It's been so long ago and yet still I weep when spring turns to summer, remembering their young hopeful faces...
In 1988 I was in Beijing for 23 hours on the way home from a PSU study-trip in another part of China. My classmate/traveling partner and I visited the Temple of Heaven and met a Beijing University student who wanted to practice her English. I will always wonder if she was one of those who marched to the square a year later, their wills in their pockets.
We also managed in those short hours to squeeze in a quick trip across one corner of the vast expanse of Tiananmen Square, then we crossed the broad boulevard in front of the Forbidden City and hiked back to our hotel, stopping at a freeway overpass for sodas bought from a street vendor.
A year later I returned from a Buddhist retreat to find that the students and workers I had cheered on days before were being slaughtered. Residents of Beijing had stopped the army tanks at the overpass where Nancy and I had rested. Blood flowed in the square where we had posed for a photo alongside Chinese tourists eleven months earlier. To this day I cannot view documents of this time without a huge sense of grief and loss.
My emotions surrounding this event are not only a matter of something happening in a place I had visited. My relatives by marriage are descendants of peasants who fled China two generations ago, before the revolution, when the average lifespan was 27 years. The people involved in the movement as well as the soldiers looked so much like my nephews, my brothers-in-law, people dear to my heart.
How could a government murder their best and brightest young people, their own children, their workers, citizens, news reporters?
Years later at Black Cross street medic training one of the presenters asked if any of the attendees had ever been peppersprayed. One by one nearly everyone in the hall raised their hands, Cascadia's daughters and sons with bright and beautiful faces. I was horrified and outraged-what sort of person would want to cause them harm, would possibly think it was acceptable to do such a thing?
And that was the day I stepped away from any vestige of "liberal" thinking and belief. I have no answers to why a culture would eat its young as the Chinese government did and does, as we do, but I will put myself in the way of it as best I can.