tiananmen square – standing up

tiananmen square - tank manthe twentieth anniversary of tiananmen square. i sit at the mall in richmond centre as i write this. richmond, we sometimes say, isn’t vancouver – it’s part of china. if you want to get a job here, it really helps if you speak mandarin or cantonese.

so there are a lot of chinese people here in greater vancouver. maybe that’s why the tiananmen square anniversary always feels special to me. or maybe it’s the memory of sitting in my meditation class shortly after i had heard about it, at noon tomorrow 20 years ago, imagining the horror perhaps more vividly had i only seen it on TV.

the storm around tiananmen square was – and we should probably say, “still is” – about many things, some of them probably completely obscured to me. but i know one thing: it is about the human right to choose one’s destiny and to speak our minds.

some of us have our own tiananmen squares. don’t get me wrong; i don’t want to belittle this immensely important and tragic political event; rather, i want to point out that there is a connection between political and personal struggles. is it just because i grew up in an age where the slogan “the personal is political” was rampant? i think it’s more than that, and believe that the slogan has depth to it.

the other day i explained to my 12-year old daughter the roots of greenpeace and how they had their tiny little kayaks square off with huge whaling ships. it’s an old story, really: david versus goliath. the powerless against the powerful or, let’s reword this: the ones that are perceived to be powerless against the ones that are perceived to be powerful.

tank man against the tank. kayaks against huge ships. david against goliath. it is an archetypal story and therefore touches all of us.

and so often it feels like there is nothing that can be done. a 5-year-old boy scared in the face of overbearing adults. a young woman not daring to say anything to her raging partner. a middle-aged employee under the thumb of an uncaring boss.

where do we find the strength to stand up?

because we do. rarely as dramatically as tank man did.  but we do.

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