Gongol.com Archives: June 2022
Every June, everyone who has the freedom to do so should watch the riveting documentary "The Tank Man". It is not only one of the best stand-alone episodes of "Frontline" ever broadcast, it is an exceptional reminder of two powerful forces that shape the modern world. ■ The first is the shocking lengths to which authoritarians and their hangers-on will go to hold power over other people. "The Tank Man" documents the extraordinary measures used by the Chinese government to expel pro-democracy protesters from Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Thousands of people were killed, according to the secret estimates of China's own government. ■ And nothing has really changed in the more than 30 years since: 1.4 billion people still live under a wretched Communist regime that tolerates no meaningful dissent, no real competition for the consent of the governed, and no real individual liberty -- even for those who live abroad. The regime controls through fear, not through the willful choice of the people. ■ Yet the second force of which we are reminded by "The Tank Man" is human nature knows it is meant to be free. Liberty isn't an artificial construct; it is the natural order of things, and any system that uses might to interfere with the expression of liberty is inherently wrong. Individual liberty must be well-ordered, of course, because to leave things to a free-for-all would invariably lead to anarchy -- which in turn leads to the imposition of power by force. ■ But with the supporting help of the rule of law, the fundamental and natural longing for liberty results in the dignity of the individual. Even today, that remains a force so powerful that the Chinese regime cannot even tolerate a candlelight vigil in memory of lives lost 33 years ago. Thousands of lives, symbolized awe-inspiringly by one individual who stood in the way of a tank and whose personal fate remains a mystery. ■ That one "tank man" is all humankind. No matter how hard authoritarians try to quash dissent and hide the truth, every human heart knows the truth -- that freedom is its birthright and its dignity cannot be rightly denied.