Why We Remember June Fourth
June 2, 2019
Some people recently asked, “Why must you remember June Fourth?” Thirty years have gone by. It is history. Get over it. Move on.
A simple question, but there are many answers. No single answer is adequate, and all of the answers together still leave the question hanging in mid-air, asking for more.
We remember June Fourth because Jiang Jielian was 17 at the time. He is still 17. He will always be 17. People who die do not age.
We remember June Fourth because it taught us the essential nature of the Communist Party of China when all of the clothes, every shred, falls away. No book, film, or museum could be clearer.
We remember June Fourth because of the ordinary workers who died then. We cannot remember most of their names because we do not know most of their names. We never did. But we remember them as people, and we remember that we never knew their names.
We remember June Fourth because the worst of China is there — but the best of China is there, too.
We remember June Fourth because it was a massacre — not just a crackdown, or an “incident,” an event, a shijian, a fengbo; not a counterrevolutionary riot, not a faint memory, and not, as a child in China might think today, a blank. It was a massacre.
我们记住六四，是因为这是一场大屠杀 — — 不仅是一次镇压；不是一个事故、不是一个事件或者一个风波；不是反革命暴乱，也不是一个模糊的记忆；不是今天的中国小孩所知道的，一片空白。是一场大屠杀。
We remember June Fourth because we want to know what the soldiers who did the killing remember. They were brainwashed on the outskirts of the city before they carried out their deadly orders. So they were victims, too. We do not know what their thoughts were. But we remember that we want to know.
我们铭记六四，是因为我们想知道那些杀人的士兵们， 自己有什么记忆。 在执行凶狠的命令之前，他们在北京的郊外被洗脑，以为是要平息暴徒。因此这些普通的兵也是受害者。我们不知道他们头脑中想过什么。我们只记得我们想知道。
We remember June Fourth because Ding Zilin is still alive. She is 82 years old. When she goes out, plainclothes police follow to provide security. Security for her? No, security for the state. That’s right, a regime with 100 trillion yuan in GDP and two million soldiers needs protection from an 82-year-old lady. Protection from her ideas. This is worth remembering.
We remember June Fourth in order to support others who remember. We remember alone. But we remember together, too.
We remember June Fourth because remembering it makes us better people. Remembering is in our personal interests. When politicians talk about “interests” they mean material interests. But moral interests are just as important — no, they are more important. More important than owning a yacht.
我们记住六四，是因为记住对我们自己有好处。是我们自己的利益。 政治家提到“利益”的时候，意思总是说物质利益。然而精神上的，道德上的利益同样重要 — — 不，还更重要。比拥有一艘游艇还重要得多。
We remember June Fourth because it was an historic turning point for one-fifth of the world. A turning point in a frightening direction. We hope it won’t be so much of a turning point as to throw the whole world into a ditch. But we don’t know. We’ll have to see.
We remember June Fourth because, if we didn’t remember it, it could not be in our heads any other way. Could we possibly have imagined it? No.
We remember June Fourth because there are people who dearly want us to remember. It comforts them to know that we remember.
We remember June Fourth because there are also people who desperately want us not to remember. They want us to forget because forgetting helps to preserve their political power. How foul! We would oppose that power even if remembering massacres were the only way to do it.
We remember June Fourth in order to remind ourselves of the way the Chinese government lies to itself and to others. It says the Chinese people have long since made their “correct judgment on the 1989 counterrevolutionary riot at Tiananmen Square.” But each year, at June Fourth, plainclothes police block people from entering the Square. Why? If the Chinese people all believe what the government says they believe, then why not let the people into the square to denounce the counterrevolutionaries? The presence of the police shows that the regime does not believe its own lies.
我们铭记六四，是因记忆能提醒我们中国政府撒谎的方式。它自己都不信自己的谎言。 说中国人民早就对“天安门广场上的反革命暴乱作出了正确的判断”。但是每年的六四，便衣警察阻止人们进入天安门广场。 为什么？ — 假如中国老百姓真的做了政府宣扬他们做了的所谓“判断，” 那为什么不让人家进入广场去谴责反革命分子？警察的在场，说明政权不相信自己的谎言。
We remember June Fourth because shocks to the human brain last a long time. We would not be able to forget even if we tried.