"Mommy? Why Do People Go On Hunger Strikes?"

5 years ago

Patrick is asking Yun a question, almost out of blue, when they are having dinner. “Mommy, why do people go on hunger strikes?” “Well, they want something to change, they want their voice to be heard, they want to make a statement and they are willing to risk their life to do so.” Yun murmurs and is not sure if she has answered the question to do it justice.  Her son's question brought up a sad memory for her......

Back in China, in 1989, it was the 4th of June. As a student at one of the universities in Beijing, she automatically and willingly joined the students movement for democracy and freedom of speech, which eventually led to the tragedy on June 4th. Yun was and is still naive about politics. However, she greatly admires people who have the courage to risk their lives for what they believe in…. an ideal or a vision. So her memories of Tienanmen square are much more personal than political.

It was the long camping nights with her roommates that resulted in bronchitis; it was the near suffocating struggle against a wall of soldiers with her schoolmates; it was the hand in hand demonstration march with her friends; it was the trips to Tienanmen square sitting on her boyfriend’s bicycle waving at the fellow goers; it was the confused wandering to the shrines for the lost students on campus the day after June 4th…. In her memories, it is all about people, not an ideal or a cause. People are the ones she remembers… people are the ones who inspired her…. people are the ones who make her heart drop and her tears flow.

People, people, but why do people go on hunger strike and risk their life? She is brought back to her son’s questions and it lingers in her mind. She only has her answer that can never do justice to the many before the spring of 1989 and after. Hunger strikes might not be her path or voice, but something in her is trembling with tears again. The words from Mary Oliver “Sunrise” flow through her:

You can
die for it –
an idea,
or the world. People

have done so,
their small bodies be bound

to the stake,
an unforgettable
fury of light. But

this morning,
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought

of China,
and India
and Europe, and I thought
how the sun

for everyone just
so joyfully
as it rises

under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?

What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it

whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter
“Bye for Now” From The Two Whos

Cece-one of The Two Whos http://www.thetwowhos.com

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