Thursday, June 04, 2009

The World

I try to keep this blog about Angelina, or our family, but sometimes the real world enters in and can’t be ignored.

Twenty years ago I was a 19 year old college student studying International Relations, watching world events unfold everywhere, but particularly in China. At the time I had no great fascination with China, but it could hardly be ignored. Chinese students, my generation, kids the same age as me, were doing what is often done in a free country: demonstrating; performing civil disobedience as a means to protest. College students around the world offered our solidarity. But little else.

On June 4 what all feared but still seemed like a total shock, armed troops opened fire on Tiananmen Square. On the morning of June 5, I sat with 2 friends at Café Roma in Isla Vista, drinking my Giant Cappuccino, eating my baguette (as I did nearly every Sunday morning in college….) reading every single page of the New York Times discussing the events. We talked about it for weeks. And then…..we had finals. And we moved on.

What I don’t think I realized then, and has taken me 20 years and a lot of international travel to fully appreciate, is that I could sit in that café, freely discussing the events, I could protest if I wanted and most likely not have to fear for my life, while my Chinese counterparts were losing theirs.

I wonder now if faced with such a situation 20 years ago, could I have had the courage to stand up? And it wasn’t just students, as this article points out, Rickshaw drivers, bus drivers, the poor, they too had the courage to stand. I know I could not today, being a mother, I’ve made a commitment to my child to never do anything to put myself in harm’s way, unless it’s entirely to protect her. But could I have then? I doubt it.

Do I want to think Angelina will have such courage? No. I want to think such courage will never again be necessary for anyone in the world.

Unfortunately, though, as we already saw two years ago in Burma, and today there as well, such events are likely to happen again and again. And as we see in China today, it didn't make much difference.

So instead, what I hope for Angelina is the ability to make a difference. Not by putting herself in harm’s way, but by always seeking to understand what is happening in the world. And then to act in an appropriate and useful manner. I hope we can teach that to her by our own example.

The NYT has been running a number of stories, including reflections on the famous tank photo, which yielded another fascinating story.

On a more personal note, June 1989 also marked a tragedy for my family: our brother Albert died later that month. It’s hard to believe it’s already been 20 years since that he’s been gone. He left a legacy of sorts. One I hope provides valuable lessons to our next generation.

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