Les Sillars – Mao’s appeal to young Americans

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Tuesday, December 1st. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Conservatives have noted with alarm the rising popularity of communism with young Americans.

WORLD commentator and journalism professor Les Sillars says that hit disturbingly close to home for him recently.

LES SILLARS, COMMENTATOR: I was googling alumni, trying to track down people I hadn’t heard from in a while. One name came back under a 2019 headline, “Woman arrested as protesters clash.” The article described a Marxist group called The Red Guards marching in Austin, Texas. Police charged a woman in the group for assaulting a counter-protester with, quote, “a large stick.” One photo showed a guy on a curb with blood running down his face.

No, I thought. That’s ridiculous. It must be somebody else with the same name. But then I found a police mug shot. It was her.

AUDIO: [Sound of march]

The counter-protestors, a handful of young men, styled themselves the Texas Nomads. One Nomad helpfully posted a video on YouTube. It showed a few dozen chanting Guards in vivid red masks and olive green jackets. They yelled, “We are unstoppable, another world is possible!” They waved Soviet flags and signs of Marx and Lenin and Mao. At least two dozen bicycle cops hung around the edges, eyeing the march.

One big red banner said, “Long live 100 years of Communism in the USA!” The very flattering portrait of Chairman Mao himself didn’t note the tens of millions of people his regime murdered.

Eventually, the Red Guards marched across the street and passed right in front of the Texas Nomads. Taunting commenced.

Then a scuffle erupted, along with some profanity. The cops closed in. The camera tilted to show a blur of grass. I’m squinting at my computer, replaying parts, trying to pick out my alumna. Supposedly she whacked the Nomad with a sign pole. But you can’t see who’s who or who did what. Is that her? I’m thinking. That might be her. No … well, maybe …

I wish I knew how my alumna ended up with a bunch of antifa. She was very sweet. Clients on her gig-economy page now give her top marks for friendliness and service quality. The idea that she allegedly bashed someone with a Chairman Mao sign astounds me.

But it’s a reminder that people have lots of reasons for believing or not believing things. Sometimes, perhaps, people reject ideas they learned as children after carefully considering the arguments. More often, I suspect, they reject truth itself for reasons that have more to do with personal history than political history or logic.

This student never shared much with me, but I got the impression that growing up in her Christian home had been difficult. And sad. She had trying times at college too. I saw her last at an Anglican wedding over a decade ago. Everybody stood in line to receive communion. She declined.

I’m Les Sillars.


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