They took the adulteress to a school playground. The playground was a suitable place for an open trial since it was closed due to the Cultural Revolution. It was some 20 young men who took the woman to the playground. To them, the woman was a worm, a poisonous snake, and a devil. They cut the woman’s hair with scissors, hung an old pair of shoes, which represent a whore, around her neck, and put a small piece of cloth that read “I’m a torn shoe. I deserve to die” on her chest. They dragged the woman, who was bleeding on her face, along the street to humiliate her. Hundreds of spectators, including children followed them, shouting at her to die. The woman did as she was told, striking a gong and yelling out, “I’m a vicious monster.” This all happened in a broad daylight.
This scene is from the novel “In Broad Daylight” written by Chinese-American writer Ha Jin. The novel depicts the Red Guards assaulting a woman, who is old enough to be their mother or grandmother, from a child’s perspective. It is not sure if these scenes are from the author’s personal experience, but it is probable given that the author has written many novels based on her experience from the Cultural Revolution. During that time, schools were actually closed and the Red Guards were resolved to clean up the vestiges of the bourgeoisie. Back then, the words of the Red Guards were the law. According to the adulteress’ testimony, however, one of the men she was with was one of Red Guards captains. How ironic is it?
The story could be uncomfortable to China, which places great emphasis on how it is viewed from outside, since it brings back many unpleasant memories it wants to conceal. Mass hysteria was generated by ideology and its scars implanted hatred even in innocent children. Just as some scars can be healed when they get some sunlight, painful scars and memories in history will start to heal when they are brought out in the sunlight. This is why novels like “In Broad Daylight” are necessary in every corner of the world.