Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What Ever Happened To The Tank Man?

Twenty three years ago yesterday marked the anniversary of when an anonymous man stood in front of a line of 50 or more Chinese tanks the morning after the Chinese military forcibly removed protestors from Tienanmen Square. On June 5, 1989, after a violent crackdown on the Tienanmen protests, the unknown rebel stood alone in the middle of the street as the tanks approached. Instead of running him over, the tanks came to a stop as tank man gestured towards them. The lead tank attempted to drive around the him, but the tank man repeatedly stepped into the path of the tank in a show of nonviolent resistance. After repeatedly attempting to go around rather than run over the man, the lead tank stopped its engines, and the armored vehicles behind it all seemed to follow suit. You think YOU are a bad ass? Try standing toe-to-toe with tanks. While holding grocery bags. In Communist China!

So, what happened to the unknown Tienanmen Square protestor? Nobody seems to know. Other protesters (or perhaps they were plain clothed security officers) ended up dragging him away. Some say he likely didn't make it. On the other hand, one would figure that, if the Chinese government had caught him surely they would have paraded him around and made an example out of him. The fact that they never did makes some people to believe he may have miraculously gotten away. Maybe he simply shuffled off into obscurity. Maybe he has gone on with his life, secure in his anonymity and maybe he spends days like yesterday whimsically musing to himself over the events of that day; events most Chinese citizens do not talk about or even know about due to the state-run media filter. Maybe this is wishful thinking.

Whatever the outcome, the thing to take away from this is that this was just an ordinary man. He was probably just walking home from the grocery store, saw the tanks approaching and then made a split-second, courageous decision to stand up against against impossible odds for what he believed in. I think part of the appeal of the famous photo below is that it could almost be anyone in that photo. We, too, are ordinary people, just like the unknown rebel. And maybe we could be at the right (wrong?) place at the right time and have the opportunity to make the same decision. I doubt many of us would. I doubt many of us could.

"Can We Get This Over With ASAP? My Ice Cream Is Melting!"

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