(With apologies to Indiana Jones, and yes, it's hyperbole.)
I've recently been reading The Small Woman, Alan Burgess's 1959 biography of missionary to China Gladys Aylward. I was so fascinated by the included story of David Davies, one of her colleagues in China, which I hadn't previously encountered, that I tried to do a little googling to find out more about him.
First, part of Davies's story from The Small Woman: David Davies was an indomitable Welsh missionary to China during the Japanese occupation. In 1939 he left Gladys Aylward in charge of various refugee relief efforts being run by the missionary compound in the contested city of Tsehchow and escorted his wife and family to the relatively safer (though already Japanese occupied) Chinese coast. He then returned secretly and by convoluted paths, against Japanese orders, to the mountain region, walking approximately 1,000 miles on foot, to take up his work again in Tsehchow where he believed his duty lay.
Davies was insistent on a principle of complete neutrality for missionaries, a principle Aylward at first shared but later abandoned in practice. Gladys was a naturalized Chinese citizen, and she was persuaded by personal knowledge of Japanese atrocities, by her loyalty to China, and by the arguments of a Colonel in Chiang Kai-shek's intelligence to agree to spy for the Nationalist Chinese against the ruthless Japanese invaders. Burgess does a good job of portraying Aylward's ongoing ambivalence about this decision, a tension created by a conflict with her own initially pacifist version of Christianity.
Not long after Davies returned to the danger zone, the Nationalists retreated from Tsehchow in the spring of 1940. At the same time the Japanese placed a bounty on Gladys Aylward's head; obviously, they had learned of her activities working for the Chinese military. Both Gladys and David Davies were intending to stay in Tsehchow when the Japanese came to occupy it; they had done so before and survived, though on that earlier occasion Gladys (who wasn't yet working for the Chinese) was badly beaten. Neither was intending to leave this time either, but at the last minute, as the Japanese were actually entering the city, Gladys made up her mind to run, persuaded in part by having recently learned of the reward offered for her capture. She ran first to Yangcheng, to which she had already sent about a hundred Chinese orphans. She now evacuated the children in a famous and dramatic month-long journey over the mountains to relative safety and stable care in territory more firmly in the hands of the Nationalists.
Back in Tsehchow, Davies was captured by the Japanese, who were determined to force him to admit that he was a spy. They tortured both him and two of his Chinese companions. They killed both of the Chinese, crucifying one and beheading the other. Davies was beaten and tortured over a period of a year or so and eventually released after two years of imprisonment. He promptly went to the coast and, upon finding that his wife and children were in a Japanese internment camp, gave up his own opportunity to be repatriated to Wales and instead stayed with his family in the camp until the end of the war.
All of this information is in Burgess's book. Though Burgess appears not to be a Christian, he treats the story of David Davies as a triumph of the human spirit. So stirring is his rendition of the tale that I couldn't help wondering why there wasn't a movie, perhaps from the Hollywood glory days of the 1950's or 1960's, about Davies, to match The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, which is about Gladys Aylward. It's possible, though, that Davies's story would have been too gruesome for a movie of that time period, and perhaps it's just as well one was not made.
Well. Trust the despicable media of the United Kingdom not to be able to leave things at that.
"David Davies" missionary China
into Google, and up pops this link about a 2004 documentary about Gladys Aylward. (I can't help noting in passing the fact that whoever wrote this summary is so illiterate that he thinks "infamous" means "famous.")
So what is the BBC's take on the story of Davies? David Davies's sufferings and the death of his companions were Gladys Aylward's fault. In fact, this version of the same story is headed "Heroine's actions 'led to atrocities'." They are obviously reasoning that if Gladys hadn't spied for the Chinese, the Japanese wouldn't have had reason to think that an associate of hers might be a spy, and then they wouldn't have imprisoned and tortured Davies and killed his Chinese Christian friends. See? So it's her fault. Her actions "led to atrocities."
How many things are there about this BBC spin that are either stupid or morally twisted?
Well, let's start with the fact that the Japanese were perfectly capable of accusing Western missionaries of being spies on zero evidence and treating them accordingly (where "accordingly" should be interpreted in terms of the type of conduct for which the Japanese were justly infamous in WWII). The story of Darlene Deibler Rose, captured by the Japanese in Indonesia, is much like that of Davies. You might almost think we were talking about a relevantly similar set of brutal, irrational, torturing conquerors. Burgess seems well aware of this and takes Davies's treatment and that of his Chinese companions to have been the result of Japanese irrationality, a determination to believe what they were going to believe about a Western missionary captive. (We might also remember that Davies had gone to great trouble to return to the region against Japanese orders, which could have been enough for them to leap to the conclusion that he was up to no good.)
Then there's the fact that Davies was an extremely brave man with a hyper-developed sense of duty who quite deliberately took his own risks. That the "small woman" managed to escape the Japanese (with a hundred children in her train) while the young man, having walked 1,000 miles back into the mouth of danger, was captured and brutally mistreated is hardly something for which to blame the small woman. The BBC obviously has no such chivalrous ideas in its head, nor even the more minimal concept of a man who takes his own risks and does not blame other innocent people for the outcome.
Davies, of course, would have understood this quite well. His son Murray says quite clearly in an interview as part of the BBC piece that Davies "never blamed" Aylward. Very likely from Davies's perspective there was nothing even to think of blaming her for. He was in as good a position as anyone to know that the Japanese were determined to believe what they wanted to believe. Beyond that, he sounds like the kind of person who understood quite well that grievance-mongering against other people who have done excellent work of their own is absurd at the best and despicable at the worst. Murray's attitude is difficult to determine. It's fairly clear that someone has convinced him of the dubious thesis that his father and his companions would not have suffered had it not been for Gladys's activities. When I first read the brief clip of the interview I interpreted it as expressing resentment by Murray, but that may not be correct.
Here's another disturbing thing about the BBC take on the story:
Aylward hated the Japanese and their attacking of her beloved adopted country and agreed to become a spy for China.
Despite the reference to her "beloved adopted country," one gets the impression that Gladys's patriotism is beyond their ken. Supporting the Chinese against the Japanese invaders is put down to "hatred." What could be more typically liberal? Disgust at atrocities and recognition that those attacking one's country are in the wrong in every sense (both ius ad bellum and ius in bello): These are all boiled down in the liberal mind to "hatred." Burgess, for all I know (nothing is more likely), being a British journalist of the 1950's, may have been a liberal of his own time. But he understood patriotism and portrays it quite clearly in Aylward's character. He also shows a clear understanding of why men of good will who saw the Japanese occupation of China first-hand would conclude that they should oppose their advance and help the Nationalists. The reductionism of late-twentieth-century liberalism had not yet come along to limit the very categories in which we are permitted to think.
Finally, there is the typically liberal elimination from the equation of the moral responsibility of evil-doers. To blame the Japanese for Japanese atrocities is, I guess, just too, too bourgeois. We can't just say they were invaders doing evil things and be grateful that Gladys and her children escaped them and grateful that David Davies survived their horrific treatment. No, we have to find some way to blame a missionary, blame a Christian, blame a victim, and above all, blame a Westerner for the manifestly evil behavior of the Multicultural Other. The M.O. is not treated as a morally responsible actor in the story. That such an absurd set of categories should be applied to, of all people, the Japanese in China in World War II is just a sign of the fact that, from the modern liberal perspective, there is no such thing as a reductio ad absurdam. Rape, torture, terrorism, mass murder--you name it. The modern liberal, if inclined to do so by his ideological bias, can find some twisted way to blame any or all of these on someone other than the wicked people who commit them! The Other is simply responding to present provocation or past injustice. The poor Japanese. They were just confused. Bad Gladys had helped their enemy, so naturally they assumed that her missionary associate who had recently returned from a long trip was a spy as well, and they went on to do regrettable things. This is all obviously the fault not of the Japanese but of Bad Gladys, the spy. Say it with a hiss, "Sssspyyy," and it sounds even worse.
Leftist ideology destroys everything it touches. There is a deliberateness about this destruction that should not be missed or dismissed. While one can never predict all the particulars, one often realizes in hindsight that one could have predicted the general categories. A hit piece on a much-admired British missionary to China? Check. Destroying admiration for Western heroes of the past? Check. Using half-baked pacifist ideology to blame the victims and would-be victims of Japanese atrocities? Check. Why didn't I think of that? It was bound to happen. I imagine there have been more. I just haven't yet been unlucky enough to run across them.
Liberals. I hate these guys.
P.S. I recommend the book.