One of the events that I had been very pleased to observe last year was the granting of travel privileges to Mr. Chen Guangcheng. I had written a letter on his behalf, and yesterday, I had the privilege of seeing him in person. He gave a talk at the National Cathedral, and I paid $20 to attend this talk, and see him personally.
I do not know the situation in China, but I have, in spite of everything, great faith in the capacity of people in a position of leadership to be compassionate, and also to change. Mr. Chen Guangcheng demonstrated what was exceptional courage to act to confront the illegal forced abortions of many in his rural community by local authorities. Although not sanctioned by the Chinese government, the principal government was nonetheless silent when local authorities persisted in enforcing these abortions. I listened to him talk, reflecting on the different means of confronting injustice in systems, and I thought of at least 3 different levels:
1) violent acts that involve harming people.
2) legal actions that might involve sequestering people. People fight with words.
and then I thought, not finding myself in either of these strategies, another way which is possibly,
3) Forgive, ignore, respect, and persist.
The latter method does not use force, allows accommodation to circumstance that no law can envision, can be practiced by anyone, and allows for diversity in both action and response. Although I don’t share all of Mr. Chen Guangcheng’s political beliefs, I respect his right to express them, and was very touched by being able to be in his presence.
I went up to the podium after the talk, wanting to shake his hand, and to tell him how brave I thought he was. And yet, I pulled back. Who was I, this little person, to express this? How could this mean anything to him? The cameras flashed as people struggled to get close to him to take his picture. He is blind. I don’t think he saw the flashes. I couldn’t bring myself to take his picture that close up. It felt like an invasion. I thought, I would write about it instead. He might read my work one day, and know that I cared. I spoke for him, at a moment, when perhaps he could not.
Other current human rights efforts – there are 12 letters here.