|The Tank Man, June 5, 1989|
Did you ever think
That we could be so close
Scorpions - Wind of Change
It's a quiet day in Beijing, China. The air is impregnated with disillusion,
hopelessness, and the numbing smell
of death. The people's composure as they run their errands is the one that characterizes the vanquished after a lost battle.
A file of tanks suddenly appears cranking down Chang'an Avenue in a parading order, directed towards the north section of Tiananmen Square. The tanks are zigzagging victoriously along the avenue in the ultimate act of mockery towards the civilians in the streets of Beijing and of every revolting city in The People's Republic of China, just like Achilles tying Hector's heels to a chariot and dragging his dead body in the dust.
Until something happens, unexpected: one man alone, with two shopping bags as his only weapons, stands in the street forcing the proud march of the tanks to an inglorious and embarrassing halt.
As the tanks try to move on around the man, he moves too and keeps standing in their way, forcing the whole column of tanks to shut off their engines and wait, powerless.
This happened on June 5, 1989, one day after the Chinese government's violent act of repression against thousands of protesters in Tiananmen Square, a repression that, only apparently, had forced the People of the Republic of China on their knees. If some had surrendered to the government's will, not everyone resigned to a fate of open derision.
The day before, on June 4, 1989, Deng Xiaopeng, after declaring Martial Law on May 20, ordered the troops to clear Tiananmen Square: by dawn there should be no more students occupying the square. The space became a battlefield where only one side was armed and attacking, while the other ran defenseless in all directions for their lives. Students and workers, women and men who were pacifically trying to block the army from entering Tiananmen Square, where about a million were protesting against the government's corruption and for more freedom of speech and thought, were shot and wounded. Some journalists who were reporting the facts for the rest of the world also barely made it alive. Several civilians were killed. Corpses, blood stains, and cars on fire made a new scenario that night.
At about 2am on June 4, all the lights in Tiananmen Square were turned off by military order. Shots echoed in the dark mixed with screaming and sounds of human pain. When the light came on again, it was a bloodshed.
The People of China had been ruthlessly defeated.
Today is June 4, 2014. We remember the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre and the brave act of millions of students who protested and marched pacifically for two months.
We remember the brave act of a single man who stood against the "iron feet of oppression", and blocked them, and mocked them in front of the entire world.
No one knows what happened to that man, but history logic tells us that he was probably never identified, never found, never caught, never killed.
Whether it is so or not, this is the ending we all would like to imagine.