Saturday, May 16, 2009

when in doubt, watch the news

After 13 years under house arrest, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi continues to inspire the democratic hopes of the Burmese, despite the ludicrous ends to which the Myanmar government will go to stifle her.

What amazes me about this woman is her willingness to endure isolation, threats, even to be cut off from her spouse and children in order to uphold a vision for her country's future. It reminds me of another story I read recently about a Chinese woman and her two children, who fled the country in conditions of great peril in order to keep the Chinese government from using her and the children as hostages in the government's efforts to suppress the views of her dissident husband. She could not even tell her husband that they were going -- her last note to him read that she was taking the children to school. Since they fled, her husband has been arrested and the government claims no knowledge of his whereabouts. Sometimes I'm struck by the relative restraint of these miserable regimes - given the apparent prevalence of retributive bloodshed elsewhere, in other pro-Democracy struggles, I wonder what keeps these administrations from killing their opponents and critics outright. Does it come down to one man, or one woman -- or a small group of those in power -- does it come down to their personal values, some distaste for such dirty work in spite of harsh treatment of crowds in protests at other times? Do human rights groups really wield some power to dissuade? Do sanctions and censure really give brutally oppressive governments some pause? It's so hard to believe -- I'm not sure why.

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