By Rafael Martinez, Director, Spiritwatch Ministries
"Mind control? There's no such
The very words seem so unreal, a millenial
boogey-man, just another urban legend concocted by some paranoiac cranks to
amaze and frighten people into the consideration of their fear-mongering agenda.
It brings to mind vivid word pictures of mindless, glassy eyed zombies
under the control of puppet mastering demagogues. It hisses of secret government
plans aimed at enslaving all mankind with drug-induced and electronic
psycho-technology. One thinks of the tormented and trigger-bound
"Manchurian Candidate" or Mel Gibson's haunted Jerry in the recent
"Conspiracy Theory", passive victims of a perverse science. Such
grotesquely evocative impressions flood the minds of those who hear the term, so
unbelievably bizarre as to be dismissed outright as a fable.
But that's not our point.
our part, we're not talking about these alleged forms of "mind
control" that provide so much of the theoretical grist and blood-curdling
thunder for many a website or conspiracy theorist today. We're not here on some
crusade to expose the "truth" that's "out there" somewhere
which has been kept in some top-secret netherworld of subterfuge straight out of
the "X-Files." If you are here to get some angle on that kind of
fantasy, you will be roundly disappointed and you may want
to keep surfing elsewhere. We won't be analyzing the alleged plots, politics,
and people lurking "behind the scenes" to pave the way for some
New World Order, as this grim graphic would darkly suggest. It is
a waste of time
reiterating any of the lunacy that this speculative school of warped
thought has hatched. It has for too long clouded the perceptions of a reality
far more sobering, serious and real-time than anything most people have ever
really conceived when they ponder the term "mind control" Those
who have advanced this agenda have helped contribute to the confusion and
needless clamor over the issue. No, it is our hope to separate the wheat
from the chaff and supply to a balanced understanding of the unbelievable yet
very real human phenomenon called cultic mind control that is far more
closer to home and more prevalent among our society than we think.
Cultic mind control is a bondage of the human
mind, body and soul far more diabolic than any urban legend. This bondage has
been effectively destroying human lives since the dawn of humanity by the
shattering of the spirit through the shackling of the mind. Whether using
coercive drugging or persuasive flattery, political pogram or business
dealing, the bondage of cultic mind
control is a very real and very present danger to all who stand in its
crosshairs. It is flourishing here in the Tennessee Valley - and around the
world - in many different forms, binding men, women and
children with a degradation by degrees and leading them wilfully into a galling
yoke of coercive control of their very lives by lading them down "with
burdens grievous to be borne" (Luke 11:46).
If you don't believe this can actually be happening, meet some people whose very testimonies would beg to
An Amway Distributor
I have firsthand,
long-term experience with Amway,
having been involved for about 3 and half years. In
the past, I have noticed many similarities between distributor
groups and religious cults and
remember terming it a "secular cult." Everyone is told exactly how to prospect, how to dress, how to
present the plan, how to follow-up,
to use the support system, etc. What
really made my stomach turn, though, was the behavior of people at all the
meetings. They could have
all been clones. Regardless of the
line of sponsorship, everyone
recited verbatim the same rhetoric ("Free in '93...Go Diamond!...get
plugged in!...I am really excited about this... The Business...The
System...I am getting free"), sprayed Sweet Shot in
their mouths every two minutes (lets face it-- nobody needs that
much breath freshener), talked
about the latest promotion (always a sponsoring-related
promotion by the way - never a product-related promotion),
and dressed alike. Most
people were sure they would reach their next pin
level by the end of the next month, too.
People rarely exchanged business
ideas or sales tips, as might be expected at a "business meeting."
Rarely did distributors discuss their hobbies, current events,
or outside interests. Sex
role stereotypes prevailed as well. I
guess some people are not bothered
by such an environment, but I need to be given
some allowance for creativity to feel like I have accomplished
Distributors are also
told not to discuss any negative aspects of their business with their
downline, and not to ask about the details of their upline's business
(number sponsored, etc.). The
standard line for this is "If you want to be successful, listen to
those that have been successful in this.
Don't listen to those who were
unsuccessful, quit, or have not tried because they only know how to quit or be
unsuccessful." Finally, distributors
are told "until you reach
diamond, only talk about the basics" (the support system, showing
the plan, $200 of personal use per month.) Collectively, all this puts
a significant limitation on the exchange of information.
Cult leaders invariably
claim to have some special gift, knowledge, or divine inspiration.
Whenever a cult member encounters anything that does not make sense,
he is told something like "It is not for you to understand all at
once; only the privileged
comprehend it--in time, it will be clear."
In Amway, there are lots of canned answers to the most common questions
and comments--some true, some half-true.
But the default answer if none
of those apply is "This is an unconventional business.
It often does not make any
sense; but it works." This
statement is often emphasized with the stories told by the higher pin levels,
all of which at some point say
"We made many mistakes and did not want to listen to
our upline. Once we did
everything we were told everything fell into
place and we were successful. Now
look how wonderful our life is."
Invariably, distributors are repeatedly reminded
what wonderful people their upline emeralds and diamonds are. In my
experience a common reward for achievement is simply to
be able to spend some time with them (a group dinner or lunch, for
instance). All of them are
said to be altruistic, caring people that have
the greatest concern and love for each distributor in their
downline personally. To
be fair, I have seen evidence that this concern
is to some extent genuine: then again, with the amount of money they make from us, why shouldn't they love us?
Being a typical Amway distributor is the
antithesis of freedom. I
have never felt such entrapment in my main occupation. As the sales and
marketing plan is typically presented, over 50% of the presentation
is not devoted to the marketing plan at all, but rather to talking with a
prospect about what they want to do in life.
A skillful presenter lets
the prospect talk about what they do to earn a living, and some of
their hobbies and interests. Ideally,
the presenter already knows much of this
information. The presenter then
guides the conversation until the
prospect gives specific details on what they find lacking in their
life. When the presenter
finds a few items that are specific and obtainable
by additional time or money, he asks the prospect to write
them down on a piece of paper. The
purpose in writing them down is to make them more concrete, and so your sponsor
can later say something like
"You came up with the reasons to build this business, not anybody - that
not only can you not live without them, but the only way you will ever get them
is to be an Amway distributor and follow the "success pattern"
Commonly when the marketing plan is presented the line of sponsorship will be recited and the
presenter will comment on what a
"fine line" or "fine thread" it was that brought
him this business opportunity. He
will further state how lucky he was that
he was shown the plan, and how fortunate each member of his
audience is to have been invited to see this opportunity. I have heard similar
comments from cultist missionaries. Distributors
are told that when presenting the
plan they are not selling anything but rather
are simply "sharing a business opportunity" or "sharing an
opportunity for freedom." Soon after sponsorship, it is revealed
business is "not about the money" but rather about
This instantly conjures up the euphemism that missionaries and
evangelists are not trying to sell anything or convert anybody--they
are just "sharing the good news."
A matter, not among those just
mentioned, but which brought considerable discussion involved a (Jehovah's)
Witness couple in California. Someone had seen in their bedroom certain
literature and photographs dealing with unusual sex practices. (I do not recall
that we learned just how the person reporting this happened to have access to
the couple's bedroom.) Investigation and interrogation by the local elders
confirmed that the couple did engage in sexual relations other than by simple
genital copulation. Correspondence from the elders came in to Brooklyn and the
Governing Body was called upon to rule as to what action if any should be taken
toward the couple.
Until the correspondence was read to us that morning, none of us
(on the Governing Body) aside from the president had had any opportunity to
think about the subject. Yet within a couple of hours the decision was reached
that the couple was subject to disfellowshipping. This was thereafter set out as
a formal published policy, applicable to any persons engaging willfully in
The published material was understood and applied in such a way
that marriage mates generally felt obliged to report to the elders if any such
practice existed or developed in their marriage, whether mutually agreed upon or
done solely at the initiation of one of the mates. (In the latter case the
non-initiating mate was expected to come forward and convey this information to
the elders if the initiating mate was unwilling to do so.) To fail to come
forward generally is viewed as indicative of an unrepentant attitude and as
weighing in favor of disfellowshipping. The belief that disfellowshipping cuts
one off from the one organization where salvation can be found, as well as from
friends and relatives, exercises heavy pressure on the person to conform, no
matter how difficult confession (or reporting) to the elders may be.
The Governing Body's decision in 1972 resulted in a sizeable
number of "judicial hearings" as elders followed up on reports or
confessions of the sexual practices involved. Women experienced painful
embarrassment in such hearings as they responded to the elders' questions about
the intimacies of their marital relations. Many marriages where one of the mates
was not a Witness underwent a turbulent period, with the non-Witness mate
objecting strenuously to what he or she considered an unwarranted invasion of
bedroom privacy. Some marriages broke up with resulting divorce.
An unprecedented volume of mail came in over a period of five
years, most of it questioning the Scriptural basis for the Governing Body
members inserting themselves into the private lives of others in such a way, and
expressing inability to see the validity of the arguments advanced in print to
support the stand taken. (The principal portion of Scripture relied upon was
Romans, chapter one, verses 24- 27, dealing with homosexuality, and those
writing to the Society pointed out that they could not see how it could rightly
be applied to heterosexual relations between man and wife.) Other letters,
often from wives, simply expressed confusion and anguish over their uncertainty
as to the properness of their "sexual foreplay."
One woman said she had talked to an elder and he had told her to
write to the Governing Body "for a sure answer." So she wrote, saying
that she and her husband loved each other deeply and then she described the
"certain type of foreplay" they were accustomed to, stating "I
believe it's a matter of conscience, but I am writing you to be sure." Her
closing words were: "I am scared, I am hurt, and I am more worried at this
time about [my husband's] feeling for the truth.... I know you will tell me what
In another typical letter an elder wrote, saying that he had a
problem he wanted to get straightened out in his mind and heart and that to do
this he felt "it's best to contact the 'mother' for advice."" The
problem dealt with his marital sex life and he said that he and his wife were
confused as to "where to draw the line in the act of foreplay before the
actual act of sex." He assured the Society that he and his wife would
"follow any advice you give us to the letter." These letters
illustrate the implicit trust these persons had come to place in the Governing
Body, the belief that the men forming that Body could tell them where to
"draw the line" in even such intimate aspects of their personal lives,
and that they should rightly hew to that line "to the letter."
The late Sakamoto family
Because the baby cried out when the men first entered the
bedroom, they murdered him first. The killing began shortly after three o'clock
in the morning, only a few minutes after the Aum Shinri Kyo "action
squad" quietly opened the unlocked door of a small apartment in a
middle-class Yokohama neighborhood and let themselves in.
Clad in cotton pajamas, fourteen-month-old Tatsuhiko
Sakamoto was in bed between his parents when the men crept into the apartment.
Several of them would later sheepishly confess to police that he was the first
to awake and when he saw them, suddenly began crying. After the infant's first
cry, one of the men leaned over and snatched him from the bed, smothered his
mouth with a cloth, then delivered him into the waiting hands of his killer, a
thirty-two-year-old medical doctor named Tomomasa Nakagawa. His hypodermic
needle ready, Dr. Nakagawa quickly jerked down the baby's pajama pants and
injected his buttock with a large dose of potassium chloride, a powerful poison.
Nakagawa then watched the child with coldly clinical eyes, waiting patiently for
the deadly poison to make its way through his small body. The infant's cries
gradually snuffled out, then ceased altogether when a series of limb-shaking
spasms swept over him as the poison first seized then fatally stopped his young
heart. It was like putting an unwanted puppy to sleep.
The baby's frightened cry and the shuffling commotion in the
bedroom awakened the child's parents, Satoko Sakamoto, his twenty-nine-year-old
mother, and Tsutsumi Sakamoto, thirty-three, the boy's father. The scene
confronting the groggy Sakamotos was straight out of a nightmare. Their small
bedroom was filled with strange men, one of whom held their struggling son in
his arms. Alarmed and badly scared, both parents tried to rescue their son but
were no match for the overwhelming force of their attackers. Seeing her baby in
the hands of a stranger with a hypodermic needle, Satoko Sakamoto desperately
fought back against her assailants, but within a few minutes they overpowered
her and she was given a lethal injection by Nakagawa. Within minutes he
confirmed that she, too, was dead.
Tsutsumi Sakamoto was the last to die, but unlike his son and
wife he did not die quickly. .. While several of the men held him tightly in
position, Dr. Nakagawa jabbed a hypodermic needle filled with potassium chloride
into his buttock. This time the drug did not work as expected, however, and
after several minutes of painful writhing Sakamoto remained very much alive.
Members of the squad told police that in order to finish him off, it was
necessary for the team leader, Kiyohide Hayakawa, to hold down his legs while
Tomomitsu Niimi straddled his chest and strangled him with his bare hands.
One Sunday afternoon in March, my parents left with five other
couples from (our Christian Science) congregation for a fly-in picnic in the Central Valley.
Although my father was no longer a pilot, three other church members were; they
owned or leased their own small planes. My father and mother rode along in one
plane. The passengers in one of the other planes were the pilot's wife and the
Sunday school superintendent, Mildred Valentine, and her husband. My parents had
told me they'd be gone until early evening. They did not get home until quite a
bit later. I was not worried; I had my writing and artwork to do, and I went out
for a while to play with friends. Around dinnertime I popped a frozen pizza in
the oven and, when it was done, sat down to eat in front of the television. I'd
had quite a fine day when they walked through the door, looking pale and
"How was it?" I asked, not really listening.
"It was OK," my father said. "Tiring," my mother said. They
went into the bedroom; I did not see them until morning, when they seemed more
or less themselves.
That afternoon, when I opened the Palo Alto Times, I found a
front-page story on the crash of a small airplane. Because the headline
mentioned two Los Altos couples, I read on. I read more and more slowly as I got
to the names-including Mr. and Mrs. Valentine's-and realized what had happened.
According to the report, their plane had come in too high and too fast, stalled
on an attempted go-around, and crashed into trees. The four occupants had been
My mother was reading in her bedroom. I went in and I laid the
paper on her lap. Then I went out. Later, of course, my parents tried to explain
everything to me, including their reasons for saying nothing when they got home.
It all sounded very rational to me. It sounded rational to me, too, in a way,
when the next Sunday our teacher explained to us that we couldn't judge
Christian Science by Christian Scientists; we had to judge the religion by its
principles. It was "a tragedy" .. that Mr. and Mrs. Valentine had
"passed on," but we could not judge our religion by their demise.
Whatever individual failings appeared to occur in Christian Scientists' lives,
the principle of the religion was unfailing and perfect. We should not,
therefore, assume that the Valentines represented any weakness in the religion.
The religion was without flaw, and we could take comfort in that fact.
Of course there was a certain rationality to all: a religion
based on a scientific relationship between God and humankind must insist on the
primacy of the principles behind that science, even when men and women suffer
and die. Perhaps I was reassured to know that despite Mr. and Mrs. Valentine's
deaths on impact, there was still no "life, truth, intelligence, or
substance in matter." All was still "infinite Mind, and its infinite
manifestation, " as Mary Baker Eddy had written, "for God is
Yet the part of me that did not need to take comfort - that
did not need to believe desperately in this religion - was revolted. This
incident had been riddled with falsehoods. My parents could not tell me about it
because they were afraid it would shake my religious faith; I had to find out
from the newspaper, like any stranger. Later, as I reflected on what had
occurred, I realized that they could not tell me because it was simply too
horrible. They could not even really admit it to themselves, because they had
only the language of "the real and eternal." Their own silent
suffering must have been enormous. Like them, my Sunday school teacher could not
admit the reality of these deaths; he too was afraid it would shake our faith,
and thus seemed to blame the Valentines for their fate.
At all costs, the religion had to be preserved. Enormous human
energy went into hanging up happy bunting around Christian Science that week,
while friends laid wreaths on the Valentines' graves. I saw this; I was not
stupid. But the culture of Christian Science was so deeply ingrained in me that
I could not turn away. I continued to hope that if I remained faithful, I would
move beyond the inconsistencies and find a place where both human beings and
Christian Science were cherished. This was not to happen. The accident hovered
around me like a pliant lie, cooperative but inescapable.
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
The goal of all PB.'s (this is
the late Eastern esotericist Paul Brunton, who was called "PB" by the
Masson family that sponsored him - RM) disciples was to have an
"illumination," that is, an intense mystical experience that puts one
in touch with a "higher power" My "illumination" came when I
was thirteen. .. For my thirteenth birthday, just around the time of my bar
mitzvah in fact (my parents remained culturally Jewish in spite of their
spiritual allegiance to PB.), PB. said that I could have a special meditation
with him. I determined that no matter how uncomfortable I became physically I
would sit still and not break my concentration. Usually what I thought about
during meditation was what could possibly be going on in the mind of PB. Where
was he? Was he, too, thinking, like me, about other people and what they were
thinking about? Impossible, I thought. He was, I was certain, lost in some kind
of supramundane, otherworldly experience. He was, I was absolutely convinced at
the time, in an altered state. This time, as usual, was thinking about all these
things. My legs began to hurt, my eye burned, my arms were tired, my skin
itched, and I longed to stand up. But I persisted - and it paid off. For soon
everything began to feel better, and I could actually feel myself entering a
kind of altered state. No doubt the rhythmic breathing helped. It was the first
time I had ever felt anything like this, and I was ecstatic. It did not last
long, but PB. seemed to sense it and asked me afterward whether I had felt
anything special. I told him I had. He said he had known it, and that this was
It was not entirely unlike my earlier experience with
hypnosis: I could not help but feel that I was fooling everyone. I wanted
to believe that something out of the ordinary had happened to me; it made
everyone, including me, feel so happy, not to say exalted, and very special.
While I had definitely entered some sort of "altered state,' altered need
mean nothing more than that it was in some minor way different from my ordinary
state. I was willing myself with all my might to "have an
illumination." It was expected of me. It was the right time. The
circumstances were right. I was with the right master. It was really up to me.
Through my "illumination," I was now definitely
considered to be on the spiritual path. My parents seemed suitably impressed.
Even my father, whose main complaint, after all, was that be had never had an
illumination, seemed more pleased than jealous, although it made me nervous,
especially since I knew my illumination was falsely acquired. I was treated,
from then on, with a new kind of respect. I was a little guru in the making. I
can't say that it gave me no pleasure, or that I was displeased at the whiff of
power a guru could command, even a little one. I can remember embellishing the
experience itself with each telling, until I had just about convinced myself
that I had seen the face of God. PB. and I were both rather pleased with
Every evening, I would go home and tell my parents about
the wonderful day I had spent with PB. They would look at each other
significantly as if they knew about some deeper purpose to all of this. I felt I
was unbelievably fortunate to be in the presence of this great man and that all
the trusted adults in my life were in agreement about this invisible world of
power and meaning with which PB. in particular was on such intimate terms. How
could they all be wrong? Perhaps if I had spoken about it more openly to my
teachers, friends, or relatives, I would have been given another perspective.
But to do so would have been disloyal, a sign of weakness. How could I doubt the
word of God?
I did once ask PB. why other people could not be told the
truths he knew. He told me we had to be tolerant. "Remember, Jeff, we were
once at the same level that they are on now. The notion of rebirth teaches us
tolerance. Do not despise those of obvious inferior intelligence. Think of their
internal age. They are still young. Young souls." I never really did,
consciously at least, doubt that PB. was speaking the truth from direct
experience. I think I quickly stifled any notion that he was simply inventing it
all. But however briefly and stillborn, this heretical idea occurred to me.
Something always felt a little odd.
I was extra glad that I was one
of the special black people chosen to be in the Nation of Islam. When I got big,
I was going to be an example to black people so they could see our true selves,
how we could be smart and not be tricked by the white devil anymore .. The
Honorable Elijah Muhammad said black people in America needed to show
unity so they could become an example of solidarity for people
around the world. The Nation would lead the way; that's why it was
important for us to work in unison - to look alike, speak alike, act alike, even
I simply was awed by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Not by his
smarts so much, but by the power he had over all these people. I believed he was
our savior; we all believed he was our savior. Instead of a picture of a
blond-haired, blue-eyed man named Jesus, who I was taught people in the black
church wrongfully prayed to, we had a photo of Elijah Muhammad - actually light
enough to pass for white- posted in the Temple. It was posted above the entrance
to the main hall on the second floor, and we saluted it, clicking our heels once
or twice, before passing under it. Sometimes our eyelids instinctively snapped
shut when we were doing this.
The heel-clicking part reminded me of Dorothy in the Wizard of
Oz, which was my favorite movie. In the movie Dorothy stood before the Grand
Wizard, clicking her heels, repeating, "There's no place like home, there's
no place like home," believing she needed the Wizard's magic to deliver her
home. But he explained to her that she had had the power all along. I thought
Elijah Muhammad was a wizard and that black people needed his power and wisdom
to deliver them from all the stuff the bad white people did.
The narrow road to heaven that Elijah Muhammad talked about
sounded like it was probably similar to the yellow brick road in the movie,
though I had no idea where this narrow road was in real life. I figured that
whenever we found it and started walking on it, I would be shocked and
frightened by dangerous surprises all along the way. Just like Dorothy and her
friends had to prove themselves worthy of the Wizard's help, I thought it was
only right that we had to prove ourselves worthy of being in the Nation. All I
had to do was memorize all my lessons so I could represent the Nation well to
the outside world.
The older people had to do more. There was always something to
do at the Temple or for the Nation. We went to the Temple almost every day of
the week for something - school through the week, Fruit of Islam (F.O.I.)
meetings on Tuesdays for the boys and men, Muslim Girls' Training and General
Civilization Class (M.G.T and G.C.C.) on Saturday mornings for us girls and our
mothers, and the general meetings, which were sort of like church services, on
Some of the men and women at the Temple were as stiff and
uptight as any Tin Man. Some of the officials seemed like the Lion - ready to
take charge as soon as some great Wizard gave them permission. But some of the
grown-ups at the Temple seemed as brainless as the Scarecrow, acting like they
didn't have minds of their own. Elijah Muhammad told us to dress a certain way
and we did. Told us to chew our food a hundred times before swallowing, brush
our hair a hundred strokes, and think five times about what we're going to say
before we spoke. He gave us a long list of forbidden foods and required all of
us, kids and grown-ups alike, to digest the historical and religious lessons.
Elijah Muhammad had our minds completely.
At the age of seven I was accepted into a special school for
gifted students and thought it was the beginning of dreams come true. I loved
everything about that school - the desks, the blackboard, the stairs. It was a
fairy-tale kingdom and I was one of the pretty princesses. Then just one week later, I was told that I didn't belong,
that I had to leave, that I must go to another school, where children fathered
by "rightists" were admitted. I didn't understand what the word meant,
but it made no difference. I knew what mattered. Father was my enemy. Because
she had chosen to marry him, Mother was my enemy too. I had always known about
enemies. The radio had taught me. My teachers had taught me. Everyone had taught
me that landlords, rich peasants, anti-revolutionaries and rightists were
enemies. With all my being I wished that I had a gun so I could shoot them dead.
My change of heart was astonishing, sudden and absolute. That night,
Mother asked Father for a divorce. He admitted that it was he who had ruined me
and promised to do everything he possibly could to make my future less dim. I
would not speak to him. I let him go.
Father had been branded a rightist, third class. Those who
were first class were sentenced to prison. Those who were second class were
condemned to hard labor in Xinjiang. Father was assigned work among the peasants
in the nearby countryside. Each time he came Father would ask
me if he could take me somewhere. I shook my head. I was so terrified that my friends would
see him that I became ill. So ashamed was I of my father that I wished he would
leave and never come back. Mother's forgiveness was unending. She could see into me,
could see that monstrous fears had gnawed away my heart.
I was twelve when the Cultural Revolution started. I had not
been allowed to wear the red scarf of the Communist Youth League, and now I was
not allowed to wear the red armband of the Red Guards. Everywhere I went, girls
and boys spat upon me. I began to realize with horror how their cruelty mirrored
my own. Gradually the hatred I had harbored for so long withered. But it was too
late. Father was no longer permitted to leave the countryside for visits home.
For the next two years, at odd moments and for no apparent
reason, tears would suddenly appear in Mother's eyes. One
cold, rainy evening she was late coming home. When Mother came through the door, it was long after midnight.
Her navy quilted jacket was so thoroughly soaked that the pale dress underneath
was stained with blotches of blue. She must have been walking for hours in the
rain.Grandmother asked, "Why have you been gone so long?"
"My child's father has committed suicide."
How far away Father seemed to me at that moment! I could not
summon his face or the sound of his voice. But even more remote was death. I did
not know what to think of it except to wonder if there was a place where souls
could live. Although some of my classmates' fathers had died earlier, also by
suicide, the word had no meaning for me. Soon there was another knock at the door. This time it was an
old friend of my father's who had come to urge Mother to go to the crematorium
and ask for the ashes. Mother shook her head. He put thirty yuan in my hand and
said I must go and give that to the attendant, who would then do as I asked.
Mother took out Father's best clothes and his favorite pair of
shoes. They were made of woven straw, but he had polished them so they shone
I didn't know which bus stop to go to. Mother said she would
walk me there, but just as we were leaving, a cadre from her work unit came to
advise her that this was the day she must declare her political stand before all
her coworkers at the park, and she left with him. Asking
strangers, I made my own way to the bus stop. The bus ride was long. None of the
passengers seemed any older than I was; some were much younger. Everyone got off
at the last stop. I followed the others toward the sinister building that rose
from the earth like a monstrous brick coffin. They were
carrying bundles too. An old man asked for my father's name. I
told him. The old man told me to wait. It was late
afternoon before he finally returned and asked if I had brought any socks.
Father had arrived without shoes and with only one sock. I gave him the bundle and then handed him the thirty
yuan. I asked him what my father had looked like when they brought
him in. "He looked . . . all right. He used sleeping pills."
I asked again. The old man hesitated again, then said
matter-of-factly, "Your father's ears were torn off."
I left but did not go home. I stood outside and stared at the
crematorium. It was an old building with a dragon carved on the chimney.
Periodically it belched smoke, and fathers and mothers, sons and daughters,
floated through the heavens to their final resting place. I recalled the
(peaceful) expression on Mother's face the previous
evening and understood. The dead were free. The living had to struggle on in a
world where wives had to denounce their dead husbands, and children took buses
alone to places like this. The crematorium no longer seemed sinister. It did not kill
people. It gave people peace. Peace has yet to come to me. Perhaps it is because when I was
very young I shouldn't have understood that politics is all, but I did. I
shouldn't have experienced a hate so unnatural that it could sever the bond
between a loving father and a loving child, but I did. I don't understand how my
mother can tell me that tears are the most precious things in the world and I
should not shed them for what I did as a child of seven. But I should.