist prison camps in Maoist China. Eventually, around 1980, she escaped to the United States. Back in the 1990s, before she died, I had the opportunity for a private visit with her. I remember she talked, in her book, about how under Communist rule (still true today) Chinese citizens were rewarded for spying on their neighbors and friends for doing things the government disapproved of. We’re talking little things — manners of speaking, ways of dressing, any aspect of daily life that the Communists did not approve of. Social workers who worked for the government considered themselves social and psychological police officers, to keep people in line.
I remember, in the late 1990s, Nien Cheng said to me how nice it was to live in America — where none of that thing goes on. She suffered terribly at the hands of the Chinese Communists, and lost family members to their brutality. She nearly died in a prison herself, incarcerated for having been married to a man who did business with an American oil company. But she was so sunny, happy and grateful to live in America. I treasure her note to me, and have it framed on my office wall.
Little did she know that we’d soon be living with the very thing she thought she had left behind her, now in 2020, in America. Yesterday I read that the mayor of New York City gleefully told citizens to spy on each other. He’s offering a text number where you can send PICTURES of neighbors or other people violating social distancing or doing anything else mandated as off limits by the government right now. Report them — and the police will come after them. He calls it “help”. And where I live, in Delaware — where there are a lot of wonderful people, but also a lot of truly crazy leftists — I am hearing, first-handed, of people harassing and “shaming” people for not wearing masks, or even for leaving the house. I actually hear stories of neighbors knocking on doors and saying, “So where did you go yesterday?” THIS, at a time when our own Governor says we’re succeeding at “flattening the curve”. It seems that “flattening the curve” was the original goal. But now that it’s happening, there are a whole new set of goals. A lot has been said about the growing control-freakism and tyrannical actions of our elected officials. But what about these kinds of people, acting as self-appointed shamers and informants on their neighbors or friends? They are just as evil, in my book.
Is anyone else upset that we are losing our freedom in this way? That America has turned into a place that Nien Cheng, a survivor of Maoist China who was grateful to get to America, would no longer recognize?
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