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Opinion: Is America engulfed in a Cultural Revolution?

By Curtis Stone (People's Daily Online)    13:40, August 21, 2017

In the mid-1960s, a wave of anger and violence plunged China into chaos for years, during which many of the country’s cultural and historical artifacts were removed or destroyed. Recent racial tension in the U.S. has left many Chinese wondering if a country once known as the world's "Melting Pot" is undergoing its own Cultural Revolution, and perplexed over how such an eerily similar event could unfold in America.

The chaos in America is deeply troubling. The “American cultural revolution,” as it has been termed in some Chinese media, has all the hallmarks of China’s turbulent experience during the Cultural Revolution, one of the characteristics of which was two opposing factions, as symbols of America’s past, controversial to many but important to others, come crashing down, one after another. While it is a stretch to call the current situation a “cultural revolution,” there is no doubt great turmoil.

The hope is that America will be able to break out of this dangerous spiral of chaos. With the ideological person behind the White Supremacist movement out of the White House, hopefully America can get back to normal and be a bit more rational. Whether U.S. President Donald Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon’s departure will be enough to keep the U.S. from falling deeper into chaos remains to be seen, but it does prove that the country is trying to correct itself, and this is a positive sign.

But the current situation is worrying. Following the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, a statue on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was draped with a black hood. In Durham County, where Chapel Hill Town is located, two statues were vandalized. Protesters in downtown Durham toppled a statue, and then spit on and kicked it; and a statue at the entrance of Duke University Chapel was defaced and later removed. In response to Duke’s decision, a U.S. nonprofit organization that focuses on civil and human rights issues said “other institutions must follow” suit.

People all across America are stepping up actions to remove statues and change names of military bases, parks, and streets. From a Chicago pastor’s call to remove a statue of George Washington and change the names of two parks in black neighborhoods; to U.S Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s call to remove Confederate statues from the Capitol “immediately”; and to discussion over whether it is time to “blow up” the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, South Dakota, there is a push to get rid of at least some of the country’s cultural and historical artifacts, firing up white Americans who perceive it as a direct attack on their own identity. For these whites, the destruction is “cultural cleansing,” and they are “chased like rats on the street,” according to a Chinese article, for defending symbols of Confederate heritage.

In response to the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Trump declared that “there is blame on both sides” for the violent clashes, and wondered if tearing down Confederate monuments could get out of control. “Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee,” Trump said. “So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down.” George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, the president noted, were also slave owners. “I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?” Trump asked. “You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” he added.

Not long ago, Americans were praised for their tolerance of the history of the American Civil War, as enshrining senior generals and soldiers of the slave states period was thought to showcase America’s inclusiveness and greatness. But that illusion has been shattered. The deadly violence in Charlottesville showed that the nation is deeply divided. We will just have to wait and see where the country is heading now.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wu Chengliang, Bianji)

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