For me, Tiananmen Square comes down to this moment that I still vividly remember:
I watch that man stand in front of a sixty ton tank and what I see is raw courage and the true beauty of the human spirit.
Imagine doing that. A column of massive tanks is heading down a street to impose dictatorship and something in you snaps and you determine that you will stop it with the only thing you’ve got: your body. Hundreds of tons of metal in those tanks are coming at you, and you STAND.
There are at least four tanks, one right behind the other (and probably several more behind those): one man, one incredibly brave human being, stopped them all with his act of defiance against brutal dictatorship.
We don’t even know who the man was. He was probably intercepted and hauled away by secret police as he returned to the crowd and executed by the brutal regime. His act, seen by millions and maybe billions of human beings, is anonymous. And in a way that is fitting, because he represents ALL of us who defy totalitarian authority.
We think about the Tiananmen Square Massacre. How many died in the crackdown? An Orwellian State has made sure that no one will ever know. The death toll is probably in the thousands, but the scene was scrubbed by government worshipers and the same government worshipers have banned any discussion of the event to this very day.
Because you don’t have freedom in such a government colossus. THAT’S why the man stood in front of the tanks: because it was the only freedom he had left under this totalitarian State.
I have thought about that unknown “tank man” who stopped a column of tanks armed with nothing except raw courage and the sheer will to resist a power-mad government many times. It sends shivers through my spine every time I watch it.
But I have also thought of the driver of that tank. Not much talk or thought has been about him.
This tank driver was driving his tank for the brutal regime. And obviously, the same brutal regime that brutally cracked down on thousands of people who were trying to stand up for human freedom and human dignity wanted that tank driver to crush that hero who placed his body in front of that tank. I imagine the tank commander was screaming, “What are you doing stopping? What are you doing turning? Drive OVER him! Run Him down!”
But that tank driver refused. He would not run his tank over that noble human being.
I imagine he was never seen again, either.
Ultimately, that’s the only time such a heroic resistance can get off the ground: when the foot soldiers of evil look around and realize that what they are doing IS evil and stop. And refuse to obey their wicked orders.
Today, on this 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, I salute both of these unknown heroes. I salute the Chinese people for producing such men who would so love the human spirit that they would courageously die for that love. I resolve to be like these men against whatever “tanks” of State oppression I am facing. And I call upon others to resolve to be like them.
Update: I found this picture.
Look at all the tanks lined up as “tank man” makes his stand! I count at least twenty – and again, there are probably more behind those.
The next time you helplessly ask, “What can I do? I’m just one person!” Think of the one person who stopped God-only-knows how many tanks in their tracks!!!
Freedom is not unique to Americans; it is – or ought to be – the natural state of all human beings. Elite American warriors yearn to find the kind of love for freedom that we see here; and our SEALs and our Delta Force operators and our Special Forces bond incredibly closely with hearts of men all over the world whose hearts resound with the same beat of freedom that theirs does. The tragedy is that there are few such men today and there are more men than ever who want to take the ever-diminishing freedoms we have away from us.
The SOG who fought and died in Vietnam had a motto: “For those who fought for it, freedom has a flavor that the protected will never know.”
Do you want to really know what freedom tastes like? The please STAND UP and FIGHT for it.