I guess it shouldn’t surprise me but it did.
I asked one of my “office neighbors” if they knew about the 25 year Anniversary that is happening over the next few days. It seemed like a rather snide way to find out what they knew about what the Western world calls a massacre but it gives an easy way out of it if they wanted one.
She knew exactly what happened, with a personal twist. A reminder that what I have read and heard is really the news the way that someone else wanted me to hear it. She has a personal connection to this moment in Chinese history. Her sister was one of those students that had gone to Beijing to place her grievance in front of the leaders of her country in the only way that she knew how. She was at the People’s Square with the other students.
I had heard it called a massacre while I was a member of an elite and trained military organization. I saw the video that was spirited out of the country to share with the rest of the world. I saw the images of the defiant student holding his ground in front of tanks. I had heard the rumors of a thousand who were killed by military bullets and being run over by military vehicles including tanks. These were the Communists that I expected to be among while living here in China. That is tempered today after being here for nearly three years, I am sure that those kinds of Communists are still in China; I haven’t met any of them.
The impact to lives and cost to families was greatest to those that DID NOT make the ultimate sacrifice to their cause. They have continued to suffer in this country as their ability to make a living and to continue their educations were abruptly halted. My friend’s sister, her college career was over. Her chance of pursuing an MBA vanished. The costs and impact continue to this day. Let us remember that this cost is more than a personal cost to this Chinese family, it is a cost to the nation also. Resources and intellect that have been diminished and lost; their potential impact to the country gone forever.
I no longer get to look at this event in Chinese history as some magical or mythical moment where it has no way to become something that is real. I no longer have 25 years of separation from what happened in Beijing while I was a young man in the prime of my life. I guess that I shouldn’t have been surprised that I met someone that was tied to this event and had personal stories about it.
But, I was surprised. Another moment of reality for me in this complex experience that I am having in this strange land.