A man and his shopping bags


It’s been a week for anniversaries this week, though yesterday’s (26 years since Shane Warne delivered that ball to Mike Gatting)and tomorrow’s (Lara’s 501) are sporting anniversaries and, as such, are matters of great entertainment but of significance limited only to the sport.

Today’s is a different matter. I don’t mean the D-Day Landings in 1944, but another, more recent and equally resonant moment, thirty years ago today. A man whose name we never knew nor likely will ever know, carrying a laden shopping bag in each hand, stood in front of a line of tanks seeking to gain access to Tiananman Square, Peking (as we still called it then).

It is an image of extraordinary power that even today, thirty years after its failure to make any difference whatsoever, is still a reminder that force has to be opposed. That we have to stand in the face of what is wrong. Whoever he was, and whether he is still alive or was even allowed to live much longer that year, is, barring a reversal of stupendous proportions, a mystery that will never be answered.

But here was a man doing something a man could do and, in the process, becoming a pure symbol, someone we cannot and must not forget. A short man in stature, but one of the largest whoever lived in the shadow that he cast, unhesitatingly.

And a reminder of that unbelievable year, 1989, of Tiamanmen to Timsioara, that only those of us who lived through it can do more than just imagine it once happened.

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