I happened upon a picture of Tank Man (aka: Tank Boy, Unknown Protestor, Unknown Rebel) and got to thinking about the act of opposing tyranny. Every election cycle it seems that Western nations are inundated with accusations of tyranny aimed at whoever happened to stroll into the land’s highest office. But it doesn’t take much in the way of objectivity to recognize that the vast majority of these accusations are purely partisan. That doesn’t mean they should be roundly ignored–just that they should be taken with a pound or two of salt.
To go with that dose of skepticism, one should take a good look at how people conduct themselves while purporting to ‘stand tall’ against such abuses of power. Too often we see people strip their clothing off in public, cut and dye their hair some uniform manner (while also, somewhat comically I might add, often claiming said cut-and-dye to represent their individuality…), or burning signs in public, somewhat shockingly demonstrating their ignorance of the very issue which they claim motivated their march. Sometimes the harder among such ‘protesters’ will actually engage in physical violence and intimidation–but too often in modern examples of such political protests these acts of violence almost exclusively target other protesters.
There’s nothing brave or heroic about squaring off with some rando in street clothes who just happens to think differently from you. That’s antisocial behavior by any reasonable or colloquial definition of the term.
So if there was any question about what Standing Tall in the face of tyranny actually looks like, I’ll do my best to provide a definitive answer with this iconic picture.
Standing in front of a literal tank column, a day after one of the most publicized displays of tyranny in modern times, and refusing to move aside–and even going so far as to climb on top of one of the tanks!–is certainly a reckless act, and possibly a suicidal one. But it’s also quite clearly motivated by a deep-seated opposition to tyranny.
Dying one’s hair, and hiding behind masks while intimidating your fellow citizens, doesn’t belong in the same discussion as genuine acts of political protest like the one Tank Man treated his fellow humans to on June 5, 1989.