History of fight for freedom that should be preserved

They say that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

I would think that’s very likely to happen if the history in question was erased.

Thirty years ago, the Tiananmen Square Massacre took place in China. The State Council declared martial law on May 20, 1989 after thousands of protesters attempted to bring Democracy to the country. The council mobilized as many as 300,000 troops to quell the protesters on June 4 of that year.

Troops fired at demonstrators and bystanders with assault rifles and tank cannons. Beatings, tear gas, shooting people in the back — you name it, and they did it just to preserve the status quo. There are no precise figures on how many died that day, but estimates range from hundreds to thousands.

Thirty years later, most of the world remembers that horrific chapter in history, shocked that a government would just gun down its citizens indiscriminately in order to quash the desire for freedom. It’s especially surprising to us here in America, as many of us hold freedom so dear. Not in China, though. As the anniversary of the massacre took place, their reaction was, “What massacre?”

Many of us have seen that infamous photo of a single protester facing down a column of tanks on the day after the massacre took place. In recent news coverage, journalists showed regular citizens of China that photo, and most of them believed it happened in some other country. There’s no way that could taken place here, some said.

It’s ironic that this unhappy milestone takes place so near the 75th anniversary of D-Day, when Allied Forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, in the largest amphibious invasion in history. All week, there have been ceremonies honoring the sacrifice of brave soldiers as they fought for the very freedom that the Chinese government abhors.

Why do we remember these points in history? Because it’s the way we learn. We saw what happened when a dictator decided his way of life should be imposed on the world, and we’ve been making efforts to not let such a thing happen again.

On D-Day, over 156,000 soldiers took part in a turning point in World War II to fight for freedom. Compare that with the 300,000 troops sent to Tiananmen Square to fight against freedom. It all comes down to how many people want it. It all comes down to how many people are willing to sacrifice for it.

We recently remembered all of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Those men and women fought and died so we would be free, not under the rule of a dictatorship seeking to stroke its own collective ego and show itself to be the most amazing thing since Jesus Christ. (In case you’re confused, I’m talking about Adolf Hitler.)

This is not the first time that history has been denied. Over the years, there have been some that tried to deny that the Holocaust took place (once again, courtesy of Hitler), but that erasure attempt has been less than successful. Of course, the Holocaust deniers don’t have the backing of a government that puts its own self-preservation above the welfare of its own people

Over the years, the People’s Republic of China has turned the Tiananmen Square Massacre into a minor skirmish by altering the terminology over the years. In 1989, it was called a “counterrevolutionary riot,” and then just shortened to “riot.” Then it was referred to as a “political storm,” a tame but inaccurate term for mass murder, and today the massacre is referred to as “political turmoil.”

When I think of “political turmoil,” I think of political parties having a crisis of leadership or stance on important issues. I don’t think of soldiers killing fellow citizens at the behest of a government. I don’t think of that government whitewashing history and minimizing it in the hopes that its own people won’t try to fight for the bane of its existence — democracy.

This kind of government suppression just hits home the importance of remembering the bumps and bruises of history. A whole generation in China has grown up ignorant of what family members and neighbors took part in 30 years ago. Despite putting whiteout on the history books, I truly believe that the desire to control one’s own destiny will resurrect in China as future generations, unaware of what happened near Tiananmen Square, will try to protest and scrape for freedom.

Will they succeed? Will there be another massacre? Without knowing how things went the first time, who knows what could happen?

The important thing is to remember. That’s how we avoid a repeat of history. Remember the good times. Remember the bad times. Just remember.

Lee Pulaski is the city editor for the Shawano Leader. Readers can contact him at lpulaski@newmedia-wi.com.