42 thoughts on “twenty years ago…”

  1. Many web sites are complicit in filtering web searches and sites that have any Anti Governmental information in China.
    Either China’s government is an enemy of our Country or we are their slave. Both are terrible outcomes and we are too lazy to grow a pair.
    Our leaders must revoke the favorite trade status of China and protect this country from the digital and literal poison of Chinese Exports.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/scienceandtechnology/3356185/The-year-of-the-censorship-Olympics.html
    http://news.cnet.com/Google-to-censor-China-Web-searches/2100-1028_3-6030784.html
    Like Sarah K. Silverman once said “I love ch*nks”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2006/mar/12/features.woman5
    @mikebellman on Twitter

  2. God, I remember this like it was yesterday. It was the most incomprehensible thing that I’d ever witnessed at that age. 20 years later, it’s still incomprehensible to me.
    Jules, you’re absolutely right about how one sentence can completely move you to tears.

  3. Excellent job Wil, I hadn’t realized it was 20 years already. In my opinion it seems the fight for basic human rights and freedoms has really taken quite a few blows lately, even in our own country. It’s good to pause and remember.

  4. I agree with @Jules. A simple sentence but quite powerful.
    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

  5. Thank you very much for your post. They are not allowed to remember, mourn, or even really know what happened. Our generation (well, mine and yours, since I’m older) need to remember it for them. We also need to mourn their loss as well.
    thank you Wil.

  6. Nice irony: the name of the street in the photo? The Boulevard of Eternal Peace.

  7. I was born 15 days after this picture was taken. It’s always bothered me that my contemporaries in China have no idea this happened. But then also, as a student of History I am always bothered by historical censorship.
    Thanks for reminding us that this happened Wil.

  8. Wil Twenty years ago I was 34, I was still in the military and thought to myself then as I do now, when the whole world understands personal freedom, will we even be around to enjoy it….When they is better then a thousand words, this is the picture they are talking about… We live in a country were may of us sometimes forget the freedoms that we have and that includes me, Stand back and look at this photograph…It is sad but it is also a wake up call to all of us. Thank you Wil for remembering and thank you for making me remember!

  9. You know what I just realized since for me I am having a hard time believing it has already been 20 years. I don’t think my boys have any knowledge of this. They are growing up in the 9/11 era. I will have to correct this

  10. As much as we can whine and bitch about how President George Bush, Sr. got us into a war with Iraq, and his son pushed American troops back into Iraq, and it seems at times that America is at war with itself, it’s important to remember that our tanks and soldiers aren’t pointing their weapons at their own citizens and in America, and joining the military is a voluntary decision in America. Also being Pro-life is a CHOICE, not a government directive. We should also bear in mind that 40 years ago in America, a bunch of students marched on university campuses and rioted and caused destruction over our military actions in Vietnam… a stark contrast to a peaceful demonstration 20 years ago in Tienanmen Square where innocent civilians were butchered by their own government. Unfortunately, many of us don’t appreciate our personal liberties or value or freedom until we witness others having it stripped from them.

  11. Respectfully speaking….
    The replies on this post are so typical of people in the West. Completely disconnected and at least 10 years behind what’s really going on in the world. There are human rights atrocities happening everyday, a war some are calling illegal, governments all over the place brutally silencing dissent. Just because there aren’t photo opp moments doesn’t mean they’re not happening.
    I am happy to commemorate the day, but even today in China they’re still civil rights issues, free speech issues.. why focus on this one incident that happened a lifetime ago??

  12. Well, 20 years ago, I was graduating kindergarten. Is it a bad thing that I don’t remember. But, I did look it up on Wikipedia. Wow, 20 years ago was a big deal in China. It’s really too bad they’re not allowed to remember it. Lots of protesting, death and mayhem. Then, that was all erased from the books and newspapers and film. I’m surprised this picture even exists. You better watch your back, Wil Wheaton.

  13. The more I keep up with your blog on here, the more I appreciate you. It’s posts like this that moves you. Thanks for the reminder.

  14. I do not think that is the intent Wil’s blog at all. Just because something happened “a lifetime ago” doesn’t make it any less relavent. You need to remember those life times ago in able to access where are we now. What have we done since then or did we just forget and move on?
    There are many movements happening that deal with what you have mentioned. Some new ones have started within the last week. Does not mean we act as if the past did not happen. It is all connected.

  15. Not to contradict, but how did these people do this if they’re “not allowed:”
    http://tinyurl.com/rd84m2
    Also, I have recently had the opportunity to spend time in Shanghai. That city is not Communist. In a lot of ways (smoking in public, smoking in restaurants, er, crossing streets) they are far more free than Americans are.
    Now, there is a lack of freedom of speech in particular in electronic communication. But day to day, they live much like Americans do… except Shanghai is noisier (honking horns FTW), dirtier (smoggy air/dingy streets to make LA look like it sparkles), and more crowded (20 MM people in a city smaller than LA). Plus every street has vendors… ;)

  16. dh has a black and white print of this on his office wall. it’s amazing how one image can convey so many different things.

  17. And at virtually the same time we have our president appeasing, placating, and otherwise acting as King Apologist for another thuggish, despotic, humanitarian train wreck area of the world…

  18. I hate to rain on the parade, but a friend of mine lives on mainland and the general rule is that it is not discussed in class rooms or in public areas. People in cities know, it’s nearly impossible for them not to. It’s the rural areas that don’t.
    Regardless, the fact that the government has it buried in formal education is depressing. Those students could potentially have over turned the Chinese political system. Many soldiers and generals actually refused to support the party leaders orders. Truly a shame.

  19. Yes. One image. The one that settles over my thoughts, on this same subject, is the one where a protester in a polo-neck sweater is placing a flower into othe gun of one of the GI’s guarding the pentagon (I think). Are you going to San Francisco ?

  20. I’m an American visiting China for a conference this week, and I went down to Tiananmen yesterday to see how they were going to handle the anniversary.
    I was briefly detained by police because I was crossing the street too close to a few journalists, but it was clear soon enough that I was just a clueless American tourist and they let me go. Lots of crazy security (needed a passport to get into the square itself) and most of the people there were police, military, or plain-clothes police.
    I took some photos – and unlike one of the other professors at the conference who was forced to delete hers in front of the police because they didn’t like them – I emailed a few of mine to my husband (since Flickr is still blocked here).
    I can’t even view them from here, but these are 2 that I took yesterday around 2pm).
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/firepile/3595333454/in/photostream/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/firepile/3594527677/in/photostream/

  21. It’s not just that they are not allowed to remember.
    There are many people within China who do remember, and choose to ignore it. Or to think it’s not as important as being able to buy the latest high-tech gadgets, or take pride in China’s Olympic Games.
    That’s the important lesson here. The danger of apathy.
    When your populace is apathetic, the government can (and will) get away with murder on a grand scale.
    So America? Yeah…

  22. “it’s important to remember that our tanks and soldiers aren’t pointing their weapons at their own citizens”
    Yet.
    “We should also bear in mind that 40 years ago in America, a bunch of students marched on university campuses and rioted and caused destruction over our military actions in Vietnam…”
    No, what you should remember is that a peaceful demonstration at Kent university was broken up by the National Guard, who shot and killed some protestors.
    No-one was ever held accountable for those murders.
    *That* was responsible for a lot of other, less peaceful demonstrations.
    “a stark contrast to a peaceful demonstration 20 years ago in Tienanmen Square where innocent civilians were butchered by their own government.”
    No, not really different at all. The only difference was in how the respective governments reacted to the butchery.
    “Unfortunately, many of us don’t appreciate our personal liberties or value or freedom until we witness others having it stripped from them.”
    And sadly, many people find the thought of people using their freedoms (of speech and free-assembly) to protest the actions of their government, somehow treasonable and wrong.
    Freedom to speak means nothing, if you’re only allowed to say what everyone agrees with.

  23. Respectfully speaking, there are thousands of people everyday who are bullied, harassed, victimized, abused, shot at, stabbed, bludgeoned, raped or murdered either because they were or were not in the right place at the right time.
    The significance of this incident is that this was a peaceful demonstration against government policies, against tyrants who’ve oppressed their own citizens for decades, and in one defiant moment of selflessness, a lone student stood against an army of military vehicles equipped to decimate towns to slow them down and keep them from chasing down and killing countless of other protesters.
    20 years ago isn’t a lifetime ago… maybe 200 years. This incident is as historically significant as the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. or the attack of the Soviet Army on the people of Afghanistan or the brutality of the Somalian pirates who take hostages and murder the innocent. These events are important because our children and our spouses, our friends and family who were too young to witness or understand these events need to be taught the reasons why they happened. Without prevention, genocides occur; whole populations of people have been rounded up and shipped around or have been butchered because of their ethnicity and beliefs… Native Americans, African, Arabs, Asians, Polish. Slovene and Jews have suffered at the hands of tyrants. It’s important to remember these events and teach our children these events so that they understand the danger in complacency and racism and to take pride in their own ethnicity as well as embrace and understand the ethnicity and beliefs of others.
    On September 11, 2001 the United States became the victim of terrorism by murderers who were acting on blind faith. The people of the United States reacted violently and angrily against the forces who were training these men because the nation had become lazy and let our guard down against those who prey on the innocent.
    Shielding our children from the harsh realities of war is one thing, they should not be burdened to know the inhumanity that people are subjected to in times of war. However, children need to be educated as to the reasons that cause wars to occur and have a good sense of moral reasoning to discriminate what the difference is between a just cause and an unjust conflict.
    So I guess it’s typical western behavior to forget that such atrocities occur and to criticize or ridicule those who speak about the past because we’re not focused on the atrocities in the present… or perhaps it’s merely the typical behavior of those who enjoy the safety and protection that their government affords them. I’d say it’s more likely that the truly ignorant don’t understand that there are still places in the world where media loudmouths like Reverend Al Sharpton and Rush Limbaugh would be imprisoned for criticizing their government and people like ourselves wouldn’t be reading this because it would be suppressed as well.
    Keep that in mind the next time you pass a veteran who can’t find a job and is asking for help on the street, even though his government promised to support him when he came home from service overseas in the name of liberty and fought a just cause. Ask him or her how they served and what happened, and listen to their stories. Even if you don’t understand their anger, try to understand their frustration.
    The last reason that anyone wants to hear is “Because said nothing and I did nothing about it.”

  24. Three words for you, Wil: Nail. Head. BANG.
    (Of course, we in the U.S. are never going to do anything about this, as we’re too dependent on the Chinese ponying up money to cover our government’s deficit spending. And Barack Hussein Obama is only making our need for China’s money worse…far worse than any previous President. Chew on that, Democrat voters.)

  25. Just the words, “Tianenmen Square” bring me back to that horrible, horrible moment. We were 20-something Christian-college kids, braving the amazing adventure of studying in Guadalajara, Mexico. Our prof had taken us for a side trip to Mexico City, and we’d just gotten out from our Sunday morning church service. I’d developed a fondness for TIME International edition, and made everyone stop by the newsstand so I could get my fix.
    There it was. The photo. The news. The terrifying “How can ANYONE be doing this to another human being?” moment.
    … the more I remembered, the more it became not so much a comment on your blog as an entry for my own, so here:
    http://thesongsinmyheart.blogspot.com/2009/06/on-that-day.html

  26. A good friend of mine was there. She was nearly killed. She showed me (and a number of our friends) the shoe she was wearing that a tank crushed – it had slipped off her foot 3 steps earlier. I have no clue how she got it out of the country
    Are you familiar with the Roger Waters song “Watching TV”? You should give it a listen (and ignore the endless Pink Floyd vs. Waters debate below it):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7tBaz9jv6k&feature=player_embedded

  27. A couple of years after this incident I became friends with a college girl from China who claimed to have been in Tienanmen Square that day. She told me that she heard no gunshots. Saw no ambulances. Was hassled by no police officers. And claimed that the story we were told was *invented* by American journalists.
    She was a very bright girl with nothing to gain by lying. She agreed that her government would act to conceal this sort of news if it had happened, but she was certain that the protests went off peacefully. The government couldn’t hide the truth if she was there to witness it all…
    Yet, we know it happened. Here in the States, half a world away, we can read reports of people who were there and we can see the photos taken (like that of the heroic Tank Man). It’s difficult for me to fathom a major, and very public, story like this being hidden from the people of this country. It’s kinda like the way Russia kept the Chernobyl incident under wraps from its own people for so long. Just incredible.
    But for someone who was actually there to deny the events? I’m still baffled by that to this day.

  28. I believe that my experience is relevant to this. I too remember the events on that day in China, however, I believe that if we do not defend liberty, China of that era, shall become a reality for this era here. Wil, I was recently banned from a usa based website (trekspace) for having an opinion. I am an artist designer, one who created an interesting cpu graphics program. It has not sold as well as i would have liked, however, it is just a hobby of mine to dabble in such things. i come from a family of academics and show business people. My brother has worked with Patrick before in a guest position on a production. Sadly none of this was known to the people on Trek space. A member of that site asked me in my blog, one in which I only had 3 post so far. She asked me about how there has been a decline in people’s interest and respect for the arts. She also related this to gene’s vision for a future in which humanity prospered as a result of creative cultivation as opposed to stagnation. As a writer Wil I know that you are well aware of how opinions can influence people. And I know that you have probrobly had your share of harsh critics over the years as well as people who agreed with you too. Its all about communication and constructive criticism, dialog and debate. How all of this relates to the Chinese protest is that, I have seen in the usa a growing trend of intolerance to opinion. Where people are reactionary and lash out emotionally when they feel that another person does not share their views. The commentary I made in my blog was nothing short of mild debate about the importance of preserving art and the individual’s right to self produce materials that reflect an individual perspective on life and art and music. I even quoted Gene a few times and went back to his belief that diversity was essential to the well being and evolution and preservation of culture. However, as it may be, despite my discussion with the woman who was indeed agreeing with my opinion. The moderator of that site ‘Borg Jen’, attacked me with an ugly post suggesting that my commentary was a result of my level of disgruntlement over the fact that my star trek influenced graphics program has not sold (yet). (I have only had it out less than 2 weeks by the way) When I replied to her constructively and expressed to her that she was behaiving immaturely and missed the point of my commentary completely, yet choosing to focus on the first sentence of my paragraph. In which I said that my program had not sold. She lashed out again and banned me from the site completely. Realize that I started to trouble, nor did I pick fights or present anything that could be considered derogatory. Anyhow, my point is that, this is where it all begins. When you idiotic, immature people in positions power. They can not help but to use that power to subdue opinion. China’s system began somewhere too. And as you have a total and complete breakdown in communication, education, diversity to an extent. And a lack of appreciation and cultivation of the arts in a way in which the diversity of the arts is presented. Where every one has a voice and a wide variety of opinions and perspectives are presented. You then have sort of a degeneration. You have a singular sort of culture where anything that is not endorsed by the corporation or in the case of China, the ‘state’, becomes suspect. And you have people who are readily available to act out their need to control and serve a system of repression and oppression. It is happening here in America. Slowly but surely . it is in these small instances of a greater fabric is being sewn. We too could one day wake up to a USA where unpopular opinion or opinion in general is outlawed. And the enforcer will be people like that moderator. So willingly ready to ban and censor anything that they personally disagree with. If even that. Jealousy runs hard in people’s hearts these days and the end result of jealousy is hate. As an actor Wil I know that you have come across many haters in your career who have disliked you because you worked hard and obtained your goals. However in the 80’s such could be seen as a fact of life. However, now, it is a reaction to anything that is different. Or unique. Such things are the building blocks of future conflict. As my dad used to say, there would come a time when there would be a series of Mini Hitlers. Technology though it offers individuals the power to free their minds, it too has the power to give a nothing the power to dictate too. The spread of hate and oppression comes over the net too. For good or for evil. It is up to humanity to decide which way. Though i nthe case of Trek Space, they are certainly bent on control. it is quite sad because it goes against everything that Gene stood for. he certainly seemed like a man of ideas. No matter popular or unpopular. I think that listening to alternative opinions or viewing alternative forms of art truly for him was the key to the growth of everyone. And whay shy away from debate, even if some things make us uncomfortable. It is that maturity to engage those things that may not make us feel safe or secure that opens the door for genuine discussion. thought and opinion can not be placed into a box and locked away. With only a screen to allow for those ideas that make people feel safe. What are we becoming? The lessons of China should influence us all. To be weary of just how easily that sort of change can come to pass. And how easy it is for society to fall into the grip of oppression.
    Please be well my friend.
    I greatly appreciated your characters in film and tv man.

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