Every year on the evening of June 3, I have come back to Tiananmen to linger for a while. My wife and I join a few good friends”and beginning in 1995, have brought our son”to gather at the base of the Martyrs’ Monument and spend some time in reflection.
For me these visits have also aroused guilt feelings. The government’s pressures to forget June Fourth have caused the day slowly to erode in public memory: each year the Tiananmen Mothers seem more isolated, and the massacre seems more a topic to be avoided in daily conversation; even singing “The Internationale,” as students did that night, has become vaguely embarrassing. A certain lazy comfort attends this forgetting, and that is why I feel guilt. If I just slouch along through life, taking the easy route, what do I say to the spirits of those murdered “rioters” of seventeen years ago? And if everyone forgets, are we not opening the door to future massacres? Our Tiananmen generation is now in middle age; we are in positions where we can make a difference. Do we not want to? At a minimum, my guilt feelings cause me to telephone Professor Ding Zilin, a leader of the Tiananmen Mothers, every year on June 3 from Tiananmen Square. It allows me to feel that I am bringing greetings to this white-haired mother from the spirit of her dead son.
I know that I am not alone in these feelings, and that is why I involve others in my annual visits. My purpose is not to stimulate resentment. Reconciliation is fine, but it must be based on truth. [Full text]