Thursday, June 07, 2007

And Then There was Tank Man

Last night, R and I were sitting around being lazy bums. It is summer and there is only summer tv so we got to watch some crap like American Inventor. No disrespect to the fans but really. Invent something already and stop being a reality tv ho!

Anyhow, I digress. We were futively flipping through the DVR recordings when we came upon a replay of a VERY GOOD Frontline episode. Think 60 minutes but BETTER. This particular one was on The Tank Man. You know...the dude who stopped the tanks in Tiananmen Square? Back in 89? Well, let me tell you more.

So. One of the first notes on this program is about how as they are filming the episode, they are stopped by everyone and their mama in uniform requesting to see papers--what are you doing here? Why are you filming? Never mind the irony of the fact that that place...Tiananmen Square...has more cameras than a slot room in Vegas. Anyhow, they delve into the story which is all about the back story of why most of us Westerner's know Tiananmen Square. I was what...12 years old when I saw on tv the dude standing in front of the tank. It wasn't until last night that I came to understand the back side of what all of that was about.

When we went to China, R was all about "there is no violence here, there are severe consequences for it". Until I watched the Frontline episode, I had no idea. I mean yeah, I was OUTRAGED when I watched the LA Immigration protests that turned into a police state beat down of everyone from the kids to the journalists. I was furious. But they were using rubber bullets and tear gas. Crappy stuff, no doubt. But they were not spraying through the streets with live amunition. They were not crunching over hundreds--check that THOUSANDS--of people with tanks.

I never knew. I would have been a crying wreck while I was there if I had known.

Watching Frontline after coming back from there was just so DIFFERENT. Before, I would have had this detached interest--I always love shows like that which educate and open my eyes to things going on. Most times I say "That's a shame" and move on. But last night, I understood.

When they talked about the 10 minutes of complete darkness when the lights went out the evening of June 4 in Tiananmen Square, I FELT that and understood how scary the dark could be in China.

When they talked about the throngs and throngs of people marching through the streets, I FELT that and understood what an army of 300,000 might look like in context.

When they talked about the injured being carted away on carts attached to the back of bicycles, I FELT that and understood why there was not enough room for cars or much less ambulances.

When they talked about being a journalist and getting "caught" taking pictures and having to hide the film in the toilet and come back for it later, I FELT that and understood why I felt so apprehensive taking pictures in that country.

But most of all, when they talked about the amazing speed of growth in China and the 200 million people who are now middle class, tie wearing, import car driving, children attending Beijing University and not having any IDEA what 1989 Tiananmen was all about, I FELT that and understood why I was so floored by what the Chinese are doing in Tibet.

History repeats itself. Over and over and over again.

The crux of the show was "Where is he now?" Who was the tank man? Why didn't the gov't make a show of executing him? Is he still alive? At first I thought "Surely, they would have made a show out of someone who dissed the government so publicly." But then my super analyst bf (that's why he's so good at what he does) was all "Nope, why make him out to be some superhero who stopped the gov't". And you know what...yeah it's tv and dramatic to the hilt and I'm sure they could have tracked down SOMEONE on that campus who knew what a picture of the dude standing in front of a tank was.

But on the show, not one of those college students knew what it was. Something that happened less than 20 years ago. This is EXACTLY what is happening in Tibet. Take down all the pictures of the Dhali Lama and allow only a fraction of the monks to join monestaries as used to and in 20 years, maybe no one will remember Tibet. I didn't "get' this notion at first. Mostly because I wouldn't have the patience to take on what I thought would be generations of forgetting. One generation folks. Less than 20 years. That's how long it took them to forget Tiananmen Square. How long until they forget Tibet.

You know why they have no clue about Tiananmen? Aside from the obvious "Well, they live in a communist country so the gov't controlls what they know". Guess who is helping their gov't to controll what they know?

We are. Yahoo. Google. Microsoft. We are. Google Tiananmen Square stateside in "images" and this is the first one that pops up. I Googled it while I was there (because I wanted to see kit flying images) and none of this shows up. None of it. Google helps them do that. Anything for money. But it gets better.

Yahoo actually turned over a Chinese journalist who provided a NY journalist with information on how the gov't wanted Chinese journalists to cover the anniversary of TS. They turned him over as in giving not only email and IP addresses, but times it was sent to who from what computer terminal. I loved the line by Congressman So and So (yeah, you like that) that just because it is the right thing to do within the laws of the country, doesn't make it the ethical thing to do. If that were the case, should we have turned over Anne Frank because it was the "legally right thing to do"? No...not so much.

But wait...it still gets BETTER.

Take it full circle. There's this country who doesn't so much as rely on foreign corporations to do their dirty work because instead, they have enacted a law known as the Patriot Act. Within that act, they don't need corporations to do their dirty work because instead, they just go to your local librarian and ask her to dig up your dirt. And they go to your local phone utility and your friendly banker and they even follow you to Vegas and ask the casinos to turn over all your info. I would be disgusted with the Yahoo's and Google's and Cisco's and Microsoft's of the world if I weren't so busy being flabbergasted at how ironic it is that we can be so pissed at them for doing what they do when our own government (our, relative, hi international folks!)--our own country of the free--would do the same to their people. Maybe China ain't so bad after all.

1 comment:

Tara said...

Thanks for this post. It never ceases to amaze me how we as a country have just stood by dumbfounded and let our govt enact things like the patriot act and secret prisons and what not. Gore has a new book out further exploring how this has happened.
I need to watch Frontline more often.