A sense of accomplishment.

I was actually nervous going to the polls this morning.  Part of that was probably the fear of getting lost.  But I’m sure there were also other parts.  Voting means going alone into the public sphere, which is something I absolutely hate.  You might walk there with a friend or roommate, but eventually you’re isolated.  It’s just you, and a decision you have to make, and the potential future of your country.  It scares me, because unlike all the other life choices I worry about, it’s one that impacts the widest range of other people.

And yet, afterwards, I felt something else.  I got my little sticker that says I voted, which is something to be proud of, or should be.  I’d made my choice and it was irrevocable, which could inspire a sense of regret.  But honestly what I felt walking away from the experience was freedom.  This feeling could’ve been caused by the simple sense that I’ve ‘done my duty’.  But I think there was more to it than that.  It was the sense of completion, of ending, that made me free.  True, the majority of people I’ve talked to already are all about the results of the election.  The next big moment for them will come later tonight, watching various polls close.  But for me, the significant moment has already passed.  I made my mark, and i leave the rest to others.

Back around, around again.

When it comes to the things we want, it seems we move in endless circles.  There’s always something – a promotion, a better place to live, higher achievements – worth striving for, that seems just out of reach.  Even our causes seem to move in general historical trends.  We all want freedom.  We all want to right to choose our own lives.  We all want the ability to support and give good things to our children. We see these same desires around the world: in Ireland, the Middle east, Eastern Europe, Burma, and elsewhere.  We see them reflected in the eyes of others, perhaps even those we do not share language or understanding with otherwise.

If you’re an oldie ( I will not comment on the potential ‘goodie’ aspect of your nature), or if you just like old movies, you may have seen one called Donovan’s Reef, starring the Duke.  I don’t really remember much of it, since I saw it under the coercion of superior parental force when I was young.  What I do remember most vividly is the haunting beauty of the Hawaiian children of Doc Dedham.  I can see them laying flowers in front of the Dedham house where their half-sister, Amelia (from Boston, where I am.  Freaky), is staying.  I can see the procession in which the eldest daughter sits regally, as daughter to an island princess.  I can see the windswept headland where the fate of the island’s royalty is described by a small plaque.  True, the movie is a romantic comedy in the true form of its time, but these are the moments that have stuck in my memory.  I am doubly unsure how much of this movie can be linked to fact.  Gasp-Hollywood portraying social issues realistically?  In the 60s?

That half-regret, half-beauty still exists in Hawaii.  What could have been in Hawaii, without the US?  What are we to do, besides apologizing for the past as Clinton and Congress did in 1993?  Do native Hawaiians still have some right to their own monarchy?  Some of them feel they do.  They want that freedom, that they feel has been stolen from them.  But what of those who feel most comfortable as a State of the United States?  What of their voices?  And would such a break, at this point, even be possible?  Perhaps this is a case of no right – or even good – answers.  But there is a sense of striving, of longing, that remains, perhaps more poignant for its impossibility.

Peaceful Protest

It would be my guess that the violence in Tibet will get worse before it gets better.  There are all kinds of subtle clues.  The situation remains murky, with the Chinese government not allowing reporters in.  Additionally, conflicting reports mean that potentially more than two parties are trying to manipulate the situation for their advantage.  Finally, there’s the Dalai Lama’s recent statement that he will resign as head of the government in exile if the violence continues.

On the one hand, I completely understand his motivations.  These are his people, and he’s a staunch advocate for nonviolence.  At the same time, I don’t think him stepping down would solve the situation.  Both Han Chinese and Tibetans in the area are too angry, and feel too strongly.  The Lama washing his hands of the situation is not going to help matters.  But what else can he do?  What happens when the fight you are championing becomes angry and aggressive, despite your best intentions?

The idea of nonviolent protest is rooted in a language of alternatives.  It is a means of being radically different from the frenzy of most revolutions.  Its shortcomings come from its expectations and motivations.  Peaceful protest, for all its agreeableness, is based on the assumption not only that change is possible, but that is achievable relatively quickly.  The other primary assumption deals with the basic decency of others.  A tree sitting doesn’t work if the lumberjack is not afraid to use violence to move you.  The second major shortcoming comes from the motivation for the nonviolent resistance itself.  Whatever the cause, it will be something that participants believe in strongly.  With this strength of belief, how can we expect that all or most of such protests will not devolve into violence as tensions mount?

I’m not saying the Dalai Lama was wrong to resist the PRC’s assumption of control over his homeland, or wrong to stir up fervor in favor of his cause in the West.  I’m not saying that the PRC was even wrong in its policies of dominance, intrigue, and the importation of Han Chinese to the region.  What I am saying is that both sides are losing control.  Beijing may say they have the ability to handle any situation, but at what cost of human life?  If greater attempts are not made to reduce tensions int he region, we’re only seeing the beginnings of violent escalation.

Blogging and freedom.

It’s rare that I consider the privileges of my lifestyle.  Sure, I appreciate my boss, despite my job.  And I appreciate th epeople in my life fairly regularly.  But there are always things I don’t consider, things that may come into my awareness only with special reflection, perhaps sparked by the season of Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or Easter.  So perhaps it is appropriate that this news item about blogging elsewhere came to my attention in this season.

I rarely consider the internet as a place of freedom for myself.  Sure, it allows for some expression and some sharing of opinions. For the most part though, my sharing is very lighthearted and because of this, I tend to perceive the environment as lighthearted.  Sure, when I was in China I was much more aware of restrictions that could be made, but still it was more of a game.  I looked up different opinions about Tibet and amused myself with their monks-as-oppressors, Communism-as-the-liberator articles.  I didn’t get offended or hurt, perhaps because I knew my lack of access was only temporary.

What does it mean that a blogger – not even someone with the authority of print – would be arrested and held for the opinions that he posts?   What does it mean to consider your blog – this light, hopeful and happy thing that often contains subtle prods – as something of complete and ultimate seriousness?  How does it affect your writing?  How does it affect your life, to know that what you post on a simple blog – something most like a public forum for the world – could change your life forever?  Could get you killed?  Could put your family in danger?