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Tiananmen Square and Wisconsin

As a rule, these two places should have absolutely nothing in common. But, for the 5th of June, they both hold a place in history now – Tiananmen Square will live in infamy for the massacre in 1989, and Wisconsin for the first time a Governor survived a recall vote. I am not suggesting that there is any real way to compare these two events, other than the fact that they share the same date. Just an oddity, that was brought to my attention over the past several hours.

Tiananmen Square

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Before the euphoria over the Walker victory, there was a little story about questionable tactics employed by a leftist organization in Wisconsin. Greater Wisconsin Political Fund apparently decided it was a good idea to send letters to voters letting them know which of their neighbors had bothered to vote in previous elections. Presumably, this was to promote the concept of peer pressure to get out the vote – the whole “keep up with the Joneses” kind of deal. Of course, they probably didn’t vet their recipients very well, because one ended up being mailed to a law professor named Ann Althouse, and she blogged about it. Of course, it also ended up on FoxNews as well, but the fact that a law professor ended up with this is far more amusing!

No, it probably isn’t illegal. Voter records are public, at least to the extent that the public can know who is registered, and who actively votes. Where do you think pollsters get their information? However, outside of potential candidates hitting the streets to get their petitions to run for office signed by registered voters, and later creating mailing lists for their junk mail, there isn’t much call for knowing voters’ personal information. And, there certainly isn’t a good reason to publicize potential voters’ past activity (or inactivity) at the polls. It’s a calculated risk, and honestly not worth the gamble. People don’t like other people prying into their business. It happens far too much already. But, hey, who am I to complain about Democrats ticking off voters?

But, I know someone from Wisconsin – a liberal who works in the political arena there – so I bothered to ask about this. I’ve known this gentleman since 1986, and he probably did play a fairly big part in making me what I am today, if only because he did influence me way back then. But, I probably had more words with him in the past 24 hours than I have in that many years. After that recent exchange, I realized very clearly that his influence was purely from the person I thought he was then, as opposed to the man he really is. I think we all have those – people we have frozen in time in our own minds, in spite of reality. The real him was highly concerned with potential voter suppression, and had no problem with using voter records in mass mailings. I almost talked myself into thinking it wasn’t a big deal because of him, until I thought about it on the larger scale. What if that same tactic was used in a national campaign? What if the Obama camp picked up on it? I have no doubt that gentleman still wouldn’t have a problem with it, but I would.

That sort of tactic is an invasion of privacy. Althouse, the law professor in Wisconsin, is right. It is disgusting. More importantly, it is not unlike the sort of thing that the students in Tiananmen Square were protesting back in 1989. I am not suggesting that one can directly compare the two by any stretch of the imagination. China has suffered under tyranny since before I was born. A nation gets to that point one of two ways – through quick and radical change, or over time by degrees. We’re not close to where China is, but we are closer to it than we were in 1989. We have been conceding little freedoms, mostly out of fear after 9/11. I’ve had liberal and conservative friends alike complain of apathy and complacency. It frustrates me the most when it comes from the liberals, since they cry that the government doesn’t do enough for the “little guy” right after they complain about the apathetic masses.

But, I had one friend on Facebook bother to mention Tiananmen Square today. Ironically enough, he was from the same era as the one now in Wisconsin, and from the opposite side of the political spectrum. His observation was that we should be ashamed of ourselves because we have not properly memorialized the deaths on June 5, 1989. These were students, seeking change in their government, and expressing a desire to have their voices heard. It took years for it to come out, but apparently they did not want to topple the party in China. They just wanted to be heard. They wanted what we have, at least in part.

So, what is a fitting memorial for that? Should we stop everything, and have a moment of silence? Should we write pages upon pages on this historical moment?

I spent the day reading back stories on the Wisconsin election. I looked up the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund, and looked up that organization’s connections with other groups like One Wisconsin Now. The election is over in Wisconsin, but there’s still November to consider. And what can be lost then? We can lose a few more freedoms, end up relying a little bit more on government, and go a little farther down the road away from remaining a free country. Tiananmen Square was a tragedy. The bigger tragedy would be to allow this nation to end up remotely similar to China as far as personal freedoms are concerned. What is the fitting way to memorialize the deaths of those brave students? Fight to keep the freedoms we have, fight to regain the ones we have lost, and never stop – even if it is to take a few moments to remember the deaths of others that have died for freedom.

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