In case you haven’t heard, White House Communications Director Anita Dunn was caught on tape giving a high school commencement speech praising Mao as a wonderful political thinker. Specifically, she said:
… the third lesson and tip actually comes from two of my favorite political philosophers: Mao Tse Tung and Mother Theresa– not often coupled with each other– but the two people that I turn to most to basically deliver a simple point which is you’re going to make choices, you’re going to challenge, you’re going to say, “Why not?” You’re going to figure out how to do things that have never been done before… In 1947, when Mao Tse Tung was being challenged within his own party on his plan to basically take China over, Chiang Kai-Shek and the Nationalist Chinese held the cities, they had the army, they had the air force, they had everything on their side, and people said, “How can you win, how can you do this, how can you do this, against all of the odds against you?” and Mao Tse Tung said, “You fight your war, and I’ll fight mine.”
Yes, both Mother Teresa and Mao figured out “how to do things that have never been done before.” Mother Teresa figured out how to be such a shining, authentic example of Christ’s love for everyone, including the “untouchables” in Calcutta that she inspired people in Calcutta and around the world to rethink their behavior. Mao figured out how to murder an unprecedented number of people. Mother Teresa famously told a National Prayer Breakfast audience (including President and Mrs. Clinton), “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.” Mao and his successors don’t seem to have concurred with her comment, either on the evil nature of abortion nor on the importance of love over violence.
Ms. Dunn has since claimed that the comment was meant to be “irony” while others have leapt to her defense, saying it was satire. And, hey, she mentioned Mother Teresa; isn’t that good for something, too? Unfortunately, there is no evidence of satire or irony on that video: she appears to seriously think Mother Teresa has something beyond shared humanity in common with Mao.
Because it isn’t about what you actually do, it’s just about whether or not you have an “inspiring” story. It’s all about admiring tenacity, wherever you find it! Gee, and people say this administration is socialist and flirting with communism… where on earth would they get that idea? (For the record, the first three sentences of this paragraph are sarcasm, a form Ms. Dunn obviously does not understand. And I’ve never heard anyone refer to Mother Teresa as a political philosopher before. Sounds like Ms. Dunn has no idea who the woman really was.)
Yes, just to be clear, we are talking about that Mao, as in:
* The man who dragged his country through a brutal civil war to implement communism, promptly getting himself installed as the new demi-god to replace the evils of the emperors, who thought they were demi-gods. (To tinker with Benjamin Franklin’s comment on revolution, My demi-god status is good, it is only other peoples’ demi-god status that is bad.)
* The leader who unleashed the persecutions of tens of millions of educated people for the “sin” of being, well, educated, i.e. “elitist”. He called it the Cultural Revolution. Millions were displaced, sent to the countryside for “real work”. One famous poet saw all of his work destroyed, while he was sent to a far western outpost to clean latrine pits.
* The progressive thinker who, as another part of his Cultural Revolution, decided to eliminate all traces of the imperialist past of China in favor of the good, honest workers. Beijing’s city wall, an important historic monument, was torn apart. Craftsmen and artists associated with the imperial court were killed or driven into hiding. Important art and artifacts were destroyed. Thank goodness the Terra Cotta Warriors were still buried at this time, or they would probably be gone, too.
* The head of state who, while implementing his idealistic (and unrealistic) version of How Things Should Be told all the farmers to make backyard iron smelters to fuel China’s would-be industrial revolution. The result? Millions starved and the shoddy, primitive smelters turned out junk iron that was totally inadequate for industrial use.
* The man who left behind a totalitarian government with just as heavy a fist and as huge a sense of its own importance as any emperor. Most governments, at some point, had/have some sort of conscripted labor for big projects (the Great Wall, the pyramids, etc.) or wars. Only modern China has instituted a mandatory “family planning” policy that reaches right into peoples’ homes and dictates how many children they will be allowed to have. We probably won’t know the true damage of the One Child Policy for years, but, so far, it has resulted in more than 20 million young men of marriage age who will never have a wife, because all of the girls were aborted or killed at birth (a few were abandonned and sent to orphanages for adoption since it is illegal to place a child for adoption in China). The Chinese now have an entire generation of “little emperors“, only children, disproportionally sons, who are pampered beyond belief because they are all that their parents and grandparents have.
Yes, Hitler was horrible. He killed 12 million people in the concentration camps and other targeted mass murders: about 6 million Jews (for being Jewish) and 6 million others (for being against the Nazis, a gypsy, Polish, a Soviet POW, handicapped, or just not perfectly German enough). He started a war that killed millions more, and he had plans to wipe out all of the Slavs after he was done with the Jews.
Mao killed 20 to 40 million people in the famine caused by the “Great Leap Forward” alone. Millions more were displaced and had their lives ruined. The total death toll attributed to him is 40 to 70 million people, which does not include the as many as 100 million his successors have killed, through the government Mao created, with the One Child Policy (Steven Mosher’s estimate).
Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, given that most of our adoption group didn’t have a clue about China’s history. These were all reasonably well-off, well educated adults. After a fifteen minute explanation from our guide on Chinese Communist history, and Mao in particular, outside Chairman Mao’s mausoleum, the dozen couples in our group walked across Tiannamen Square towards the main gate into the Forbidden City. As we neared the gate, someone in the front of the group pointed at the gigantic portrait of Mao over the main gate and asked, “Who’s this Mr. Yu guy, again?” I wished, not for the last time, that I had a large button that said in Mandarin, “I apologize for these people. Not all Americans are this stupid, honest.”
Apparently, 40 to 70 million dead Chinese aren’t worth as much as 12 million dead Europeans, because if Anita Dunn had said that Hitler was a great political philosopher, well, we all know she wouldn’t be working at the White House anymore.
But she admires Mao, so that’s ok, right?
Beats me why.