Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Protest? Be Happy That We Can

As we hear and read about the "Occupy" this, that or the other place or city in the United States, it is, perhaps, timely to think briefly about another milestone in world history. 

Yesterday, October 10th, marked the centennial anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution ( or Hsinhai 辛亥革命)  in China.   

The what revolution, you ask, and why? This revolution was the cornerstone of the overthrow of the last imperial dynasty in China, the Qing (1644-1912) Dynasty, and the establishment of a brief republican era.   Dr. Sun Yat-sen was and still is considered to be the father of modern China.  Actually, I would argue that he is more respected in Taiwan ( Republic of China) than in the People's Republic of China.  I'll not delve into the long historical details of all that, but simply encourage anyone who is interested to research and read about it.  

Suffice it to say that despite the rhetoric one might hear coming from Communist China, republicanism is not the norm on the Mainland regardless of the rights that country's constitution purports to give its citizens.  

Only in Taiwan have we actually seen the development, after many long decades, of republicanism and/or democracy.  

Which brings us to this not so small point:  We are granted the freedoms and the LUXURY in this country to be able to protest whatever we feel passionate about.  For the most part, we can do so without serious repression by the government, pepper spray incidents notwithstanding.  

So no matter your stand on these "occupy" protests, never loose the perspective of how we are fortunate to be able to exercise a high degree of free expression in this country against evil corporations, banks, and government hacks.  

Oh yes, and against political parties.  

Here I'm reposting a poem I wrote some time ago.  It was a response to another form of free expression I found in a local coffee shop:  Bathroom wall graffiti! 

There is a quaint coffee shop here in Rochester, NY where I enjoy people watching, talking with friends, and appreciating the sometimes bad art hanging on the walls.  You know the type of place: Trendy and bohemian.  As if those two concepts aren't mutually exclusive. 

Occasionally, someone leaves some kind of "art" on the men's room wall.  Nothing vulgar, mind you, but usually small and somewhat odd. Once there was a black marker drawing of a crow on a tree branch. The management simply touched up the paint and the crow had flown.  

Last week, a new piece of men's room art appeared.  Also in black marker on the deep red wall was the outline of a face with the word "happy" stylized beside it.  I couldn't resist taking a photo with my cell phone. 

I was struck by the expression of the face next to that word.  Who was the artist?  What was his intent?  His background?  So many questions we can ask after a trip to the men's room! 

But the image stayed with me and I couldn't help but write about it. With recent stories about a particular internet provider confronting issues of censorship on the other side of the world, I couldn't help but read more into the image than probably exists.  I doubt that graffiti drawing will be there when I next visit, but the image remains on my cell phone.  

And in my imagination. 

Rick Baker
March 31, 2010 
Rochester, NY  

little red book 
on doors of toilets 
and alley walls they've 
graffitied your profile
in black and named you
"yellow peril" and "red". 
through chapters of history
your colors coursed as 
blood through fields.
dragooned, you bowed 
to masters near and far 
and now your masters near 
declare you leader and 
decider of your collective 
proclaim you happy 
behind walls built 
to protect you 
from your 
Poem © 2010 by R. Burnett Baker 
Photo © 2010 by R. Burnett Baker 
Photo of graffiti drawing taken March 2010 by R. Baker  in Java's coffee shop, Gibbs Street, Rochester, NY

1 comment: