I’ve been debating on sharing this story, but it keeps rolling around in my head and is demanding to be told. With all the hate and ill-thoughts from all sides going around, we forget that everyone’s got a story, a history, something that has shaped their life and way of thinking.
The library I work at put up a display for the beginning of the new school year: Have You Red Anything Good Lately?, with the premise of only books with Red in the title or a red cover being on display.
One of our professors, who is from China and a library regular, stopped to check out the display. Normally, he’s all smiles, asking how we are, etc. But he stopped at the display, and picked up one of the books. His question to me was “Why is Mao’s book on display?”
I knew Mao was a dictator, but not much else. I explained my Director’s idea and play on the the word Red vs. Read. But he kept staring at the book in his hands.
“When I was growing up in China, we had to memorize three pages of Mao’s book a night and recite it the next day. And if you got it wrong, you were punished.”
I had no response.
He continued on: “We always had to have our copy of the book on us. And God help you, if you were stopped and you didn’t have it. If you look on YouTube at video of Mao’s assemblies, you’ll see everyone but Mao walking in with this book over their hearts.”
He set the book back and turned to me. “Mao’s book being here is ironic.” Then he started chuckling and smiling. He was back to his normal self.
His story hit me harder than I expected. I have a fairly sheltered life, and forget that others have experienced things I can’t even imagine.
All I could say to him was “Wow, [name omitted]. Thank you for sharing that with me.” And I meant it. He lived this, experienced a dictator first hand. Possibly not the easiest subject to talk about or even desire to talk about.
I shared this with my husband when he brought me dinner. His response was, “He [the professor] is right. Mao’s book being here is completely ironic.” Okay, explain.
For those that don’t understand the irony either: Mao despised the intellectual and learned. He knew they were the threat to his control over China. After battling them [in multiple senses], he invited them all to a meeting to “discuss the issue.” Subsequently, he executed them all. So the fact that a copy of his manifest is in an academic library at a college…
Everyone’s got a story. What’s yours?