Under Chairman Mao's socialist experiment, we had food stamps for essentials such as rice, cooking oil, meat and eggs. There were shortages of everything and these food stamps helped enforce a strict food ration policy. This policy was gender based, designed under the assumption that a girl should eat less than a boy. A boy would get about four more pounds of rice on a monthly basis than a girl of the same age.
However, my Chinese name happens to be a common boy name; therefore, I received the amount of rice ration meant for a boy. Even with this extra rice, I was always hungry.
One day, a policeman came to our house for an inspection. This kind of unannounced inspection was routine and common. Once he realized I was a girl, he ordered me to pay back the government. For the next couple of years, my entire family had to go on a strict diet in order to save enough food stamps to pay back the government.
This incident had a profound impact on my life. For the first time, I started questioning what kind of society I lived in, if someone else got to decide what and how much I could eat.
Food wasn't the only thing that was in short supply. As far as I can remember, there were very few things in my life I could call mine. Sharing was an integral part of growing up in a socialist society.
When I was born, my family of five shared one bedroom in a row of low-ceilinged bungalows. My mother made a curtain to separate it into two rooms. She, my sister and I shared one bed; my father and brother shared a smaller bed.
We didn’t have a family kitchen. No one else had one either. Instead, every family had a little cooking area with its own coal-burning stove in a communal kitchen across from the bungalow. Because the ventilation of the communal kitchen was so poor, during dinner time, it would get so smoky we could hardly see.
Power shortages were more than common. Usually, each district would take a “voluntary” turn to have its power shut off for one day per week, in order to guarantee sufficient power for key industries. When there was no power, usually there was no running water either. We often had to store water in any container we could find.
Just a few years ago, when my American husband and I visited my parents in China, we were told that it was our district’s turn to have no electricity for a day. My parents and I were filling up every container in the house with water. My husband, who had never experienced this before, was dumbfounded.
On our way back to the U.S., as soon as the plane touched down on the runway, he started humming "The Star Spangled Banner." In that moment, he couldn't have been more proud and grateful to be an American.
I recently met a young couple from Venezuela. We quickly realized that despite living on different continents and speaking different languages, we share many life experiences: "Were you hungry all the time?" "Yes." "Did you have constant electricity blackouts?" "Of course."
Besides the afflictions that we are more than familiar with, we have a shared concern for the increasing popularity of socialism in the U.S., especially among so many Democratic presidential candidates who are embracing socialist policies like "Medicare-for-all” so overtly and brazenly.
Immigrants like me came to the U.S. to escape socialism, not to encounter another round of a so-called socialist experiment. We know all too well where it will lead us. Socialism has been tried too many times in different places, by different people of different cultures and languages – Russia, China, Cuba and Venezuela just to name a few.
No matter where it is implemented, the result will be the same – individual freedom will be destroyed and ultimately there will be death, starvation and misery.
Don't believe the lies told by today's American socialists, who claim that they can implement the system on a fresh slate and have different results. If you truly value your freedom and your right to self-determination, say no to socialism.
Helen Raleigh is a senior contributor to The Federalist. An immigrant from China, she is the owner of Red Meadow Advisors, LLC, a Colorado Registered Investment Advisory Firm, and an immigration policy fellow at the Centennial Institute in Colorado. The views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official views of the Centennial Institute or Colorado Christian University.