Wednesday, September 30, 2009

China's Great Wall of Silence: The Anthropology of the Cultural Revolution, Liu Shaoqi.

Liu Shaoqi, President of the
People's Republic of China, 1959-1968.

With wife Wang Guangmei as young

As Mao's hand-picked successor above, and below.

1959. "Liu Shaoqi saves the peasants."* Visiting
his home province to see for himself the starvation
caused by Mao's Great Leap Forward, the worst
man-made calamity in human history. Thirty
million died. Liu stood up to Mao, the G.L.F. was
halted, and Mao stepped down from day-to-day
rule, ceding authority to Liu who became President.
Mao's hatred of Liu began then. The Cultural
Revolution was Mao's revenge and Liu Shaoqi it's
main target.


The handsome president, his wife
and a daughter.

Above, the state visit to Indonesia that was to be
the beginning of the end for Liu and Wang. Below,
Wang struggled at Tsinghua University. The string
of ping-pong balls are a mock pearl necklace to
criticize the fashionable form-fitting dress she
wore in Jakarta. Wang would spend twelve
years in prison.

Liu, surrounded by rabid Red Guards waving
Little Red Books outside his residence in Zhongnanhai.
Moments later he was knocked to the ground.

1969. The official death photograph. Liu was
imprisoned, tortured, and denied medication
and treatment. His family was not notified of
his death for three years.

1980. Posthumous rehabilitation and a state funeral.

Widow Wang Guangmei formally receiving
Liu Shaoqi's ashbox.

"It was glorious to beat
people to death at that
time. So I exaggerated
and said that I had
beaten three people
to death."**

-Liu Tingting, one of
Liu Shaoqi's daughters,
to a classmate in 1967 on
rumors that she had killed
people in "Red August."
Pictured above in Morning

Now as Liu Ting, the beautiful successful capitalist
with an apartment on Park Avenue in New York City.

The woman in the fashionable scarf second from
right is identified as Liu Ting in the caption to
this photograph as it appears on the internet.
I am not sure however. The woman is a daughter
of Liu Shaoqi but it may not be Ting. At far left
is Wang Guangmei, Liu Shaoqi's wife. To her left
is former P.R.C. president Jiang Zemin. The
occasion was the fiftieth anniversary celebration
of the founding of the People's Republic.

*Jasper Becker, Hungry Ghosts.

** Liu Tingting also attended the Girls Middle School Attached to Beijing Normal University where Bian Zhongyun was the assistant principal. She was only fourteen years old at the time and was one of those who struck Teacher Bian. She was only recognized because of her famous father and did not play a significant role in the beating of Bian. See posts here August 5, 2007, January 6, 2008.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

China's Great Wall of Silence: Photographs of Song Binbin.

A 1984 family photograph. Song Binbin at left in back row in gray sweatshirt. She was now living in the United States. She looks softer and more human here.

Below,Song Renqiong with Deng Xiaoping, who
rehabilitated him.

Song Renqiong in the photo displayed
at his memorial service.

Monday, September 28, 2009

China's Great Wall of Silence: Song Renqiong

Former president Jiang Zemin.

President Hu Jintao.

Friday night Carmen and I were laying in bed. She was doing something sensible, reading a book; I was searching Google and Baidu for images and articles on Song Binbin. I saw the thumbnail of the man being struggled that was posted in the previous article. I couldn't make the man's face out very well in the thumbnail but the whole image had a different look to it so I clicked on it and was taken to the webpage. As I scrolled down and saw the the photographs I nudged Carmen. "Look at what they did," turning my laptop toward her. The captions were in Chinese but I recognized the photographs from the "Four Olds" campaign to destroy "old" customs, habits, culture and thinking. Photo after photo showed Red Guards destroying ancient shrines, pulling down statues of Buddha, smashing the archways of old Beijing, burning books, carrying old furniture out of looted residences.

Half-way down the page the theme changed to the struggle sessions and I saw the photograph of the man that I had clicked on.

"Look at this man's face," I said to Carmen.

"Hmm," as I took in the anguish. "That's one of the most powerful pictures of the struggle sessions I've seen."

I continued to look closely at the face.

"I think that's Song Binbin's father," I said to Carmen when I realized.

"No," she said, not knowing but disbelieving that he had been struggled.

"I think it is. I remember the pictures of him at his funeral."

I got out of bed and took the laptop into the kitchen. I highlighted the caption and copied and pasted it on Google-translate: "Song Ronqiong."

One cannot have a heart and be unaffected by that photograph of General Song. I felt bad, guilty-bad, the first time I've felt anything like that when thinking of Song Binbin. Her dad was struggled, and she was the worldwide face of the Red Guards who had humiliated and abused him. I also felt stupid (a more familiar feeling) because I had not known before that he had been struggled. The whole thing put a more human face on that worldwide face of the Red Guards, and made me question my efforts to hold her accountable.

Song Binbin does not photograph well. Even her schoolgirl picture reinforced what I thought I knew about her. Maybe I have just become too prejudiced from years of seeing only one thing, thinking only one thing about her, but to me, that schoolgirl picture looks like a mugshot. That face is the face of amorality. I don't see anything behind those black eyes, no soul, no goodness. I can see clearly in that photograph of the pig-tailed schoolgirl the monstrous Red Guard she was to become.

The photographs of Song Binbin taken at her father's funeral were first published in an English-language publication in Public Occurrences. I still feel disgust looking at her in those photos. She stands too erect in the photograph with Jiang Zemin. It's the haughty posture of the elite. Her sister leans forward slightly, her hand on her mother's wheelchair. She looks like she hurts. Binbin stands erect with her hands folded in front of her. If she and the military guard changed clothes I'm not sure I could tell which one had just lost a father. Neither do I see much more feeling in Binbin's face than in the face of that military statue. Binbin's sister though wears weariness on her face.

In the photo with Hu Jintao, Binbin bends slightly forward as Hu warmly grasps her mother's hand with both of his. He embraces her hands. There is a look of real sympathy in his face.

But look at Binbin's face. She's looking at Hu, she seems to be saying something to him, but she looks stern or offended, like she's a school teacher scolding a schoolboy. I don't see the hurt of a father's death there. Another sister looks down at the floor, sorrowfully contemplative. In Binbin I see the pride in a family so important that the President and former President of the nation come to pay their respects.

But now I imagine Song Binbin's immense pain. That could produce her absurd denial of everything, the absurd denial that Carma Hinton allowed the world to see in Morning Sun. It caused outrage in China and in the diaspora. I read recently that Song is deeply concerned to shield her family from more embarrassment caused by her past. But then she does things like putting together the most elaborate presentation package of any of the women name "Distinguished Alumna" at the Girls Middle School for its anniversary celebration. And proudly including the picture of her pinning Mao.

Maybe she just has a tin ear for public relations. Or maybe she's just the arrogant, soulless person that I always imagined her to be. But that photograph of her father made me wonder for the first time which it is.

Wait, wait, wait. No, now that I've had a day to think about it, my sympathy above is misplaced. I'm blaming it on too little sleep. That woman hid her face and told the world in Morning Sun that she had "just happened" to be on the rostrum with Mao on August 18, and that she was pushed forward by friends too skittish to offer Mao a Red Guard armband themselves. And that "Song Yaowu" was an invention of the press. Okay, okay. LOOK. I was a little tired when I wrote the above, OKAY. I wasn't thinking right. It won't happen again.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

China's Great Wall of Silence: The Anthropology of the Cultural Revolution.

General Song Renqiong struggled by Red Guards in 1967.

His daughter, Song Binbin, pinning a Red Guard armband onto Mao Zedong in 1966.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

China's Great Wall of Silence: The Anthropology of the Cultural Revolution.

The man being struggled in the cover photo was a general, below in uniform.

To Mao's immediate left inside the Great Hall of the People in 1963.

In the first phase of the Cultural Revolution only students from reliable "red families" such as Song Binbin could become Red Guards and only Red Guards could do violence. The Red Guards targets were others--students, workers, and adults--from "black families," who were, or whose families were thought to be, petty capitalists, members of the bourgeoisie, or of less faithful political loyalty.

In the second phase the thinking changed. The true followers of Mao Zedong were those from peasant and worker families. Their targets became the elites and those from the elite red families who had been the original Red Guards. Thus, even an army general like this man could, in the space of a few years go from being photographed with Mao to being photographed as the object of a struggle session.

Friday, September 25, 2009

China's Great Wall of Silence: The Anthropology of the Cultural Revolution.

The "cover" photograph above is taken from which has a superb collection on the destruction and violence of the Cultural Revolution. This man's face shows the terror and bewilderment that characterized the period.

China's Great Wall of Silence: Photographs of Song Binbin

Above a photo, new to me, of Song Binbin at the Girls Middle School Attached to Beijing Normal University.

Song, in glasses over Mao's left shoulder. The man to Mao's left is Defense Minister Lin Biao. I had not seen this photo previously.

In China or U.S.?

In U.S.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

China's Great Wall of Silence: The Pain of the Cultural Revolution.

In response to my follow-up email asking if I could speak to him on the phone about his experience:

Hi, Ben:
For around 40 years since our persecution during the cutural revolution, my wife and I have never talked for once about our experiences then. It is too traumatic to stir up the memories. She prefers forgetting about it and doesn't want to do anything, which I understand. Therefore, she doesn't know about what I did with [a civil rights organization], [an American politician], and now you. If you give me your phone number, maybe I can call you late at night in my bedroom. That means after 11:30 PM if you don't mind.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

China's Great Wall of Silence: Photographs of Song Yaowu

Song Yaowu was one of the leaders of the Red Guards at the Girls Middle School in the summer of 1966. When Mao Zedong ordered the withdrawal of the government work groups that had been sent to the schools to manage the developing chaos Song became the de facto head of the school. On August 5, 1966 the assistant principal, Bian Zhongyun, was murdered. Song and others made the official notification to the Beijing governmental authorities. She also co-signed an account of Bian's death which was given to Bian's widower, Wang Jinyao.

Thirteen days after Bian's murder, on August 18, Song was given the honor of fastening the Red Guard's armband onto Mao Zedong (immediately below). This event symbolized Mao's approval of the violence committed by the Red Guards earlier in the summer and of the much greater violence to follow. The Cultural Revolution did not end until Mao's death in 1976. An estimated 3,000,000 people were killed.

In the countryside during the "Great Linkup" after the violence of the summer of 1966.

Song the student at her work bench.

When Song emigrated from she left her past and her infamous name behind. She changed her name to "Yan Song" and got her PhD. Here, at M.I.T. with her mentor, Fred Frey.

With diploma on graduation day at M.I.T.

According to Carma Hinton the first time Song was interviewed under the name Song Binbin was for Morning Sun. Hinton says it took her three years to convince her to be interviewed. But not shown. Here, back lit so as to hide her face.

A photograph of the commemorative booklet published in 2005 marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Girls Middle School. Song was named a "Distinguished Alumnus." On the page immediately opposite that depicting the photo of Song with Mao is a photograph (upper right) of Bian Zhongun. I was given a copy of the booklet when I visited the school in 2008 posing as a father of a prospective student.

Second from left in light violet checked sweater at
celebration of anniversary of Girls School. Third
right in blue striped sweater is Liu Jin, also a Red
Guard at the school. It was Liu who made the
announcement over the school loudspeaker the
next day, "Bian Zhongyun is dead. There's no
need to talk about it."

Monday, September 21, 2009

China's Great Wall of Silence

I received the following email today. It is edited to protect the author's identity.

There are thousands and thousands of former Red Guards living in America today. They have gotten educated here, raised families here, grown wealthy here. And left their pasts behind here. They have never been held accountable, and there are those, like Carma Hinton* and Weili Ye** who shield them.

Some of the people hurt by the violence forty years ago in China live in America too, alongside those who committed violence, and their long ago pain is revisited upon them.

*March 19, 2007, August 5, 2007.

**March 14, 2007.

Dear Mr. Ben Harris:

I am a faculty member of [deleted]. I appreciate very much your work of chasing the criminals of China's Cultural Revolution.

I was a college student [deleted] when the Cultural Revolution began. It was a havoc. I witnessed red guards beating and torturing innocent people, especially professors. Unfortunately, many of the torturers and killers got away with their crimes. In 1967...[I was] beaten and tortured.

One of my friends [deleted] was put in solitary confinement and under the so-called" investigation." Later, he escaped from the confinement and committed suicide by[deleted].

The person who should be responsible for his death is [deleted, for now]. He was and is a communist and the chieftain of a red guards group called [deleted]. When the Cultural Revolution was over, I tried to hold him accountable [deleted]. Unfortunately, nothing happened to [deleted]. Based on what I heard, [deleted] had someone up there to protect him. It is said his [relative] was [a high Chinese government official].

Since then [the alleged perpetrator] came to this country and Europe pretty often. He recently retired [deleted]. He has his family here in this country.

About three years ago, I was upset with the situation and considered it was unfair to those who were tortured and died because of him. I wrote [letters]. Nothing happened as could be expected.

I wrote to [an American politician] suggesting that US Immigration and Naturalization Service should stop those criminals of Cultural Revolution from coming to this country like the Nazi criminals. The [American politician] didn't respond except adding my name to his list for his propaganda.

Now it seems the big wigs at DC are only interested in doing business with China now. For that reason, I especially appreciate people like you for what you are doing.

Thank you.


Politics & Justice in the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office

Nice Laddie.

Scott Peterson, murdered wife, dumped body in ocean.

When Rundle reached into the store of legal knowledge she had acquired from People magazine and outted with "Steve Pederson" to demonstrate the mental agility she possessed that enabled her to take a short-cut to a precise understanding of the case, Jose Arrojo, who was sitting to my right, said "Scott Peterson" in a whisper that Rundle couldn't here and that was not directed at me. I quickly glanced at his face to seek meaning. His eyes were wide, his lips barely moved and his cheeks were reddening, prefatory to a full blush and he repeated several more times in the same whisper "Scott Peterson," similar to the tone in which Marlon Brando repeated "The horror. The horror" in Apocalypse Now.

I didn't say anything. After the meeting Arrojo and I walked back to the second floor together and in the hallway I said without looking at him, "Steve Pederson." He didn't reply. He looked straight ahead and kept walking.

I was unfair.

I was wrong.

And I apologize.

To Abraham Laeser, who is smarter than anyone else and who will tell you he is, Molotov home-boy, Molotov. You are a truth-teller.

To Rundle's fiance, formerly known as The First Laddie. From now on, you're Mr. Something.

-David Ranck

Politics & Justice in the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office

Steve Pederson, Athletic Director, University of Pittsburgh.

We all have hearts, therefore we all feel ourselves the hurt that Rundle felt in so much greater degree at these insults. Our hearts do not produce only positive feelings like empathy. When we care, the more hurtful we can be. We can feel the exasperation that Laeser and The First Laddie felt, although nothing excuses the public nature of their humiliation of Rundle.

We all have brains which create reason which is indespensable to responsibility which is needed to doing our life's work well. When we don't do our work well because we are irresponsible, others--our bosses, our colleagues, our loved ones--will get exasperated. We know that because we can reason with our brains. And that is what is so inexcusable about Rundle.

She knows (brain+reason=awareness) that:

1. She shouldn't have a "knowledge gap."
2. She should have known that Howard Marbury was one of her chiefs of County Court and not a cop.
3. & etc.

She knows these things. And so it is another part of her character that she willfully chooses not to know. She could educate herself on the law. Instead she takes the lazy way out of relying on her "experts."

She would have known who the hell Howard Marbury was if she had cared. I-f s-h-e h-a-d
c-a-r-e-d. She doesn't.

She doesn't care enough to learn as part of, like, her job who her assistant chief of county court is. She doesn't even care enough about the job that she really holds, that of politician, to avoid the embarrassment of a Detective Marbury Incident. How hard would that have been? So you don't care enough naturally to know who your assistant chief is. Fine. Politicians, that is politicians who use their reasoning power to do their jobs responsibly, study people's names--often with their photographs--precisely to avoid making a fool of themselves, no matter how indifferent they may be to the real work they're supposed to be doing.

No, no, no, Rundle does not get a pass on her actions which result in her humiliation. She has humiliated herself.

The setting:

Rundle's office, two years ago. Jose Arrojo and I are briefing the chief law enforcement officer of Miami-Dade County on a sensitive, high-publicity murder investigation: A man murdered his wife and dumped her body in the ocean. Arrojo and I take turns telling her the facts, one of us speaking, the other adding.

Suddenly, there is a light.

Through those eyes made rheumy by alcohol, from that brain that stubbornly persists in sending calls to action to those vocal chords, suddenly there is a look of knowing in that unknowing face, a self-satisfied half smile confirms it, and she says,

"Ahh, I get it, it's like the Steve Pederson case."

-David Ranck

Saturday, September 19, 2009

China's Great Wall of Silence: The Anthropology of the Cultural Revolution.

Struggle session; "jetplaning."

Bian Zhongyun was the respected assistant principal at the most prestigious girls middle school in Beijing. Among its pupils were the daughters of President Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping.

Bian was a wife, mother of four, a good communist, and was well-liked by her students.

Teacher Bian was beaten and tortured for several hours on August 5, 1966 before she collapsed and died. Her tormentors were her female students. Dozens more of Bian's students witnessed her passion and did nothing.

Bian knew that she was going to be murdered at the school by her girls that day, yet she willingly went to work. She had been "struggled" in June of 1966, and again on August 4. That night she washed herself so that her corpse would be clean. When she left her flat the morning of August 5 she and her husband, Wang Jinyao, shook hands in farewell. Wang watched as she walked to the school, turning back only when Bian disappeared around a corner.

The "Beijing, November 2008" articles here examined the individual behavior of the above actors--Bian herself, her husband, the perpetrators, and the student onlookers--in the peculiar context of Beijing that summer.

The present series will focus on just one aspect of that context but consider it in a broader swath of Chinese history and culture.

Bian Zhongyun had been beaten on two occasions prior to August 5, as mentioned above. However Chinese use the word "struggled" instead of beaten and "struggle sessions" were ubiquitous during the Cultural Revolution.

The struggle sessions followed a pattern, it may be no exaggeration to think of them as ritualized. They were public occurrences where the victim was abused before an audience. Struggle sessions were sometimes held in stadia with tens of thousands of onlookers--doing nothing to help, certainly--hurling invective and missiles if anything. The victim often had ink splashed on his or her face, the hair was often cut, signs were hung around the neck. The head was always forced up so that the face was visible. The victim was held by the leaders of the struggle session in a specific manner. The arms were drawn behind the back and painfully upward. A new term, "jetplaning" was created for this action.

One man's struggle session was set for a specific day and time. The man walked up to the entrance to the arena. The audience was already inside. Hot-blooded guards demanded to know what he wanted. The man asked if a struggle session was not about to occur. The guards barked affirmation. And isn't so-and-so being struggled today? YES, what of it? Well, I am Mr. so-and-so, you can't have the struggle session without me, can you?

The man had casually walked to the place of his beating to receive his beating. Bian knowingly walked to her death. Liu Shaoqi walked out of his quarters in Zhongnanhai and into a mob of Red Guards who pelted him to the ground with their Little Red Books. It is not to minimize the suffering of those struggled to, in these circumstances, consider objectively whether the word "victim" is an appropriate term here.

Signs around the neck, heads shorn, ink splashed on faces, jetplaning, mass audiences--no, no, no, there is something more going on here than individual violence and individual culpability.

The Cultural Revolution has been written about from the political perspective, from the historical perspective, the legal, the philosophical, and from the perspective of the arts; it has been written about in first-person memoirs, and in the case-study method, but it is still very early in Cultural Revolution scholarship. I suggest considering the behavior of Chinese during the Cultural Revolution from a consciously anthropological perspective.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Evening Walk

Every evening after supper Mr. Brewer would go for a walk. It was about the only exercise he got and it aided his digestion. It was also a good way of leaving the day's cares behind.

Mr. Brewer started the practice soon after Evelyn, his 18 year old daughter died. "Evie" had been in full bloom, a blonde, pretty, witty, happy child with the teenager's boundless energy. It was the early 1960's and so Evie had ahead of her a career path typical for girls at that time. Nominally she was going to beautician school but in reality she was just keeping busy until she met a man and got married. Then she would become a happy wife and mother and Chuck and Betty would become grandparents and she would live and raise her family in Barnesboro and die and be buried there.

Evie started getting headaches in her junior year. Growth puts stress on the body which changes every day and so the headaches were chalked up to growing pains. In her senior year the headaches got worse. Sometimes Mrs. Brewer would put a cold compress on Evie's forehead and sit with her as she lay in bed, the window drapes pulled tight to keep out the painful light.

They took her to Dr. Smithson and he gave her a prescription for some fortified aspirin and told them to call him in the morning.

Then Evie's right eye started bulging.

The Brewers took her to Pittsburgh to see a specialist. The tumor was too far gone though. They operated on her but she never woke up again. The tumor had been big and the bleeding wouldn't stop. On a spring day in early May Evie died, a month from her high school graduation.

Death hits a small town hard. Everyone knows everyone else and so there's no escape from the grief. In a big city you can get away from whatever's on your mind by changing the scenery, going to a tavern or restaurant. But the scenery never changes in a small town. Everyone in the tavern or restaurant is talking about the same thing and so all Barnesboro wept when Evie died.

Chuck and Betty took it hard but they were strong people. Friends and family helped. They went to church. Chuck went back to work. He was drawn and sad for a long while but in time he seemed to return to a rough approximation of his old self. And the nightly walks began. They were good for him too.

On this night, over 16 years after Evie's passing, Chuck, Jr. called to tell them that his wife just had a baby boy. Betty got in the car and excitedly went out to get Chuck. Some neighbors had seen him as he walked, they waved to him, and they told Betty the direction he went.

She drove up the dirt road and saw Chuck but she did not call to him nor did she run after him nor did he see her coming. She walked over the grass toward him past the tombstones until she stood next to him lying flat on the ground his arms over his head sobbing into the the grass on Evie's grave as he had each night for over 16 years.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Pitney Bowes machine ran out of ink in the middle of doing the mail so I went to the post office to do it the old-fashioned way.

I went to the main building and bought a $50 roll of 10 cent bulk mail stamps. Then I went to the bulk mail center, asked for a sponge to wet them (no adhesive stamps in bulk mail) to physically put them on the rest of the mail. Tedious but Okay, no problem.

But unlike on a previous occasion the woman at the bulk mail counter told me the mail all had to be one way or another, all metered or all stamped, "no mixing and matching." This oral pronuncement was accompanied by impressive physical reinforcements which included an arm signal like that used by football referees to indicate that a pass was not caught and the play Dead.

"But on a previous occasion I was told that I could mix them as long as I filled out two separate postage statement forms as I've done, one for metered mail, one for stamped."

"You were told wrong."

"Okay, no problem, could I speak to a supervisor?" The supervisor told me the same thing.

"Do you have the stamps? the supervisor asked me.

"Yes." I took them out of my pocket.

"Have you opened them?"

"No." He examined them and confirmed.

"Did you buy them today?"

"Yes," I replied, befuddled as to where he was going with this questioning, "just a few minutes ago."

"Do you have the receipt?"

"Yes," the witness averred.

"Good, because if you had bought them yesterday or if you had opened them or if you didn't have the receipt you couldn't get your money back. Go back to the main building and give them the stamps and get your money back."

I went back to the main building and waited in line.

"Next in line." I explained the situation to the clerk and handed her the virgin roll and receipt, pointing out the time stamp of 45 minutes prior.

"You have to return them to the same clerk."

(I am rendered mute.)

"Let me check to see if she's here, I think she's gone already."

(Mute moments pass.)

"Yes, she's left for the day." She looked quizzically at the roll of stamps. "Let me get a supervisor."

The supervisor approached the counter having torn himself away from the swift completion of his appointed rounds which on this day involved the completion of a crossword puzzle by the evidence he carried with him in his right hand. I hoped he also carried Reason with him.

The supervisor looked at the roll of stamps. The supervisor looked at the roll of stamps with the seriousness unique to supervisors. He looked at the roll of stamps like it was a moon rock it seemed to me.

The supervisor looked at the receipt. He looked at the back of the receipt, which was blank. The supervisor then spoke. The supervisor said the words "inventory control" and inventory control did seem to me a desideratum of sufficient gravity to warrant a supervisor's attention and the neglect of his crossword puzzle but this worthy ideal was imperfectly linked to the necessity of returning the roll of stamps to the precise clerk from whom they were bought it seemed to me from listening to the supervisor's explanation which I only indistinctly heard because it was mumbled in the manner unique to supervisors when explaining.

We were in a thicket and I attempted to hack ourselves out with the machete of the simple declarative sentence which I hoped would appeal to his humanity: "It doesn't make sense that I would have to return them to the same clerk." I said this in a low, even-toned voice that I calculated would be non-challenging to the authority and wisdom of a Supervisor.

The supervisor then said he would make a Call. A Call meant that I had gotten to him with my low, even-toned, non-challenging voice and that higher authorities, supervisors of supervisors, were to be consulted and I felt pleased.

Moments later the clerk reappeared sans supervisor. I took this as an ill omen which the clerk confirmed by informing me of the Decision. I could not have my money back even though I had not opened the roll of stamps and had purchased them the same day because of the fatality of the clerk I had purchased them from having left at 3 pm. The Supervisors had offered me the consolation of an exchange of the roll of 10 cent stamps for their equivalent in 44 cent first class stamps. However the clerk added that the Supervisors had decided that there would be a 10%, or $5, penalty that I would incur for agreeing to their generosity. I thanked her with a wan smile and took my roll of 10 cent stamps and turned and walked away, the instantiation of Defeat.

"Next in line," the clerk called.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

China's Great Wall of Silence: "The Foreigner." Part II"

"China's history is for the foreigner to write, I very much agree with this statement."


"There is a foreigner, a lawyer named Benjamin Harris (Benjamin Harris), now in the United States as far away as across the Atlantic and the disclosure of the Cultural Revolution began to study historical facts, it seems incredible."*

有一个洋人,一个律师叫本杰明·哈里斯(Benjamin Harris)的,现在于远在大洋彼岸的美国开始研究和披露一些文革史实,这似乎不可思议。但是他在他的Blog里是确确实实这么做了。

The quotes above are by a Chinese man unknown to me. They appear on a blog at in an article written in May 2007. The article referred to in Part I** is by a Chinese man who I have corresponded with. In a cyber sense we are friends. Both men used the word "foreigner" unabashed and neither used it as a pejorative. In fact, the author of the article referred to in Part I sent me a translated proof, complete with title, before publication. For both men, referring to a non-Chinese as a "foreigner" was a natural term of speech.

At the very middle of the nature of the people of the Middle Kingdom is the concept of "The Foreigner."

China is a civilization of walls. The walls are to keep out all things foreign. Most spectacular is the Great Wall, so emblamatic of the fear and hostility--of the paranoia toward the outside world. Constructed to protect, it was built at such cost to life that every stone is said to represent one Chinese who died in its construction.

Beijing was a city of walls. There were concentric rings of walls around the city, walls within already walled-off sections of the city, walls within neighborhoods of those walled sections. The Imperial City was walled off from all the rest and within its walls was The Forbidden City. The first thing the Communists did in 1949 was tear down the outer rings of walls around Beijing. Atop one of the outer walls of The Forbidden City Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic. He and his top cadres then retreated behind those walls and Mao died there in 1976.

From the time that the first westerners made contact, China has spasmed from openness to contraction--seldom anything in between--the latter phases being marked by rebellion and violence.

* sic: Google translation.
** August 31, 2009.


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Politics & Justice in the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office

Rundle's reputation deeply hurts her. Better said, Rundle is deeply hurt by the self-inflicted wounds that have produced her reputation, for it is she--not others--who has tied the tin can so tightly to her own tail.

When we repeatedly engage in self-injury even those close to us can be cruel, precisely because of that closeness, because they are invested in us.

Abraham Laeser showed his contempt for Rundle at every opportunity before* she became State Attorney. In administrative meetings Laeser routinely insulted and derided Rundle to her face and in front of her colleagues. Rundle's reaction to these incessant insults showed how painful they were to her--she silently looked down at the conference table.

I was in Laeser's office when the decision was announced that Rundle had been named State Attorney over Trudy Novicki. "Ah, Ranck you're going to miss me around here"* he said, believing himself to be as good as fired because of his long abuse of Rundle. Rundle kept Laeser on, an act some will see as evincing rare magnaminity and others typical bad judgment. However Laeser would not have wasted his bile on Rundle if she had been an office non-entity. It was precisely because she had an important position, important enough to be in an administrative meeting with Him, that he cared enough to insult her. He considered her unintelligence, silliness and all the rest to be an insult to the deadly serious mission of the office, justice.

*Before. After he found her to have many redeeming qualities.

**I would not have.

-David Ranck

Friday, September 04, 2009

Politics & Justice in the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office

There were three people present for the moving day incident. Only one stuck her foot so completely in her mouth as to prevent extrication.

The practical joke was very clever. The Practical Joker showed intelligence to have come up with it. He knew the Rundles. His brain processed some facts, "Kathy is attractive and sexy; She and Chris like to party and drink; they're a little wild," and he came up with a plausible scenario: "Hmm, I wonder...When they've been out partying and had a little alcohol-booze to drink and come home and begin to engage in marital intimacy... maybe Chris takes pictures of Kathy."

Chris Rundle showed intelligence. He didn't say anything, he didn't confirm or deny, he just laughed.

Only Kathy, the future chief law enforcement officer in Miami, the future head of an office of 400 lawyers, only she said something so horrifically unintelligent as to confirm beyond any doubt that such photos had been taken.

An incident like this produces contempt and derision and they have plagued Rundle throughout her career. A tin can got tied to her tail and the faster she ran to try to escape it the louder it rattled and banged.

-David Ranck

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sick Visitation 101

Occasionally people send me things that might be of interest. I received the following from a woman. It struck me as wise and humorous and so with the permission of the author, Michelle Smith, I publish it here.

Recently I underwent a hysterectomy and I am spending five weeks recuperating at home. I received personal visits and calls from many well wishers, for which I am very grateful. During my recuperation, I realized how important sick visitation was, and so I decided to put together a guide which will make the visitation much more enjoyable and guaranteed to make a sick person enjoy you and remember your visit. Here is a list of things I liked and did not like during those visits, which I think people should be mindful of when visiting the sick:

Do not give stupid medical advice: A friend called and insisted that I wear a girdle. She said that if I don't, when I heal my belly will be big. The thought of putting my aching body in a girdle gave me an instant headache. When I asked my sister, who is a registered nurse, about wearing a girdle, she said: “who told you that nonsense.” I was so relieved. What I liked: I was having problem with passing gas and my friend told me to drink some hot Pepsi. It worked like a charm.

Do not offer to make soup for people who have never drank your soup: Many people called and said they are going to make some soup and take for me, which I politely declined. I have never tasted their soup and during this time, I did not want to try anything new. Not because you like your soup, I am going to like your soup. Whenever I see the people who want to make me soup calling, I just don't answer their calls. What I liked: A friend of mine who brought me soup from my favorite restaurant.

Do not be critical of stupid things: Someone came to visit me in the hospital and when she saw the T.V. in my room, she said “when I was in ABC hospital the T.V. was bigger and it was flat screen.” I then told her I was tired and wanted to sleep.

What I liked: People who gave me jokes. Laughter is indeed the best medicine. I avoided people who spoke about difficult medical experience: Honestly do you really think you cheer someone up by ta lking about someone who had to do three operations after they took out their uterus because they had medical difficulties? Save the war stories for another time.

What I liked: People who said I looked good and I am doing well. Even if it was not true, tell me a lie. I also avoided people who insisted on talking about my illness all the time: If I hear one more person say, “take it easy”, “don't lift anything heavy,” “don't walk too much,” I could scream. I KNOW THAT.

What I liked: People who talked about everyday things i.e. the weather, the family, a wedding.

Do not bring fruits that are difficult to peal A friend brought me a pineapple and didn't offer to peal it. I only had my 16 year old daughter looking after me at home. She is not going to peel any pineapple, so I had gave it away. What I liked: Fruits that was small and easy to handle. I disliked people who do not show up on time A friend of mine called and said she will be coming to visit me at about 11 am. At 2 pm she called and said she is on her way. She did not arrive until 5 pm at which time I was very tired and sleepy.

What I liked: People who showed up on time and stayed for under an hour because I got tired very quickly. Watch the things you say and your actions and you will make sick visiting a wonderful experience for yourself and especially for the person who is sick.

-Michelle Smith

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The photograph at top is from Time magazine online.

The one below it is from the Associated Press.

The beautiful, soulful little girl in the back row with the sign that reads "Hope," her face illuminated by the candle she holds, is my daughter.

Some people aspire to be like their parents. I wish that I were as good as my son and daughter.