Red Guard Reunion
April Rabkin at Slate shares her experience of traveling to Yutian, east of Beijing, for the 46th-year class reunion of former Red Guards who never graduated due to the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution:
Between spins of a lazy Susan, a soft-spoken man recalls how he was banned from any job but farming because his father had run the granary during the Japanese occupation. My next question: “When did you start to doubt Mao?” He hesitates, “Well, maybe after he died,” he says, as he’s quickly interrupted by a stockier fellow sitting next to him: “I have never doubted Mao,” says Zhu Zhanjun. “Whoever doubts Mao is not a Chinese person.”
It’s hard to overestimate the nostaglic pull of those days for these former Red Guards, even nearly five decades later and despite the pain they endured. When I ask 68-year-old Zheng Suxia, a gentle-looking lady with long gray hair tied back in a bun, “What’s your worst memory of the Cultural Revolution,” she actually smiles and waxes on about the good times. Maybe she misheard my question.
Either way, she and Zhu still speak of Mao in reverential terms. Seeing Mao in a crammed Tiananmen Square, he says, “We didn’t even have to walk. We were just carried along by the crowd. You would lose your shoes unless you tied them on with string.” Zhu reminisces about these days, despite the fact that a few years after he saw Mao speak in Tiananmen, Red Guards beat his father to the point of permanent nerve damage. For Zhu, it was a test of his revolutionary faith, and he passed. [Source]
Rabkin goes on to track down the classmate chosen to fill the group’s counterrevolutionary quota, who survived a subsequent suicide attempt. Read more about China’s red guards and the Cultural Revolution via CDT.