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Alert! Alert! The Red Guards of China
July 19, 2000

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People joined the Communist Army or the Red Guards at a very young age
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Can you imagine living in a different time or place? What would life be like? Imagine you were a Native American living 500 years ago. Or, imagine you lived in a village in West Africa! Now, imagine you were living in China in the late 1960s. There's a chance that you would go to school to watch other students terrorize and beat up your old teachers.

It seems too crazy to imagine. But it is true! Thirty years ago, youth here in China were wreaking havoc by destroying ancient objects, burning artwork, and torturing adults! This was because of Chairman Mao Zedong, who tried to turn the nation upside down. He got rid of all textbooks. Instead, students would read his quotes! He encouraged them to organize into groups called the Red Guards. These Red Guards went to rallies in Tianamen Square in Beijing, chanting "Long Live Chairman Mao!" Mao also encouraged youth to burn photographs, books, and works of art because they were "bourgeois."

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Don't get me wrong though-- not all youth during the Cultural Revolution were violent. Most of the Red Guards joined because it was exciting. So much was changing, even the traffic! The color of the communist revolution was red, so the Red Guards thought that a red traffic light should not mean "STOP," it should mean "GO"! It was very confusing!

Vocabulary

wreaking havoc: - to cause widespread destruction
bourgeois: - (pronunciation: Boorzh WAH) a member of the property-owning class; a capitalist

My friend Bing laughs about how his aunts and uncles joined the Red Guards and went all the way to Beijing to attend a rally. When they returned home, their very own uncle, an official in the Communist Party, had been labeled a 'counter-revolutionary' and was beaten to death. "The kids during those times didn't even know what they were doing!" he says.

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These peace-loving teenagers are lucky to live in the Chengdu of today
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I don't know if I can imagine being with those teenagers who were terrorizing the cities and villages. Could you? But then again, can anyone ever REALLY imagine what life for someone in a different place or time is like?

Kavitha

p.s. - Please e-mail me at ...kavitharao@bigfoot.com
 

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