Once Upon a Time

I once read a fairy tale about a land where no one had any extended family—no aunts, no uncles, no cousins. They did not even have brothers or sisters. The evil prince had outlawed siblings because he did not think he got his fair share of things when he was a child.

In the whole land, no one had ever fought over who got the top bunk, or whether to go swimming or to the movies, or what they should eat for supper.

No one ever screamed, “No fair! She got more ice cream!”

No one ever found himself fighting with his brother one minute and then laughing with him the next over a joke only the two understood.

No one ever stayed up whispering long after “lights out” on a school night.

No one ever got together at holidays and reminisced about the trip when everything went wrong or the time mom went to the school wearing mismatched shoes.

No one had been allowed to exist.

If anyone tried to have a family with siblings, they were threatened with sterilization, the destruction of their homes, abortion, and death.

Of course, I did not read a fairy tale, but instead I read this article about the recent “facelift” to China’s one-child policy. Although they are not changing the policy itself (most urban families are still only allowed one child—some rural families are allowed to have more than one), the government has reviewed its campaign to help people follow the rules. Surprisingly, they feel they need to soften their rhetoric. The article says,

Some examples of the more offensive slogans currently in use include:

“If you don’t receive the tubal ligation surgery by the deadline, your house will be demolished!”

“We would rather scrape your womb than allow you to have a second child!”

“Kill all your family members if you don’t follow the rule!”


“Once you get captured, an immediate tubal ligation will be done; Should you escape, we’ll hunt you down; If you attempt a suicide, we’ll offer you either the rope or a bottle of poison.”

The new less offensive slogans replacing the more callous ones will reportedly seek to “avoid offending the public and stoking social tensions.”

If you are ever tempted to think a government would not violate your most basic human rights, look at modern China.

I remember hearing about the policy as a child and thought it unnatural and barbaric. Would a country really do this? Now, when I think of China, I think of junk at Walmart and electronics and silk and dim sum. The shock value has worn off. Unless someone sticks it under my nose, as this article did, I forget about China’s one-child policy.

China is a great economic engine, and it is not in our interest to speak up. But it’s time we did—for all those young mama’s who want to keep their babies, for the faces we will never see and the voices we will never hear, and for all the children who will never fight after dinner over who has the larger piece of the pie.

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