Remembering Tiananmen Square

Twenty-three years ago June 3rd, my heart was broken.  Like so many, I had been glued to my television, watching the drama unfold in China’s Tiananmen Square.  I had been filled with such a feeling of hope.  Surely the Chinese government would bend and allow its people at least some freedoms.  Surely the Chinese army wouldn’t murder its own people.  Martial law had been declared, but no one had been killed.  And as May came to a close it seemed like victory might  truly be at hand.  And it wasn’t simply a victory for the people of China that seemed so close.  It was a human victory, a victory  for all who lived under iron-fisted rule.

 For those wonderful, inspired and inspiring days there was hope.  There was hope for the future of humanity.  As a Jew, every year I celebrate Passover, and I pray for the universal Passover, when none shall be slave.  As I watched Tiananmen Square, it seemed we were on the cusp of a new era.  But then the government of China struck.  And the Chinese army found it could indeed slaughter hundreds if not thousands of innocents.

And today, twenty-three years later, many who were not killed in the massacre at Tiananmen Square remain in prison.  Twenty-three years later! 

 I had a lot of myself invested in the youth of China and their hope for freedom.  I still take the affront personally, as if the Chinese had done this to a member of my family – which, of course, they had.  As John Donne put it, I am one with mankind.

 The knowledge of what brute power can do, while an impotent world watches, adds to my frustration, anger, and heartbreak over what is happening in Syria.  China and Russia don’t want any action.  Well, hmm.  I wonder why?  For me, at least, Russia’s reaction shows that the rulers there have in point of fact no interest in moving forward with their promised reforms.  And China, the country we continue to buy so many of our goods from, remains the boot on your neck country it has been since Mao. 

 But remembering Tiananmen is also why I took such delight as well as interest in the “Arab Spring.”  I was also exceedingly appreciative of President Obama’s middle approach – help, give moral support, and indeed provide military assistance when needed, but the U.S. did not invade.  Nor did the U.S. dictate.  That’s as it should be.  The Egyptians, the Libyans, and all those who rose up, must find their own way.  We cannot and should not tell them how they should handle their freedom.  But we can, and if we are not to become spiritually bankrupt, we MUST help oppressed people who are struggling for their freedoms.

 We must help them without tying strings that say we want their oil, or some other natural resource, or because we want their land for bases.  We must help them because we are one with humanity.

 This means as well that we have a stake in Palestine/Israel.  NOT the military stake that most people seem to think about, but the moral and ethical stake in JUSTICE.  The Palestinians deserve justice, not discrimination, poverty and the boot of Israel’s foot on their necks.  The Israeli’s deserve justice, not the constant threat of terrorism, holocaust-denial, and the “Israel has no right to exist” mentality that infects Hamas and other groups.

 In the meantime, I will not buy anything made in China.  In all honesty, I had already cut way back.  Now it must be a total boycott.  And if I “need” something and I can only get that product from China, then I will redefine what I need.  It is said that every dollar we spend is a vote for the world we want to live in.  How each of us “votes” is important.

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