Monday, January 17, 2005

Happy MLK, Goodbye ZZY

So Happy Martin Luther King Day, everybody.

I think this is the first time I have celebrated, or observed MLK Day since I was 6. It's a good holiday. I am glad it exists. Martin Luther King had all kinds of faults but he was still an amazing amazing man and as an orator was in a class all his own...Don Q has an MP3 of MLK speaking about Vietnam at a meeting of church leaders to which I am giving the link here...

MLK Link

it is such an amazing speech, because it is so apt to the moment...he could just as well be talking about now.

truly sobering stuff.

I also wanted to take the opportunity to remember Zhao Ziyang, who died today in Beijing. Zhao Ziyang was Chairman of the Communist Party of CHina for a brief time after the death of Hu Yaobang. Hu's death was the catalyst for the 1989 protests, with tens of thousands of students, workers and ordinary beijingers takng part at various times in protest parades, democracy walls, public meetings, hunger strikes and of course, the occupation of Tiananmen Square, which lasted several weeks. Zhao Ziyang was indeed a member of the communist party and a believer in socialism and communism, but he was on the more liberal side of the split that divided the CCP at the time, and he by and large sided with the students, bravely standing up for them even though he was aware that storms were brewing. He famously addressed the students in the square before he was obliged to leave the country on a political engagement. In his absence the massacre occurred, and upon his return he was ousted from the party and placed under house arrest where he remained up until his death.

I wrote something on the BBC comment board on this subject, I am not sure it will get posted, but I just wanted to say that the thing that Zhao, and MLK for that matter, was not afraid to do was to criticise a country and political system that he ulimately had some faith in because he was afraid of seeming like a traitor. He believed that that examination and criticism of corruption and wrong practises "strictly according to the facts" (ru shi) would yield a better CCP and a better China for all. I beleve this is the great lesson to be gained from the more notable parts of his political life, especially here in the US, and for all of us, perhaps. Introspection, striving to do better, be kinder and fairer, avoiding the same mistakes, or trying to. THis is precisely what MLK talks about in his speech when he is speaking of the need to think about the position of those brothers we call our "enemy". It is something quite powerful, and somthing that though it exists as a strong theme in the christian world is not confined to it by any means.


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