Friday, January 22, 2010

The Goddess Of Democracy

On an obscure corner of Washington, DC, several blocks northwest of Union Station, is a small park called the Victims of Communism Memorial. In his dedication speech a few years back, President George W. Bush had this to say about communism's victims...

They include innocent Ukrainians starved to death in Stalin's Great Famine; or Russians killed in Stalin's purges; Lithuanians and Latvians and Estonians loaded onto cattle cars and deported to Arctic death camps of Soviet Communism. They include Chinese killed in the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution; Cambodians slain in Pol Pot's Killing Fields; East Germans shot attempting to scale the Berlin Wall in order to make it to freedom; Poles massacred in the Katyn Forest; and Ethiopians slaughtered in the "Red Terror"; Miskito Indians murdered by Nicaragua's Sandinista dictatorship; and Cuban balseros who drowned escaping tyranny.

The centerpiece of the memorial is a replica of the Goddess of Democracy, the statue erected in Tiananmen Square during the 1989 democracy uprising. The story of how the statue reached Tiananmen Square from the art school where it was constructed is pretty riveting. Students transported the pieces and construction materials on a bunch of sanlunche, the three-wheeled cycles that are so common on the streets of China. The riders took a route that was kept secret, while public security officials were busy watching over a different route that had been purposefully leaked. In the end, the statue was demolished on June 4, when the protest came to a violent and deadly end.

Even though the Victims of Communism Memorial is not on the A-list (or even B-list) of the DC tourist circuit, it serves as a reminder of the very real sacrifices that brave people around the world have made, fighting for freedom. For the four of us, personally, Grampy's resistance against and eventual flight from Communist Hungary is a big part of the reason we are here today.



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