June 7, 2014
The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and other sorts of U.S. media figured they had a great story this week with the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. The Post, like others, spoke of how there is “no trace of remembrance on 25th anniversary of protests.” Listening to folk talking about this brought back a number of images for me. As those images bounced around in my head, I also found myself getting upset with those speaking about how could anyone forget, or well, that’s China’s government for you.
Really?! How can such a time in history be forgotten or hidden from the people? Too often, and this is one of those times, U.S. citizens have a good time looking at and complaining about the inadequacies of others when they should be comparing and contrasting those atrocities with their own.
Don’t remember Tiananmen Square? How about the Sand Creek massacre? Or President Lincoln and Mankato, Minnesota where the largest mass execution in the U.S. took place? Or Wounded Knee 1890? Or Wounded Knee 1973? Or Pine Ridge 1975 and Leonard Peltier?
The images of Tiananmen Square continue to disturb me. They are images of how a society holds people at bay when they call out for recognition and freedom. And while I want to speak about the need to remember those images, I also want to say that we, the people of the United States, have as much to remember as the people, the media, and the political leaders of China. The U.S. does well at silencing our own and this silencing isn’t only of the past.
There may not be an image of a lone man in front of tanks on the National Mall, but we have our own. Consider the Cleveland Indian Mascot or the Washington Redskins name, or the Atlanta Braves Tomahawk Chop; are they not the same as Tiananmen Square? Perhaps one might think not, but one, ask American Indians what they think, and two mull over the last time folk in your office or congregation had a serious conversation about poverty on reservations, the high rate of American Indian suicides, or the Supreme Court’s silencing of American Indian voice and rights.
The protests and actions at Tiananmen Square 25 years ago matter. So do U.S. government actions of 40 years ago, U.S. business practices of today, and what we choose to do and say. What we decide to remember influences our practices and in the U.S. it is apparent our memory isn’t what it might be.