Canada’s Globe and Mail recently published a horrifying exposé of China’s persecution of religious minorities.
Large numbers – researchers estimate the total in the hundreds of thousands – of people have been placed in Chinese facilities known as re-education centres, where they are forcibly indoctrinated.
The Globe described the “re-education” experience of one woman:
The woman, whose name is not being used by The Globe and Mail for her protection, was put through regular self-criticism sessions. Part of the content was cultural. ‘My soul is infected with serious diseases,’ she would repeat. ‘There is no God. I don’t believe in God. I believe in the Communist Party.’
Other content was more explicitly political. Day after day she would say out loud that she was a traitor, a separatist and a terrorist.
‘I am so blind not to see the greatness of our strong country’s laws. I am so stupid that I was not thankful for our President Xi Jinping,’ she would be told to recite. . . .
Elsewhere, detainees have said authorities appear to have cut the hair of women in re-education as a reprimand to the traditional long hair they maintained, a message that ‘now you are going to have a modern hair style,’ said Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Of course, the Chinese authorities believe they have good reasons for persecuting and “reeducating” religious minorities, which they perceive as a threat to the order and security of the Chinese state.
I have a Chinese friend who posts scathing tirades against the United States every time there is a mass shooting here. I don’t deny that mass shootings are a terrible problem, but it is important to keep the scale of our problem in perspective. In his book Rampage Nation, gun control advocate Louis Klarevas details the deaths from all mass shootings in the U.S. from 1967 to 2016. According to Klarevas, the total number of mass shooting deaths in that half-century was 947.
Yes, it is a tragedy that out of a population of hundreds of millions a few deranged individuals have abused their right to keep and bear arms here in the U.S. But as I remind my Chinese friend, the approximately 1,000 people who have died in mass shootings here in the last 50 years would have been a rounding error in the average month in Maoist China, where, by some estimates, from 1958 to 1962 as many as 55 million people died. Think about that. 55 million divided by the 1,826 days in that five-year period results in averages deaths per DAY of 30,120.
Why was Mao able to get away with killing, on average, 30,120 people each and every day for five years? Because he had the power and they did not. And why did he have all of the power? I will let Mao answer that question himself:
Every Communist must grasp the truth, ‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.’
If political power does ultimately grow out of the barrel of a gun, Mao had all of the power, because his government controlled all of the guns, and he used that power to turn his country into a vast killing field to further his political agenda. Improvements in Chinese economic circumstances in the last 30 years should not blind us to the fact that Xi Jinping’s government stands in direct and unbroken succession from Mao’s, and, ominously, Xi recently removed the term limit on the presidency instituted by Deng Xiaoping in the wake of Mao’s brutal regime.
The people of the United States will never stand by as the government kills millions of its own citizens. Nor would any United States government official ever dream of ordering the arrest and brutal persecution of hundreds of thousands of people merely on account of their religious views. This is not because American government officials are free from religious bigotry and the authoritarian impulse that often accompanies such bigotry. As we shall see in a moment, they are certainly not. Nor is it because the American people are better or more courageous than the Chinese people. It is because, unlike in China, in the United States the government does not have a monopoly on the power that grows out of the barrel of a gun.
I want to pull my hair out every time I hear “you don’t need an AR-15 for hunting.” The founders did not include the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights as a sop to hunters. They included the right to keep and bear arms in the Bill of Rights, because they feared people like Mao – they called them “tyrants” – would arise, and they wanted to ensure that the American people would always have the means to resist them. The 20th Century was a 100-year-long object lesson in why they were absolutely right to fear such tyranny. Yes, the right to keep and bear arms has a price. There is an irreducible risk that some people are going to abuse that right and murder innocent people. The founders were willing to pay that price and suffer that risk, because they preferred dangerous freedom to orderly slavery.
“Stop hyperventilating Barry. The Chinese experience could never be replicated here. We have a tradition of religious tolerance.” Yes, we do, but authoritarians are the same all over the world, and American authoritarians (we call them “progressives”) are working feverishly to destroy our tradition of religious pluralism and tolerance.
A couple of years ago I represented a school that was caught up in controversy when a student claimed he was denied the right to speak at a graduation ceremony because he wanted to use the occasion to come out as gay. Before any of the facts were in, progressive Congressman Jared Polis jumped in and demanded that everyone involved be sent to “reeducation camps-lite” (which he euphemistically called “sensitivity training”). And he called for me to be fired as the school’s attorney when I responded, “What’s next, a Maoist-style thought reform camp for everyone who has the temerity to disagree with you?” In the end, an independent external investigation vindicated the school (see here), but not before Polis dragged it through the mud in the national media.
Polis’ intolerance fits seamlessly with the intolerance displayed by progressives in recent senate confirmation hearings. Senate Democrats have all but announced a religious test for office, i.e., if you are religious, you can’t hold office. Senators Bernie Sanders and Chris Van Hollen grilled Russell Vought over his religious views and ultimately declared he is unfit for office simply because he adheres to traditional Christian doctrine. Senator Cory Booker said that Mike Pompeo should not be allowed to be Secretary of State because he holds the same views on same-sex marriage that Barack Obama’s Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton) held until 2012. Senator Diane Feinstein declared that anyone who holds to traditional Catholic teachings is unfit to be a federal judge.
Thankfully, Sanders, Van Hollen, Booker and Feinstein are in the minority, and their religious bigotry did not prevail. But the pernicious, not to mention unconstitutional, religious test they would impose on all candidates for any federal office is only ever one election away from having the force of law.
Make no mistake – American progressives’ authoritarian anti-religious bigotry is different only in degree – not in kind – from the Chinese variety described in the Globe article.
Twenty years from now will progressives like Sanders be calling for traditional Christians to be rounded up and “reeducated”? Before you answer that question consider that twenty years ago it would have been unthinkable for a sitting United States senator to publicly declare in a confirmation hearing that a person is unfit to hold office merely because he expressed a doctrine held by all Christians everywhere for nearly two thousand years.
As Jonah Goldberg explained in Liberal Fascism, the authoritarian impulse has always been central to the progressive project. Now we fight progressive authoritarianism with ink and ballots. If that fight fails, will we have to fight them with guns and bullets? I hope not, but only time will tell.
In the meantime, I am glad that, unlike the Chinese people, should that terrible day come, the American people have the means to defend their fundamental rights from authoritarian tyranny.