Tankman – The Super Hero You’ve Probably Never Heard of

 

 

Tankman

 

Today – June 5, 2014 –  is the 25th anniversary of one of the most courageous acts the modern world has ever seen.  I don’t use words like courageous loosely.  I’ve known many men and women with REAL courage.  People like Coast Guard pilots and rescue swimmers who fly out into weather that anyone with good sense would stay away from.  Cops who run toward gunfire when everyone else is running away.  Firefighters who run into burning buildings.  These are all some of the most courageous people you and I are likely to meet.  They train themselves – physically, intellectually and emotionally – to react with courage in situations that most people would find frightening.

Tankman  was different.  There is no indication that Tankman had any training.  Tankman appeared to be a guy walking home with two grocery bags.  I have no idea what was in the grocery bags.  But, it was sometime around 25 years ago that the National Basketball Association was beginning to make inroads into the massive Chinese market.  And, June 5, 1989, was a day before the N.B.A. finals – featuring the “Bay Boys” Detroit Pistons and the still-dominant Los Angeles Lakers – were set to begin.  So, let’s imagine that Tankman was like many young men in the their 20′s and 30′s were in the United States at that time.  He was headed home with a six pack of beer and a couple bags of snacks so he could watch the finals.

But, Tankman didn’t make it home.  We’ll never know why.  But, Tankman took a detour.  A detour in history – a history that we cannot allow to be erased.  On his way home, with his two grocery bags, Tankman walked into Tiananmen Square.  Just the day before government troops had fired into crowds of peaceful civilians protesting for democratic reforms.  Many people were killed.  We will never know how many.  The Chinese government doesn’t like to talk about it.  The official Chinese government line is that 200 to 300 people were killed.  If that’s the true toll then the Chinese troops are some of the worst shots in the history of repression.  More likely number is something north of 500.  Maybe as many as 2,500.  At any rate is was a massacre.

When Tankman walked in with his grocery bags a column of tanks was rolling down the street.  Instead of running away from armed soldiers who was already killed hundreds of people the day before, Tankman does something incredible.  He runs up to the lead tank and – well to continue the basketball theme – sets the most daring pick in history.  He plants himself in front of the lead tank.  He gestures with his grocery bags for the tanks to go back.  More incredibly, instead of shooting him on the spot, the lead tank tries to maneuver around him.  Undeterred, Tankman quickly moves in front of the tank again.  Then he climbs onto the tank and get the driver to come out.  I don’t speak Mandarin.  But, I suspect Tankman was asking the 19 or 20 year-old tank driver why he was firing on his own people.  This played out on televisions around the world.  (Go to YouTube and search for “Tank Man Tiananmen Square” if you have never seen it.)

We can only speculate on what happened to Tankman. We don’t even know his real name.   He was not successful in getting the troops to stand down.  Nonetheless, he scared the hell out of the powers that be in Beijing.  He continues to scare them to this day.  The folks who run things in China are more fearful of Tankman than they are of the United States or any military force.  How do I know this?  Because if you are reading this you are probably not sitting in front of a computer in China.  The Chinese government goes to incredible lengths to make sure that no mention of Tiananmen Square, June 5, 1989 or Tankman ever makes it past government censors or internet filters.  They are on a higher alert status for mention of these terms than they are for missiles coming over the horizon.  In fact, if you are a Chinese citizen born after June 5, 1989, and have never left China, I am willing to bet that you have never heard of Tankman.  The folks who run things in Beijing are trying to make sure that you hear or read any reference to him.  They are afraid that there are more Tankmen and Tankwomen out there.  And, we all know that the only way to stop a bad government with a tank is with a good guy with a couple of grocery bags.

(c) June 5, 2014 – Keith M. Harrison

 

Room for My Money to Stretch Out and Relax

Well I guess all the really serious problems have been solved in Arizona and Kansas.  Things like long-term water shortages, unemployment and the costs health care and education must no longer be concerns to the citizens of these states.  Good for them.  I’m jealous!

You see in Arizona and Kansas groups of legislators have given these and other matters a back seat so they can concentrate on the number 1 big issue confronting us these days: keeping members of the LGBT community from forcing their money on our businesses.

We are already losing the battle over marriage equality in a growing number of jurisdictions.  Remember, each time a same sex couple gets married it endangers your marriage.  (Don’t ask me how.  All those late night preachers tell me so.). But, now those same sex couples are endangering our already fragile economic recovery by trying to use their LGBT money to buy our goods and services, thus stimulating our economy.  (Those preachers warned us about gay folk trying to stimulate stuff.)  But not in Arizona!  Kansas tried. But, those idiots in the state senate – obviously lusting after that LGBT lucre – shot down the effort.

Thank God for the Arizona legislature!  They don’t want any gay money in their state.  And, I can tell from her history, and the way her eyes seem to spin in her head, that Governor Jan “Wag My Finger in the Prez’ Face” Brewer has what it takes to sign the bill into law.

It just makes me want to move to Arizona, or at least visit.  I would take comfort knowing that my money would not be in some cash register nestled up next to some LGBT money.  In fact it would be able to stretch out because there would be less money in cash registers in Arizona.

(C) 2014 Keith M. Harrison

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Leave Cupid Alone

Happy Valentine’s Day!

This is a day to recognize special loved ones in your life.  Please, let’s all do that.

But as we take the time to do that let’s stop worrying about the loved ones in other people’s lives.  After all, what difference does it make to you if the person who lives down the street or works in the next cubicle loves someone of a different faith, a different race or the same gender?  If you wouldn’t love someone who is different from you, or the same as you, because your God will send you to your Hell, then by all means don’t do it.  But, let’s let everyone else make their own decisions as to how they seek joy in this life and the consequences it may bring in the next.

(C) 2014 Keith M. Harrison

 

Pick Up the Phone

This is going to be hard for you to read.  It won’t be difficult because of any complicated language that I use.  Nor will it be very long.  But, I ask you to promise to read it to the end.

It’s important.

I am going to write about child abuse.  More importantly, I am going to write about what you can do to combat child abuse.  And, if you are reading as far as this sentence, you are the kind of person who wants to combat child abuse.

For the past week there has been much discussion about Dylan Farrow’s Open Letter published on Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times Blog (http://tinyurl.com/mu5zbou).  In the letter Ms. Farrow, now an adult and married, recounts that her father, Woody Allen, sexually assaulted her when she was seven.  Most of the reaction to Ms. Farrow’s letter has focused on Mr. Allen.  But, as Nicholas Kristof wrote in his preface to the letter – the root issue here isn’t celebrity but sex abuse.

The conduct that Ms. Farrow reports is horrific.  Unfortunately, it is not uncommon.  It is not something confined to the lives of celebrities that we see splashed on the front page of tabloids in the supermarket checkout.  Nor is it just something that corrupt clergymen do.  Nationwide about 10% of all reported child abuse involves sexual abuse.  And most of these cases are not some guy in a raincoat and fedora hanging out at the playground.  9 out of 10 children who are sexually abused are abused by a family member or family friend.

Early in my career as a lawyer I represented several men who were convicted of sexually assaulting children.  In some cases their children.  These men admitted what they did and plead guilty in court.  But, if you met them on the street, if you lived next door to them, if you saw them interacting with their children in public – you would have no idea what monstrous things they had done to their children.  And, by the way it is not only men who perpetrate these crimes.

One of the core values of our society is the privacy of the home.  The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution – and similar provisions in state constitutions – makes it difficult for police to come into a home without permission.  And, that’s the way it should be.  The rules that we follow in criminal trials make it impossible to convict someone of a crime without evidence that they committed a crime.  And again, that’s the way it should be.  Unfortunately, given the nature of where child abuse takes place and the nature of its victims, it is very hard to ferret out these crimes.  Dylan Farrow writes that at the age of seven she thought that this was “normal.”  As adults we know that it is not.

OK, what can you do to combat child abuse?  If you have any indication that a child is being mistreated, or is unsafe, pick up the phone and call.  Call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (that’s 1-800-422-4453).  If you have one hour a month with nothing more worthwhile to do – and that’s all of you – contact your local affiliate of CASA (http://tinyurl.com/ydtr527).  CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates.  CASA volunteers speak for children in court proceedings.  Don’t think you’re qualified?  If you are reading this and care, you’re qualified.

As Nicholas Kristof said, it’s not about celebrity.  It’s about child abuse.

 

(c) 2014, Keith M. Harrison

Thug? My Ass!

This is Richard Sherman.

RichardSherman

Mr. Sherman is 25 year-old young man born and raised in Compton, California, a city viewed by many Americans as the hometown of “thugs.” Mr. Sherman is a star player for the Seattle Seahawks, an NFL franchise. Mr. Sherman makes a lot of money doing his job. He does not make that money by selling drugs, carjacking or robbing people. Mr. Sherman got his job by playing football in high school (where he was the Salutatorian of his class). Yes, he did graduate from high school. He had to because he went on to attend Stanford University, where he also played football. While playing football at Stanford Mr. Sherman earned a B.A. in Communications and started a Masters degree – all while playing football.

Mr. Sherman, a man of letters, plays football, a game where players endure great physical harm in front of frenzied, and frequently intoxicated, fans. These fans cheer every collision between the players. Recently, after his team won a very important football game, in no small part due to Mr. Sherman’s efforts, Mr. Sherman uttered some provocative words ostensibly aimed at the players and team that he had just played against. Since Mr. Sherman’s academic background is in Communications, there is little doubt that these words were also intended to work on the psyches of the players on the next team that he would play in an even more important football game.

Many football fans, and non-fans with access to media outlets, criticized Mr. Sherman’s post-game remarks characterizing him some sort of “thug.”

This is Michael Grimm.

MichaelGrimm

Mr. Grimm is a 43 year-old middle-aged man born and raised in New York City. Mr. Grimm is an elected member of the U.S. House of Representatives where he has represented about 700,00 residents of Staten Island and Queens since 2011. Mr. Grimm has a Bachelor’s degree from Baruch College and a law degree from New York Law School. Prior to being elected to the Congress Mr. Grimm had a career working for the federal government in law enforcement. He carried guns and arrested people.

Mr. Grimm is old enough, educated enough and a seasoned enough politician that one would expect him to behave as a statesman. However, some questions have been raised concerning some of the methods used by Mr. Grimm to raise money to finance his political career.

On Tuesday of this week the President of the United States delivered his annual State of the Union address to a joint session of the Congress. Mr. Grimm was in attendance at this session. After the address a television reporter interviewed Mr. Grimm about the president’s remarks. The reporter also attempted to ask Mr. Grimm about his campaign finance issues. Mr. Grimm indicated that he did not wish to discuss those issues. After the interview (when Mr. Grimm apparently thought the camera was off) Mr. Grimm – an elected member of the Congress who used to carry guns and arrest people – lunged at the reporter and said -

“Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again, I’ll throw you off this fucking balcony.”

and

“I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.”

No one has called Mr. Grimm what he is – A THUG.

(c) Keith M. Harrison 2014