An American Heroine and a Friend of China – Part 3

Agnes wound up setting up field hospitals, building sanitation facilities, lecturing, raising money, and doing everything else they asked her to do to help repel the invaders, including a continuing stream of reports to the world.

She often lectured about Democracy.

At one of these lectures, an old woman stood up and came forward and stood alongside Agnes. “She showed she was our true friend by her willingness to eat bitterness with us.”

The epitaph on her grave gives her name and years, and the explanation as to why she is in the Heroes’ Graveyard: AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY WRITER AND FRIEND OF THE CHINESE PEOPLE.

                                 Bill Harvey and Chinese co-writer Zhen Zhung, December 1983                                                                     Photo taken by the senior scriptwriter Weston Gavin

She tried to warn the U.S. they were in Japan’s crosshairs though her columns and her books and appearances.

She may also have had some impact there. From 1940 on, the U.S. suddenly began sending war aid to China, first millions, then billions – and in those days a dollar equated to $17.51 in today’s dollars.

Not just money, and the best weapons, but also warriors, the Flying Tigers and troops on the ground, all risking and some losing their lives. Needless to say China was very much enamored of the largesse and the caring of the people of this nation far away doing something like this to help, or looked at more cynically, maybe the Americans realized what was coming and was simply making the best military moves under the circumstances. In either case, the hearts were in attractive mode, not like they have been lately. People risking their lives to protect each other. Gung Ho!

Let’s get back into that mode, can’t we? China and the U.S.A. We can’t change each other – at least, not overnight – let’s accept each other for what we are and be grateful we have each other for friends and trading partners and comrades in the quest to make the whole show sustainable. We need each other’s minds to pull together to fix the mess we made of Earth.

Not to mention we all have to work out what all of us will be doing when most of us are no longer needed for work, which is coming up soon.

Instead of arguing about stuff of lesser priority, let’s focus on the priorities together.

Now that we all know it, let’s act like we know it, and stop all this petty bickering. If we don’t all work together, we’ll all go down together.

Let’s go back to playing nice like it was until recently.

We will work out our difference by civil conversation, nothing else works, everything else makes things much worse.

In the Xian Incident, Agnes had taken a rifle butt in the gut, as soldiers stole her eyeglasses. Whatever it was that killed her had something to do with that war wound. She died in London, there for an operation.

My friends and I, learning of Agnes’s life story in the early 80s, were offered the opportunity by Chinese-American people well-wired in China, to be part of bringing the two countries back together the way it had been, by making the movie of her life, in a co-production with the Chinese.

She would show the love that naturally exists at many levels between the two countries.

She was a victor for the oppressed, and a Joan of Arc of the – presently in rolling-out mode – “help-each-other-out” revolution.

Gung Ho was the magic feeling in New York right after 911. Everyone experienced it.

As you drove past another car and happened to meet the eyes of its driver for a flicker of a second you were both in it together and you both knew you both knew it.

We and top government officials went on Chinese television when we signed the first movie coproduction deal between the U.S. and China.

But then, our producer couldn’t raise the completion money. “China?” the investors asked, and shook their heads.

We will still make that movie or miniseries someday.

A Song for Today, dedicated to Agnes Smedley:

May the Center hold.

My best to you all,



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