A Ubiquity of Sparrows: A Little Bird Told Me ...
I have become ensnared in the story of Mao's Zedong's "War on Sparrows". The story, though, is so much more than that. To consider the effects that a totalitarian regime can have on a country's people without having experienced it oneself is difficult. And to say that it is difficult is an understatement. I have never been subjected to privations such that people who lived through it have. I have never been in fear of of my government, or its officials, or my neighbours nor have I ever been beaten or deprived of liberty at their whim.
Families of friends of mine graciously agreed to tell me a little of what they went through during the Great Leap Forward. There was still a great deal of fear and shame attached to the telling: I was asked not to audio record the conversations, nor write people's names in my notes.
As they have told me their stories, I return to the history books and journals, and search the net for film and images of that time, in order to try to contextualize what I have been told.
I find that I write out quotes from books and articles I have read that have made an impression on me, while I grapple with what to do with the stories that I have been generously given. I feel responsible for their care. I would like to give their stories voice, albeit an anonymous one.
Human memory is the ladder on which a country and a people advance.