Sunday, November 14, 2010

Free At Last ...

... At least for now.

Two confessions: I didn't go to Watching America this weekend and I cry easily.

The reason for both confessions is that I was too busy reading this news and crying during the time I set aside each Saturday afternoon for my trip to the site which features articles from the international press on the US.

For years in her native Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi has been known simply as "The Lady," a pro-democracy stalwart and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has languished for years in an arbitrary solitary confinement imposed by the nation's ruling military junta.

Although she was snatched from the public limelight, residents of the former Burma have always known this about the charismatic Buddhist activist, now 65: She would not be broken by the military generals she has long defied.

On Saturday, Suu Kyi proved them all right. She was finally released from the mildewing, two-story villa where she has spent much of her house arrest, spanning 15 of the last 21 years.
[Emphasis added]

Fifteen years away from her family, during which time she could not visit her husband as he lay dying and could not travel to receive her Nobel Peace Prize, which her two sons had to do for her. Fifteen years with only an old radio to keep her informed on what was happening in her country and in the world. Fifteen years with only her aging housekeeper and the housekeeper's daughter for company. Fifteen years. And all because she wanted the restoration of democracy and the dismissal of the military junta which ruled her nation.

My tears were those of sadness for all those lost years, but also tears of joy that "The Lady" had finally gained some measure of freedom. Whether the generals believed that she was too old to do much damage, or that by holding fraudulent elections the week before and then releasing her, all international pressure on the vicious regime would cease is irrelevant. Suu Kyi was no longer imprisoned in her own home.

And my tears were also those of personal shame. This woman never gave up on her dream of a democratic Myanmar (Burma). She knew what the costs for her defiance would be steep and yet she still spoke out and organized and led, just as I believe she will now do once again, generals be damned. She did more than just check a box on an electronic petition or post on a blog or kvetch in liberal chatrooms. She went into the streets. Her courage and dedication to the principles of democracy make her an exemplar, someone who points the way for the rest of us.

Welcome out, Aung San Suu Kyi. And may your days of personal freedom be filled with the joy of leading your people to real freedom.



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