Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Gate of Heavenly Peace

20 years ago, a goddess of democracy walked through the Gate of Heavenly Peace and took form through the hearts and hands of a group of college students who had gathered to share their grief at the passing of their mentor.

Between April 18th and June 4th, 1989, crowds of over 300,000 people gathered and protested government corruption and the failure of China's Communist Party to fulfill their role as protector and provider for its people.

Out of that protest came hope, and amazing stories of courage. I spent the evening preparing for this memorial post by reviewing the images that came out of the Forbidden City when I was 15. The ubiquitous Tank Man image of the guy waving off the tanks with his coat. The people chanting, going on hunger strikes, standing up for democracy in the birthplace of the Communist Regime. It was a beautiful and terrible series of events that unfolded there.

As I watched the videos on YouTube that encapsulated that fateful day, I was entranced by their carving and sculpting of the statue of the Goddess of Democracy. The symbolism to this magician of their talisman creation was overpowering, awe inspiring. She's a beautiful lady, that goddess. The expression on her face, carved by the dissidents who dared to believe they would not only survive but make an impact for change in their culture is haunting.

On June 4th, 20 years ago today, China had enough and sent in their troops. Hundreds of people were massacred. In footage from that night from BBC, you can hear he shots fired, and see the people dying. 20 years later, China is still a Communist monolith, a stronger World Power than they were back then, and every bit as frightening to those of its people it doesn't approve of as it was in 1989. It's such a paradox. They own so much of America's money that we don't dare demand anything from them. The whole Tibet thing is disgusting, and it's all about water. Yet they hosted the Olympics last year and the world supported them, hoping it would make an impact.

It's a freakishly bizarre situation.

So I'm thinking about the magical properties of the talisman they made. The symbolism of sculpting the goddess in front of the gate of heavenly peace is incredibly potent. And yet, they obviously failed to accomplish their intent. China's no more democratic than it was. Where is the result of their ritual? They inspired people around the world, and brought global attention to their movement, but they're still oppressed and living without freedom.

Are we any different in our American, European, Middle Eastern, Australian, or Indian worlds? I wonder about that a lot.

I usually like to have a decisive conclusion to my posts, but I don't have one for this one. I don't know if their rebellious stance was good or bad. I don't know if a more capitalist Communism is a move towards something better or worse. I can't say that democracy is a better form of government. I don't know that their magical act was successful or a failure.

I can say that what they did is inspiring, and their sacrifice deserves to be remembered. It is noble, if stupid and pointless in the end, to stand up for what is right. It is not profitable. It is not always effective. But it is damned straight.

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