You are Tank Man

Last week we celebrated the 23rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprising. Freedom-loving Chinese people rose up in Beijing to peacefully end the Chinese state. Gotta love … What’s that? They wanted democracy instead? Wow, they risked all that just for democracy?!

Well, I respect them anyway. But the one I really admire is Tank Man. You know, the thin guy with the shopping bags who stood down a column of Red Army tanks. You can see he was fully prepared to be run over. He risked a good and honorable death to stand up nonviolently for what is right.

Who is he? We don’t know. Why did he do it? We can only speculate. What happened to him? No one is saying. Tank Man is important. He changed the world (according to PBS). He inspired millions. He must be an exceptional individual. We absolutely must know everything about him, right?

Tiananmen Tank Man, the wide shot

Tank Man was a bigger badass than you thought!


Do you think Tank Man risked being crushed by a tank, tortured by the state, imprisoned for decades and murdered by a heartless firing squad one day coming home from the grocery store just so he could be the next t-shirt star? I don’t think so. He’d prefer you follow his lead, instead.

What matters about Tank Man is that each and every one of us has the same spark of courage that he showed on June 5, 1989. What matters now is that each and every one of us find that spark inside ourselves and that we put it to good use.

Oh you don’t have that spark, you say? You’re just a regular guy or girl, nothing special, no unique courage, you’re nothing like Tank Man. Bullshit. Like an important video deleted on your camera’s hard drive by a US marshal, your spark is still there. You just lost the address through years of mind-numbing education and the lack of respect and solidarity that passes for parenting these days.

You have the spark. Find it, homestead it and make something good happen in your life. That’s what Tank Man wants.

This is not a call to martyrdom. This is a call to be more courageous today than you were yesterday, and to keep repeating that cycle for as long as you can.

20 June 2012