Fifteen years ago, in April of 1989, thousands gathered in Tiananmen Square (天安門) to mourn the death of Former Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦), sparking off one of the most important political movements in recent Chinese history. This was not the first time that public mourning had been used as a means of political dissent. In April of 1976, thousands had gathered in Tiananmen Square to mourn the death of Premier Zhou Enlai (周恩來). By mourning these politicians, protesters drew attention to the differences between the legacy of the deceased and the unpopular policies of the existing regime. In a country without a free press, such public mourning is one of the few venues available for publicly expressing political dissent.
I thought about this practice as the nation mourned the passing of Ronald Reagan (雷根總統). I believe that for many Americans he stood for a type of “old-fashioned” principled conservatism they feel has been lost. This is how he sold himself when he ran for office, and it is how he is being remembered. Obviously, Reagan’s foreign policy was not that different from W’s, nor was he even that faithful to the conservative principles he claimed to espouse; but I can’t help but wonder if we don’t have a few Mark Antonies out there, using Reagan’s death as a means for publicly criticizing the Bush administration without running the risk of being called “traitors” or, worse, “liberals”?