Jewish World Review May 23, 2012/ 2 Sivan, 5772
The week that was
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | For lovers of freedom the world over and Americans in particular, there can be no doubt about what was the signal event of the week just past: the safe arrival in this land of the free of a champion of freedom.
As in the last decades of the grandly styled
Chen Guangcheng's dramatic escape, first from house arrest and then from a vast police state, came complete with a succession of miscues and misunderstandings and misconnections. But his daring venture and adventure had a happy ending. He set foot on American soil last Saturday.
Welcome, Mr. Chen. You've always been part of us, as every voice of freedom is. Much as our bureaucrats high and low balk at that realization. Theirs is a mistake that goes back at least to
Like so many of his fellow sophisticates,
Yet somehow that clumsy amateur would end the Cold War, the nuclear arms race, and the
This latest escapee to go stumbling around today's vast, real-life
Having defied the oppression of a still formally Communist but mainly just fearful regime, this lone protester had to deal with the bumbling bureaucracy of a system supposedly dedicated to freedom. By last week, he had clearly become an embarrassment to both governments.
Such is the power of a single individual armed only with moral force. Meanwhile, those of us who are never discomfited by the spectacle of liberty in action, but only cheered, delighted and amused by turns at the discomfiture of the supposedly great and powerful, could only smile a quiet, Gandhian smile. One lone, blind dissenter had captured the imagination of free men everywhere. And illuminated once again what matters in the course of human events -- Freedom!
The vision of a single, only physically blind man would prove more trustworthy than all the statesmanlike press releases out of various embassies, high contracting parties, under-secretaries and elevated muckety-mucks. It was clear that all those functionaries of high and low estate thought of this jailhouse lawyer and general agitator mainly as a headache. Prophets do tend to strike those in supposed power that way.
This man is not going to just fade away. He has not come this far to fall silent. A great man from a country that has become one vast gulag, like a great writer whose words thrill with the electric touch of truth, is always a kind of second government -- a shadow cabinet all by himself.
Such a man does not need a political office to rouse a whole country, a whole world.
In the end, that black preacher would save the South from itself, and arouse its mind and spirit and truer, better self -- maybe even cleanse the soul of a nation. And he did it without the benefits and preferments of high office -- indeed, often in spite of those who held such offices. There is power in words, if they be the right ones, and if the speaker is willing to risk all to say them.
The Soviets discovered as much in the case of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, another troublesome type who appealed to the conscience of both East and West. For he criticized both with equal insight, answering only to his own conscience.
Now let us see how Chen Guangcheng, having challenged the authorities in
Hurried out of his own country, our guest left in haste, carrying little with him and yet everything: hope, conviction, courage. In that regard, he was something of an American even before he left
And his words may not always assure. A true prophet's seldom do. But they will challenge us, and in the end strengthen us. Which is what happens when others stick by our convictions, and articulate them when we ourselves have drifted away from them. The courageous Mr. Chen is not likely to let us forget our own ideals. That's why his arrival in this country last week was in the category of news that matters. And will matter.
In other news, the heads of the G-8 countries met again last week, this time at
JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.
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