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Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Tank Man and His Nonviolent Stand: A Quarter of a Century Later

“Violence and power are not the same.” Rather, “Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent.” Therefore, “to speak of nonviolent power is actually redundant.” -Hannah Arendt

Tank Man faces off with a column of tanks in Beijing on June 5, 1989
Twenty five years ago today following the June 3-4, 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and Beijing massacre a lone man  walked out into the street carrying two grocery bags facing down a long column of tanks and for a moment stopping them and get on top of the lead tank before being spirited away. His identity and fate remain the subject of speculation.

The Tiananmen Square protests and the Democracy Movement formed by university students in April of 1989 was a non-violent challenge to the corruption, terror, and tyranny of the Chinese communist dictatorship that almost succeeded. Questions have arisen about decisions made by the demonstrators and/or naivete about the nature of the regime but two things have never been doubted: their courage and love of country.

On June 5, 1989 after the streets had run red with the blood of freedom martyrs this lone individual engaged in an act of nonviolent protest and resistance that will be remembered centuries from now. The world may never learn the name given to him by his family but he has a name determined by his action: Tank Man. The man who faced down the row of tanks in protest of what those tanks had done in the previous two nights.

Radley Balko has written a thought provoking piece in The Washington Post on June 4, 2014 titled: Be your own Tank Man that calls on all of us to learn from and when appropriate channel his courage to confront injustices and abuses of power in our own countries. 
Members of the FIU community on June 4, 2014

Last night, June 4, 2014 at Florida International University members of the university community gathered and said a prayer as part of a call to action by Initiatives for China and read their recommended prayer. Below is an excerpt from the prayer that was read aloud last night:

Let us give thanks for the courage of the young people of Tiananmen Square who 25 years ago showed the world that the Chinese people desire freedom and justice above all earthly goods, and who were willing to give their lives in their brave witness. May all be strengthened by their bravery. May all be blessed by their memory. 
All: Let us remember with gratitude the martyrs of Tiananmen Square. 
In this anniversary of China’s young martyrs let us pray that the Chinese leaders of today would turn their hearts away from fear and defensiveness, that they would reach out to the victims and victims’ families, and repent of the massacre of China’s youth. May repentance be the first step toward reconciliation and be a promise to history to never again turn on their own people in murder.
    Amen. That includes the Tank Man wherever he may be.

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