Most of the other war correspondents were men of course. Agnes hung out with them sometimes but most of the time she was sneaking around places she wasn’t allowed to be. Chiang had shown the Democracy face convincingly to the West, but all non-Chinese had to stay within certain “sanitized zones” as Agnes called them, where the appearance of Democracy was upheld. Where she went, she saw what looked to her like a feudal society, until she came back into the places she was supposed to stay. The other journalists were not so daring, and her difference from them caused them to find silly things to say to annoy her, but were careful not to cross any lines because she was known for having a bruising right, and for being quick to unleash violence when she thought it the right thing to do.
Eventually she jumped the coop completely and ran off to tie up with the Communists, to get their side of the story. She was the first journalist to reach Mao’s Army in Yenan, at the end of their Long March which had dwindled them from 80,000 to 20,000, including women and children. You see, Chiang didn’t really do the united front thing. He had to say he would, to get free. He never intended to really do that – he would get his enemies closer – where he could grind them between Koumintang and Japanese armies.
In Yenan, she met Mao, Chou En-Lai, and General Zhu De, whose life story she later wrote a book about. The two grew close. She was impressed with the way all these people helped each other. They called it Gung Ho. Agnes had never met a group of people like this in her life. (She had met relative saints like Nehru, who had been the one to send her to China to continue the worldwide Democracy Revolution, after the French and the American models, saying “Continue the work there.” She demanded to know why there, why couldn’t she stay and fight for the independence of India? “They have the guns,” he had replied.) But she had never seen a whole community, said to be 20,000 people, apparently all behaving this way. It was mind blowing.
In her first meeting with Zhu De, she asked where he had come up with the strange fighting methods the Reds were using, that leveraged their small forces impressively. He laughed and replied that he learned it from George Washington, who had learned it from the Native Americans, and is today called “guerilla warfare”. (The term “guerrilla war” was coined in English in 1809 after the Pazhassi revolt against the British.)
She was astounded to put it all together: the Chinese Communists (regardless of their ideology) were really a continuation of the French Revolution-American Revolution-Where Will It Show Up Next Revolution. It was a necessary historical process. It was all connected. Wearing different hats but behaving Democratically with their own kind, this sort of thing was going to roll out and eventually take hold everywhere. People were going to be kind to each other, and act like good sisters and brothers. There would be bumps along the way and resistance to any change is always incredibly strong, she got it all right then, a revelation.
When Mao became an Alzheimers victim, and even before, the purity of the original dream the way she experienced it got corrupted and turned against its own original purposes. (People spy on each other and turn each other in. That’s the big problem over there. Most Chinese would be happy if only that would stop. But it’s not neighborly for us to ask them to do something different because there is a social compact that says sovereign nations ought to not be bothered by the snipes of others, such insults could turn deadly. Do not interfere, lead by example. These are my thoughts, not Agnes’. She was far more direct and forceful.)
Agnes wound up staying with the Reds to report on the war from their angle. A Western Marine officer Colonel Richard Carlson was the second Westerner to reach the Red army, and he and Agnes became fast friends, both patriots and protectors, idealists believing in Kindness, working together (Gung Ho), Democracy, Fairness, Right, Truth, Justice, Equality, Freedom, Honesty, Honor, Duty, America.
A Song for Today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_lCmBvYMRs&app=desktop
To be continued next week.
May the Center hold, my best to you all,