Dangeorus Memories

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A reminder of Beijing’s reluctance to deal with China’s recent past…and how shopping can be dangerous for you. Actress Cameron Diaz (famous in part using for peculiar hair gel in There’s something About Mary) had to apologize to Peruvians after she was spotted at the famous Machu Picchu ruins carrying a army-style olivegreen handbag emblazoned with a Red Star and the words “Serve the People.” Peru suffered through years of turmoil in the 70s and 80s during a conflict between the government and the self-proclaimed “Maoist” rebels of the Shining Path movement. The rebellion was finally crushed and its leader captured and put on trial, but the fighting left some 70,00 dead and many bad memories. Diaz pleaded ignorance said she had bought the bag when she was a tourist in China.

China of course has its own bad memories of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution during which scholars now estimate 1.5 million died. But since its still taboo-ish to criticize the period in public, there’s no public acknowledgment of those deaths and the bereaved must still mourn in private. Will there ever be a monument to those unjustly killed (or hounded to suicide as so many were) during the GPCR in Tiananmen Square? Not so long as that same slogan, 为人民服务 is splashed across the entrance to the Communist Party’s headquarters at Zhongnanhai on the square’s north western corner. It’s ironic of course that after spending decades preoccupied with internal power struggles and endless arguments over obscure bits of ideology, the Party’s senior leaders are actually more concerned now than ever before about the people’s welfare because that the only way they can keep themselves ensconced in Zhongnanhai.

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