Tank Man

By in

I don’t know how a man would stand in the way of tanks.

Twenty years ago, a young man stood in front of four big hulking tanks from the Chinese government, and stood there right in front of them.  I like to think he said something like, You’re not moving. The tanks tried to move around him; when they moved to his left, he took steps right.  When they tried to drive the tanks to his right, he moved to the left.  You’re not moving. Tank Man then climbed up one of the tanks: You’re not moving.

The Borg have an interesting phrase: “Resistance is futile.”  It’s true: sometimes the best thing to do is just sit back, and watch things happen.  We’re sometimes too comfortable in our little world, sitting on the sidelines, and watch things happen.  We play observant, patient people who would throw in some opinions every now and then.  We tend to be snarky sometimes; we tend to sneer at acts of resistance as nothing more than fraudulent heroism, or at the very least wait for that see-I-told-you-so moment.

I don’t know how many times that had to happen to me before.  Wall statements, blog entries, and yeah, I had to face a police squad here and there when I was younger.  I’m not the kind of “war freak palaban” hooligan-type, although the blunt end of batons and the force of riot shields kinda hurt.  Water cannons, too.  Yet there’s nothing like the feeling of a defeated spirit.  There’s nothing like the knowledge that maybe your own cause is futile.

Waxing lyrically – with a bit of nostalgia thrown in – a year ago, I was talking about things like resistance and how it’s necessary to put up a fight against the abuses of the State, the people who are in power, and how important justice and fairness is in society.  Those things are recurring themes in what I write.  Sometimes I have to eat humble pie for being too emotional, for being too hasty, or for being proven wrong.  Oh yeah, it sucks eating humble pie, but I never had to stand in front of a tank to stand up for what I believe in.

Twenty years ago, a young man stood up to a row of tanks for a cause that became futile.  He stood up to what he believed in.  I don’t know if he believed in something as grand and as noble as democracy or freedom, or something as simple as getting those tanks out of the city that he, as a citizen, has a share in.  He stood up to tanks.  As a blogger writer-type whatever-the-heck-I-am, the most I have to face is the occasional person who doesn’t believe in the same things I do, and will react in a way that I don’t really like.  That’s nothing compared to tanks.

A day after this whole deal with Con-Ass, a friend of mine asked me if I was “embarrassed” about being so emotional about a “mere piece of paper.”  Another friend asked me if I expected anything from all of this, considering that there aren’t hordes of people anywhere yet.  I don’t really know.  It’s not that I’m confused or dilly-dallying, it’s just that I know where I stand.

Sometimes, all it takes is to stand up for what you believe in; we live in a world where there’s too little of that going on.  I’ve been proven wrong countless times before, but I guess that for all that I’ve did in the way of resistance, I wasn’t proven wrong on one end.  Justice, fairness, and freedom are things worth standing up – and fighting – for.

I do know why a man would stand in the way of tanks.

To Tank Man, for the inspiring deed of June 5, 1989, Tiananmen Square.

2 comments on “Tank Man”

  1. Reply


    • Jeg
    • June 6, 2009

    And to the tank’s commander: Well done as well. You had orders but you thought that those orders didnt include running over a fellow citizen with a tank. You knew it would ruin your career, but you did not violate your conscience. An individual’s life is not worth the peace of mind of the State.

    Great piece, man.

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