At this time in 1989, after a pro-democracy Chinese official died, 100,000 people gathered in the famous Tiananmen square to mourn Hu Yaobang and protest the oppressive communist government.
That is until the government decided on June 4 to squash the movement with brute force. The Chinese army swept in and although no one is sure, it’s believed up to 3,000 protesters were slaughtered.
One man saw the bloodshed and did something that no one could believe. It’s as if the entire world watched with disbelief while people gathered around television sets in homes and stores to see one of the most amazing acts of courage recorded in human history.
He just stood there.
At noon June 5, a simple man, thought to be a common worker holding two bags, saw his countrymen being cut down in one of the most flagrant acts of violence ever. He then looked over and saw a column of tanks rolling in to finish off the job.
In the immortal words of Popeye, he may have been thinking, “That all I can stands, I can’t stands no more.” The man quickly walked over to the path of the tanks facing imminent death.
Then he just stood there. The tanks set to mow down the protesters rolled to a stop. He waved them off. The lead tank turned to the right, but Tank Man as he’s now called, moved to the left to block it. Then to the other side the dance continued. The lead tank turned off it’s engine, followed by each behind him. For twenty minutes, the fierce Red Army stood powerless in the face of one man with resolve.
The world watched, and learned an invaluable lesson. The government only has power that we, the people, cede to it. It was like all the oppressed people on earth realized that they don’t have to be just victims.
Five months and four days later. Another protest broke out, perhaps sparked by Tank Man. The wall in Berlin which separated not only a country, but also families was torn down, again by the people. Two years later, the superpower we grew up to fear, the Soviet Union, crumbled under the weight of its citizens.
I believe the demise of communism was sparked by that one man. The lessons of Tank Man still ring true today. There were no speeches. He wasn’t especially charismatic, and didn’t have superhuman strength. He wasn’t wearing a cape, but by all measures, he was a super hero.
Twenty years later, Tank Man has us wondering, what would happen – really think about it – what would happen if common people realized that each one of us, with resolve, could change the world?