I was only 8 years old when Tiananmen Square happened. I remember knowing about the word “Tianamen” well before I understood what had happened there. It is remarkable to me that the significance of the occasion was not really discussed by my parents or my teachers. Perhaps we were too young, or perhaps it was yet another event that didn’t “matter” to us in the US. Or perhaps my teachers and parents didn’t understand the significance of it, just as we didn’t understand the significance of Rwanda, or the USS Cole several years later. If it didn’t happen to white people in a Western nation, then it was not significant for my people, my town, my “culture”. Years later, in 2002, when I actually went to Tiananmen Square, the historical weight of the place didn’t register. Given my upbringing, it’s little wonder why.
This is me in June 2002 in Tianamen Square. I had just graduated from college and was on tour with the Yale Whiffenpoofs.
Now, I would like to think that I’m more aware of the important events around the world than I was in my childhood. However, significant movements of political injustice continue to escape my attention. Today’s violent protests in Thailand or genocide in the Central African Republic are often far from my mind. What is important - as hackneyed as it may be - is to remember what happened and continue to pay responsible attention to what is happening. Patrick Chovanec’s Twitter feed allows us to remember in a unique way. For over a day now, he has posted minute-by-minute 25 years later photos of Tiananmen. The photos are disturbing, violent, and alien. Take a look:
This is one of many photos from Patrick Chovanec’s Twitter feed.