Thursday, June 4, 2009

June 4th, 2009

     I've been looking without success--I know it's in a file somewhere, I just haven't found it yet--for a tiny piece of history.   It's a white envelope, smudged by time, on which some then young hand had written "Long love democracy!"  One of the kids in Tien An Minh Square wrote that and gave it to me 20 years ago.  The grammar is shaky, but who could argue with the thought?
     Those of us who covered the demonstration got to know some of the kids, of course.  I helped one get into college later on here in Washington.  We got to know them and like them, care about what happened to them and admire what they were doing.   There were speeches;  who remembers what they said?  There were symbols--the giant statue of the Goddess of Democracy, wasn't it?  And one man standing alone bringing a line of tanks to a halt.  There were slogans - "the People's Army must not attack the people."  But they did, of course.  There was, in the end, quite a lot of death.   I left a few days before the killing;  my visa had expired.  But "long love democracy?"  What about that?  I guess I just don't know.
       China's economy has, of course, become a world-class force, maybe bigger than our own   You see Chinese goods everywhere.  Whether an economy can keep growing like that without any movement toward political freedom remains a fascinating question now, just as it did back then.
   I'd love to meet some of the kids I knew back then--middle-aged parents, they'd be now-- and ask them how they think it's gone, but that's unlikely.  The one I helped get into school here is American now with an American husband, American kids.
   My feeling, and that's all it is, is that the love of and need for freedom still burn among Chinese, even though they have no experience of it.   Maybe the American poet Langston Hughes sensed the answer when he wrote,  "What happens to a dream deferred?/ Does it dry up/ like raisin in the sun?/Or fester like a sore--/... Or does it explode?" .

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