TOO OFTEN, THOSE IN HIGH PLACES ARE THE ENEMY.
In December, 1990, after months of traveling The Great Wall of China, I returned to America. Gradually, my life returned to some semblance of “normal” yet…nothing ever-felt quite “the same”.
Believe me. I’ve never stopped loving my country but—the more I’ve “experienced” my government--- both in China and in Washington DC—the less I trust those at “the top”. TRUST ME. This is a very-serious chapter from my book:
“Reaching the remote town of Datong, I made the decision to camp for the night. Darkness was still hours away but I had walked steadily all day, mostly uphill. The mileage meter around my neck indicated I had covered 30 miles since six o’clock that morning... I deserved to rest.
Glancing around at the magnificent view and beautiful mountains, I noticed movement on a tall mountain nearby. Wanting a closer look, I removed my binoculars from their case and was shocked to see Chinese dressed in military uniforms with rifles, pointed at three men, apparently prisoners. The men were loading trucks with what appeared to be rocks. Most disturbing….the men loading rock did not look Oriental. Instead, the three men looked Caucasian---with blondish, light brown hair, and fair skin. The longer I stared at them, the more excited I became. The men wore tank tops; camouflage pants, high-top military boots, and what appeared to be dog tags around their necks.
As they struggled to walk, I noted that all three wore shackles around their ankles. I watched the guards repeatedly prod the men with rifles, working them like beasts of burden. Despite occasional rifle jabs from the guards, the men obeyed as they methodically-lifted rock after rock into each truck.
When darkness forced me to put the binoculars down, I picked up my journal to document-- in writing--exactly what I’d seen. I referenced each and every detail, trying to provide as much information as possible. Were these men captured in Vietnam then traded to China? Could these men be MIAs? I felt frantic to alert the American government. As soon as possible, I must let the world know there were prisoners--most certainly Americans-- in China.
Four months later, when I returned to America, I made an appointment with the State Department Director in charge of Asian Affairs. Congratulating me on my successful journey of The Great Wall, the director listened as I related what I had seen outside Datong. I presented him with pages copied from my journal; described the men I had seen; and-- as I spoke-- I drew a simple map of the mountain in relationship to the town of Datong. When I handed the map to the director, he took it and, without so much as a glance, began tearing the map and the journal pages into tiny pieces, then dropped them into the wastebasket beside his desk.
Smiling only slightly, he thanked me for sharing the information. Both confused and shocked, I started to question his actions-- to ask why he seemed so casual about such an alarming discovery---when--- he interrupted me and asked me to leave.
As he walked me to the door, he cautioned me with these words: “Forget what you think you saw; destroy any written notes and all photos you took; and never share your thoughts or information with anyone-- ever-again. Trust me, my dear, you saw nothing.”